The frustration is palpable as she chats with us, amidst the evening din of 8th Lane. A private tuition teacher for the last 20 years, Ahmed asks us to refrain from using her real name; parents of her students may not be comfortable knowing where she lives. Shaad Towers, a storey building in 8th Lane, where the going price of a sq ft flat is Rs 70 lakh, offers a peak into the white-washed future of Kamathipura.
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The Parcel Finalist for the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and for the Governor General's Literary Award, this powerful new work, about a transgender sex worker in the red-light district of Bombay who is given an unexpected task, is a gripping literary page-turner--difficult and moving, surprising and tender. Anosh Irani's best novel yet, and his first with Knopf Canada. The Parcel's astonishing heart, soul and unforgettable voice is Madhu--born a boy, but a eunuch by choice--who has spent most of her life in a close-knit clan of transgender sex workers in Kamathipura, the notorious redlight district of Bombay.
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Transgender TG already existed in India more than years ago, in ancient Hinduism and Islam, where eunuchs served in the harems of the Mogul rulers. However TGs differ from traditional Muslim eunuchs, who did not dress as women and were sexually inactive. This was the first time ever in Indian history that TGs were openly discriminated.
Along the wall, other women sit on cheap plastic chairs, chatting, in a bank with an unusual mandate: It serves only prostitutes. As Sangini sees it, sex workers with even a modest financial buffer are able to refuse clients wanting unprotected sex. And savings build confidence, providing the wherewithal to change professions if they choose.
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But you could even ascend to hell. That afternoon, I climbed the dark staircase again, paused at the first floor. There used to be an old man ironing clothes near the landing.