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This was also published onTwist and Twain.

Shakuntala was holding her mother’s hand and was moving in the crowded fair which was set up in a village far away from hers. She had put on a new frock and was very excited to be in the fair where a lot of people had gathered. Many shops were set up selling a variety of toys.

There were joy rides such as giant wheel, merry go round etc. Ready- made clothes were on sale. Many stalls were also there vending eatables. Shakuntala was tempted to get some sweet eatables. She expressed her desire to her mother. Mother promised to buy her some things a little later. They were moving from shop to shop looking at different items which were displayed as mother was not able to make up her mind. The crowd was getting denser and denser. Many children had come to the fair with their parents or only with mothers as their fathers were busy earning bread for the day.

Shakuntala’s mother warned her to be extra careful and not to leave her hand. “See. The crowd is getting more and more. If you get lost in the crowd, it will be impossible to trace you. So Shaku, walk very close to me holding my hand.”

They came in front of a toy shop. Shaku told her mother to buy a small doll for her. Mother asked the shopkeeper for the price of some dolls. Shaku was already in dreamland with her doll. She was imagining playing hide and seek with the doll. But the cost was exorbitant. Mother told Shaku to wait till they find some affordable doll. Shaku was an understanding girl. She did not persist with her demand hoping to see an affordable doll in nearby shop. So they moved on. When they were in front of another toy shop, mother stopped and asked for the price of a nice small doll. She found that the price was within her budget. She told the keeper to pack that doll. Shaku was very happy and was again in dreamland playing with the doll.

And all of a sudden, there was a big commotion. Everybody started running here and there. “Fire. Run for your life. Leave the place immediately.” A stall had caught fire and big flames of fire were engulfing whatever came in their embrace. The already over-crowded fair was totally disrupted. The whole surroundings were filled with cries and screaming. A complete chaos prevailed.

 

India Market
Bustling market at night

 

Shaku could not keep herself with her mother. When everybody was running to go away from fire, Shaku was going in the direction of fire. Her mother was looking for Shaku. But the loads of crowds pushed her away and she had no control of herself. She kept shouting “Shaku……………..Shaku” but to no avail. Shaku was calling out “Aai……………A..a..i” for her mother. But she could not hear the calls. Desperately mother was searching for Shaku. Just then a big burning log of wood fell on her. Some persons rushed to save her but the fire took her in its embrace and she died instantly.

Here Shaku was crying and looking for her mother running every where. The toy shops were turned in to ashes. When Shaku came in front of the shop, she found one half burnt doll lying in one corner which Shaku picked up. She got the doll but she was not able to find her mother. Shaku was crying. Thousands of persons were around but her mother was not to be found anywhere. She cried incessantly. LAXMI an eunuch draped in lady attire noticed Shaku was crying all alone in this chaotic situation. She took pity on her. Laxmi went to Shaku and enquired about her mother. When she heard that Shaku had missed her mother, she asked her name and address so that she could be reached home. But Shakuntala could not give Laxmi her name or address of her residence as this was the first time she had come out of her house with mother from a distant village.

LAXMI looked for Shaku’s mother all around but failed to trace her. Laxmi was confused as to how to handle the situation. She consoled Shaku, told her that they would search for her mother both together. Laxmi showered motherly love on this just found child. It was getting dark then. Shakuntala’s eyes had turned dry due to continuous weeping. LAXMI gave her a vada-pav to eat. Hungry Shkuntala grabbed it and ate it hurriedly. After this she was sleepy. LAXMI took Shakuntala in her lap trying to put her to sleep. Laxmi felt the emotions of a mother springing up from within. She imagined of her own child in her lap even though she knew that she could not bear a child in this birth. Now she was in love with this child. Laxmi was afraid of finding the child’s mother. It occurred to her that as soon as this child found her own mother, it would leave her instantly and go away with mother to her own house. Laxmi hoped that this child stayed with her. That would change her life entirely. She prayed to God that the child’s mother should not be found. And God answered her prayers.

Waiting till it got completely dark and the commotion had calmed down, LAXMI gave up her search for the child’s mother and brought Shakuntala to her house, a hutment in the corner of the village. In the night only she wound up her belongings and left the village where everybody knew her as a eunuch. Under the cover of darkness she proceeded to another village where nobody would know her sex identity. She carried the child with her giving the child a new identity as her own child acting as widowed father.

