Video Editor: Vikram Venkateswaran
It was 4 pm. The sound of the bells ringing at Mundagakanni Amman temple was echoing through the streets of Mylapore. Dressed in a gray-black sari, with her hair perfectly sealed in a bun, carrying a pile of pamphlets, Radha walks through the crooked lanes. She stops the auto-rickshaw passing by and manages to steal two minutes of their time to introduce herself. She blesses them and moves to the next man on the bike, a shop full of young boys, and even disrupts a cricket match.
This is Radha. She is contesting as an independent candidate from Chennai South for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Radha is one among the few transgender candidates contesting from all over the country.
Radha wants to be the first transgender person to sit in Parliament and be the voice of her community.
Radha will be fighting against AIADMK’s incumbent MP J Jayavardhan, DMK’s Thamizhachi Thangapandian, Makkal Needhi Maiam’s Rangarajan and several other candidates from small parties and independents.
Unlike regular politicians, Radha does not have a fancy van, blaring speakers and a microphone to canvas for herself. She goes door-to-door meeting people, telling them what her poll promises are and how she could be the change they want to see. She takes the bus or auto rickshaw to commute from one area to another.
What was refreshing is how people welcome her warmly and told her they don’t want freebies, but development.
When Radha asked a passerby what she thought of trans people contesting for elections, the woman replied, “It doesn't feel any different for me – as long as you are able to contribute to the society, it doesn't matter who is doing it. So, all the very best!”
"“Politicians have money. They give money to gather people’s support. But I have confidence. I am transgender – I have the heart of a woman and the heroism of a man.”" - Radha, Independent Candidate
Radha’s promise to the people is to ensure education and housing for all. She wants to proactively work to include trans people in all spheres of life.
"“Even in the Mahabharata, it was a trans person who put an end to the war. So wherever a trans person goes, they will definitely win. They will never lose.”" - Radha, Independent Candidate
A cook by profession, Radha has always helped poor children to study and hopes to reach a platform where she can extend her arms wider. She said that the way the Election Commission encouraged her to sign up for the polls gave her confidence that we are living in better times today.
"“Many say they want change in politics today. They say, ‘We have voted for men and women but we can’t go meet them directly. But we can come to see you at home and you have a good heart. You’ll do good for people.’”" - Radha, Independent Candidate
The other issues she wants stress upon are water woes, disposal of garbage in slum areas, lack of adequate toilet facilities, abuse of children, women and trans people.
Her piece of advice to all the trans folk out there:
“Stand independent. Don’t go with any political party. Work for the welfare of the people. People are ready to accept you. We are born to win.”
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