Hijras are members of what is usually considered in India as ‘the third sex’ – neither man nor women. The hijras usually show up at weddings and at the birth of male babies, to perform religious ceremonies intended to bring good luck and fertility. These ‘ceremonies’ involve music, singing, and sexually suggestive dancing, and although the hijras are most often uninvited, the host usually pays the hijras a handsome fee for their ‘services’. Many fear the hijras’ curse if they are not appeased, bringing bad luck or infertility, but for the fee they receive, they can bless goodwill and fortune on to the newly born or the newly wed couple.
A wedding photography experience that I will never forget
I was at a reception of a Sikh wedding at a large farm house outside of Delhi. The wedding was the day before and this party was pure fun, no religious ceremony. Guests were having a good time but there was nothing ‘interesting’ to shoot. The evening was not going to pick up more than it had already and at one point after getting my share of ‘OK’ images, it was time for me to leave. I was a little disappointed of course, but as I was approaching the gate on the way to get my car, I noticed a little unexpected crowd. I came closer, and realized that an argument was taking place. Voices were loud, but it all seemed like a well played show. There was a group of hijras at the gate.
One cannot anticipate when or where hijras will show up so cannot plan to photograph them, but I needed pictures of this ‘ceremony’ for my book and there it was. I had my camera still on me and I started shooting using the light from the passing cars and the street lamp. They where acting out, trying to embarrass me using obscene gestures and profane language but I was so happy I was simply smiling and taking pictures. the whole event ended peacefully as money changed hands to everyone’s relief and I had my pictures.