I’m Manish, from one of the tea gardens of upper Assam. My mom and dad both worked in the tea garden’s hospital as a nurse and compounder respectively. We were a sweet happy family until I went to school, back in the 90s. In the school, no child would talk to me. Being in the nursery, I found it difficult to understand why the children boycotted me. What was wrong with me?
After a month, I said to my parents that I didn’t want to go to school. When they asked me the reason, I said that none of the children talked to me and no one wanted to be friends with me. Without a word, the next day I was moved to a boarding school. The school was near my home, yet I was in the hostel and allowed home only during the summer holidays. I wasn’t allowed to make friends with the children near my home. At first, it was okay, but as I reached my teenage, I started having tantrums about needing to go out and make friends.
So, one Sunday afternoon, during my summer holidays in class 7, without even letting my parents know, I left home. There was a big field nearby where children were playing cricket. I asked if I could play with them. They said, “No.” I was surprised and asked, “Why can’t I play with you all?” One of the guys, who was around my age, came forward and said, “No, our parents have said not to talk or be friends with you.”
I was surprised and asked, “Why?”
They said, “Because you are adopted and you have two mothers and the police will take us and put us in jail if we ever became friends with you.”
‘Adopted’ wasn’t a shock to me because my parents had explained that to me a long time ago. I was abandoned by my family soon after birth in the hospital itself since they had too many mouths to feed. I was in the baby care section of the hospital and my mother used to take care of me and grew fond of me. And so, within a month, my parents decided to adopt me. That wasn’t the shock.
The shock for me was that I apparently had two mothers.
“What do you mean by I have two mothers?” I asked.
The group of boys started laughing and said, “Go ask them yourself.” They mocked me, called me names and before I could catch them, they ran away.
Since it was Sunday, I found both my parents at home.
I ran to them and asked, “What do the boys out there mean when they say that I have two mothers?”
They were having their evening tea. Showing no surprise, they beckoned me and sat me down on the chair next to them. Out of breath because of anxiety, anger and running, I flopped down on the chair, panting.
My father said calmly, “Yes, they are right, dear. You have two mothers and we’re sorry for not telling you the truth for so long.”
My mother said, “Yes, we’re both women and your father is actually a lady dressed like a man.”
Suddenly, my whole world turned upside down. I stood up and said, “Why on earth do you need to dress like a man? Just be as you are!”
My father sighed and said, “It’s complex, dear. In our society, it’s a taboo for two ladies to love each other and live together as a family. And I love your mother so much that I can do anything to stay with her, even disguise myself as a man for the rest of my life.”
There were tears in both my parents’ eyes. And they hugged each other tightly. I felt the love and pain between them strongly.
But still I questioned, “Why is it complex? It’s love, right?”
My mother came near me, hugged me tight and said, “I wish the society were like you think it is.”
After this, I never discussed this at home and nothing bothered me, not even the taunting, because I knew that my family was different and no matter what, we were together and loved each other deeply.
This story was first published here.