Manu Bebo. A young transgender of Kashmir has lived with this identity for the last four years. All of 20, Manu’s courage and matter-of-fact acceptance of her gender is rare in a conservative society. She grew up as boy named Mansoor in the downtown area of Nawa Kadal in Srinagar.
In Class VII, she discovered that “she has the soul of a girl”. She faced stiff opposition from parents. Contempt of relatives. Abuse in school and among peer groups. The pain of rejection failed to deter the girl who placed the dignity of her Self above all else. “I realized that I have the atma of a girl. This is the way I decided to live – despite all that came my way,” says the gentle but fearless Manu.
Manu has her regrets, of course. “Why didn’t Allah make me a girl when he has given me the soul of a girl,” she wonders with a disarming simplicity. Yes, there are people who mock her. She is aware that they laugh at her. She is aware that they stare at her.
Mirza Ghalib, the magician of words, said these beautiful alfaz: Mushkilein mujh par padi itni ke aasaan ho gayin. So many difficulties fell upon me that everything became easy.
So it has been with Manu. We all face sorrows, difficulties, challenges in life. Amidst all the obstacles we deal with, most of us don’t have to face a gender battle. Starting from the tender years of early teenage, Manu had to face this. A deep, deep cut. She was left with a raw wound that hurt and bled daily because adults and peers ridiculed her.
Manu cried. When she was the only one not invited to family functions. When her parents stopped talking to her because she insisted on dressing up as a girl. When peer groups made fun of her.
Through all of this, Manu retained her innate honesty to her Self. She refused to live the lie of being a man when she felt like a woman within. Her desire to look like a woman made her try make-up. Experimenting with make-up in various ways became one of her favourite activities. It also led to her choice of career. Through all the pain, Manu found empowerment. The self-taught make-up specialist is now financially secure. She is a popular make-up trainer on social media platforms. She is able to live life on her terms. Manu is a make-up specialist, especially for bridal make-up in and around Srinagar.
When she was a child, Manu wanted to be a chartered accountant and work in a bank. As a make-up artist, she says she is living her dream now. “Aims and hobbies change with time,” she says with simplicity.
Manu’s father, Mr Mohammad Amin, is a mason, and her mother Asma is a homemaker. Manu has three siblings – two brothers and a sister. “I was in Class VII when I recognized my identity. I was 13. I used to wear my sister’s clothes and apply makeup, because it made me feel good. I watched videos on YouTube to learn how to apply makeup. It has taken me four years to establish myself as a well-known makeup specialist,” says Manu.
Manu remembers the time when her teachers punished her for wearing make-up in school, and people complained to her parents because she dressed as a woman. “They always passed bad comments and always criticized me, but I never listened to them. I did whatever I wanted to do. That is why I am here today. Their bad comments and criticism became my strength,” believes Manu.
Manu says that sometimes, her make-up bookings get cancelled when people learn that she is a transgender. “I never lose hope. I have learnt how to deal with life. Such setbacks give me the strength to work hard more and more,” she says. Manu is thankful that her colleagues and most of her customers respect her for her expertise.
Social Media Influencer
Manu’s social media handles and online tutorials are popular among those who want to learn the art of applying makeup. She wants to help all those who feel challenged in any way, and enable them to make a living as a makeup artist. She also wants to work for the welfare of the transgender community.
Lack of Family Support
Manu is sad that she did not get complete support of her family. Perhaps they were scared for my well-being and wanted to protect me, she says. “Socially, we do not support anyone who tries anything different in life. The family feels insecure about anything different. My relatives were very unkind to me. But I decided that I would extraordinary professionally. This way I was able to totally ignore their nasty behavior towards me,” she says.
Manu is highly thankful to her friend Ifra for being her support throughout. “I am where I am today because of her complete love and support,” says Manu.
Always Believe In Yourself
“We all are human beings. We should accept each person the way Allah has made them and not judge anyone or be cruel to anyone. Anybody who is a transgender must not live a suffocated life. You don’t have to hide your feelings. Achieve something so extraordinary that you defeat all negative forces. This way you shall also be able to help your parents in their old age,” she says.
The Kareena Kapoor Connection
“My friends gave me the name Manu. I like it. Kareena Kapoor is my favourite actress and her nickname is Bebo. Hence my full name is Manu Bebo.”