In the morning Laxmi dressed as a man and introduced himself as Shaku’s father. He tried convincing Shaku that her biological mother was dead in the fire and now he would take care of her as her father. Shakuntala refused to talk to Laxmi. But after a couple of days, Shakuntala experienced the affection of Laxmi as father. Slowly Shaku accepted the food cooked by Laxmi. One morning Laxmi asked her how he should call her. Shaku told Laxmi “my mother used to call me SHAKUNTALA. You may call me Shaku.”

Laxmi told Shaku that the next day he would take her to a school. He warned her that she had to go to school and study hard. She should become an educated lady.

Next day Laxmi took Shaku to the nearby school and admitted her in the name of Shakuntala and herself as Shaku’s father.

Shakuntala’s new life started going to school. Laxmi looked after Shaku very well. He provided her with clothes, school books and offered her food cooked with full affection.

Slowly, Shakuntala forgot about her own mother and Laxmi too forgot about her sexual deficiency. But Shakuntala used to feel odd about her father Laxmi. She used to find that Laxmi was not a normal man. Nevertheless she loved Laxmi very much.

The days passed into months and months passed into years. Shakuntala turned into a brilliant student. Passed her school exams with excellent marks. She even came first in school in the board examination. She was so happy that from school she went home running and held Laxmi with both the hands.

“Baba, I am so happy. I stood first in school. You will have to accompany me to school to receive the prize. Our Principal has told me to bring the parents to the function of prize distribution. You are coming to school with me.”

“Oh. I am so glad. We will buy a new frock for you. You wear that and go for prize distribution. I will not come. I am not feeling well.” Shakuntala was disappointed. But she knew why Laxmi was not ready to come to school with her. She knew Laxmi was not like the father of her friends. He was different from other men.

She entered the college for further studies. Laxmi acting as a man, fulfilled all the duties as father. Laxmi took some labourer job and ensured that Shakuntala did not face shortage of money for college studies. Shakuntala completed her graduation and then joined a company as an executive. The father and daughter binding of love got stronger day by day. Now Shakuntala insisted that Laxmi stopped working and manage the house and take full rest at home.

And one day Shakuntala brought one of her friends home to introduce to her father. Prakash was a very cultured young man working in her office. Shakuntala introduced her father to Prakash.

“Baba, this is my friend Prakash. He is working in my company.”

“Nice to meet you Baba.” Prakash said.

“I am also happy to meet you. Where do you stay?” Laxmi answered in his hoarse voice.

Prakash was a bit upset over Laxmi’s voice and manner of speaking. He found Shakuntala’s father’s behaviour a little odd. He felt her father resembled a eunuch. But Prakash did not make his impressions very apparent.

“Shaku is a nice girl. We know each other for quite some time. I want to marry her. We want your permission for that. “

“Do you really love her?” Laxmi asked.

“Yes. I love her very much. I will keep her happy throughout our life.” Prakash opened his heart out.

Laxmi delighted by Prakash’s seeking permission, whole heartedly gave his consent.

And one day Shakuntala and Prakash were married. Laxmi performed the KANYADAAN of Shakuntala and got a heavenly pleasure. Laxmi felt very happy that despite her different sexual orientation, she could get the opportunity of doing kanyadaan.

After Shakuntala left her present house to move into another house to stay with Prakash, LAXMI felt terribly lonely. He could not bear the separation from his daughter. Moreover, he had sensed that Prakash had suspected his sexual orientation as male. Laxmi did not want any trouble in Shakuntala’s life due to his different sexual orientation. He decided to end his life.

One evening Shakuntala received a sad news of her father committing suicide. Shakuntala was very upset. She remembered Laxmi’s sacrifices for her education. She recollected how her father had suffered for her bringing up a better way. She missed her father very badly.

Shakuntala’s married life was going very satisfactorily. And one day she disclosed to Prakash that he was going to be a father very soon. Both of them were very happy.

But one morning Shakuntala got up very upset. Prakash noticed that. He asked for the reason. Shakuntala said, “I had very bad dream. In my dream my father came and smilingly he announced that he is going to take rebirth as my child.”

“But is not that good? Your father is taking rebirth as our child. That means we are going to get a boy. I am very happy.”

Shakuntala thought “only if my father was my real father, I also would have been happy. But actually my father was a eunuch. He just brought me up.” She appealed to her father,” My dear father, I love you very much. I always remember you. But I do not want your rebirth as my child. I do not want an eunuch as my child.”

{This story is based on the Indian assumption of a person after his death taking rebirth at his will and with the same gender as before.}

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