Reshma: The Story of Resilience

Reshma, who was at the forefront of the struggle for dignity for the transgender community in Kashmir, died on Sunday. The singer fought for the marginalized community. Three years ago, I met Reshma as an intern for a report.

Here’s a look at the life and struggle of the iconic singer.

Srinagar: As the shrill cry of a pickle seller fills the sleepy afternoon, the decrepit lanes of Merjanpora in downtown Srinagar come to a halt outside the residence of one of the circuit’s popular faces weddings in the valley. A dull brown door leads to the two-storey, white-colored house of Abdul Rashid, better known by his nickname “Reshma” among the inhabitants of the valley. We meet for a brief conversation.

The first impression is that of thoroughness. They sport a clean-shaven face, neatly combed cropped hair and a neatly pressed black kurta with a matching off-white shalwar. A bright smile that creases around their kohl-filled eyes immediately puts me at ease.

Reshma was born into an extended family of six brothers and two sisters. At the age of 11, they developed a fondness for singing and dancing. Over the years, their approach and the way they speak have undergone a radical change. They became more conscious of their appearance and preferred to wear feminine colors. Their mannerisms and feminine dress sense irritated their family members.

“Every time I heard a Kashmiri song in the background, I sang and danced at the same time. My family took offense at my change in behavior. They beat me several times but I was defiant and adamant. only they knew my inner conflicts.

Reshma’s family refused to accept her transgender identity. Fearing a backlash from society, they kicked them out of school in 5th standard. They were ordered to learn sewing instead. It was one of the first experiences of brutal emotional abuse which has been a recurring feature of their lives. They remember: “I stopped studying halfway. At school, my teachers and classmates made fun of me. The last resort was home.

Their uncle, a tailor by profession, decides to take them under their wing. Gradually, they began to learn sewing techniques in her shop. There were times when they felt smothered. They wanted to play with other children. The fear of becoming an intruder prevented them from exploring the outside world: “I saw children my age playing hopscotch and bursting out laughing. Who wouldn’t want to join a happy crowd of kids? How could I join them? I knew they would find me strange and laugh at me”

One day, they were asked to deliver sewn clothes to the locality of Lal Bazar. Little did they know that this brief visit would bring out the singer hidden within her. They remember it with melancholic nostalgia, their eyes taking on a distant expression: “I was asked to deliver newly sewn clothes to a posh locality in Lal Bazar. I had a conversation with the family. Their daughter insisted that I hum a song. I started to sing and everyone in the room paid attention. I received praise from all of them. The head of the family was so impressed with my singing prowess that he immediately called me “Reshma”. This is how my public name was born”

Upon returning home, they expressed their desire to become a singer to their mother. They told how they had received praise from a family they had visited.

“That day I was overjoyed. I shared the events with my mother. I couldn’t contain myself and told her to pursue a career in singing and dancing. I even told her the name I “they gave me. As I unloaded my thoughts, she became inconsolable. She assumed they were laughing at me, which wasn’t true”

They knew their happiness was short-lived and continued to make a living from sewing. Suddenly, life took a strange turn. They chose the path they wanted and this time it was circumstances that forced them to do so.

“When I was in my late twenties, something terrible happened. The sudden death of my younger brother left the whole family in shock. He is survived by three children. decided to take care of them. This led to another emotional battle. My loved ones pointed fingers and fought tooth and nail against this decision. They were skeptical of my abilities. How can a transgender found a family? This question was constantly asked of me”

They proved all naysayers wrong and succeeded in breaking the stereotype. The meager earnings from sewing were not enough to make ends meet. Raising three young children and funding their education took more hard work. Their passion for singing helped through. They started performing at wedding ceremonies and became famous.

“I’ve always dreamed of becoming a singer. Look at the whims of fate. I never thought it would become a way to earn a living. I was afraid of living a lonely life. But I have a family now. They m love them unconditionally. I wouldn’t have asked for anything else”

As Reshma’s death plunged the valley into grief and a sense of loss, her songs into which she continually breathed life and soul clearly possessed life beyond measure or mortal parameters.

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