Everyone would have a favourite lullaby – a cradle song that soothed them as a baby and helped them sleep listening to the rhythmic song and swing. Then, what makes a lullaby precious? It was this thought that prompted Vijayaraja Mallika, Kerala’s first transwoman poet to pen a lullaby for intersex children which is perhaps the first-ever Intersex lullaby in history.
The lyrics go by, Aanalla Pennalla Kanmani Neeyente/Thenmaniyallo Thenmani (Rough translation: Neither are you a boy nor a girl, my baby/you are my sweetheart)…
Two days after Vijayaraja Mallika released the lullaby in the voice of Shini Avanthika, Mohiniyattom exponent Dr Sandhya Edakkuni has visualised the song as a recital. Rendered by musician Nilambur Sunil Kumar, the Mohiniyattom version conveys the soul of the lullaby and has won hearts all over social media.
Vijayaraja Mallika has been on cloud nine ever since. The reception and responses to the lullaby have been a great motivation for her. “I penned this lullaby as a call for the inclusion of intersex children. There are lullabies for boys and girls, but not for intersex children. It’s sad that music, which has no gender, has not tried to be inclusive for babies born with both male and female genitals,” she says.
Intersex individuals haven’t received any support or acceptance from society, she notes. “Gender is a social concept whereas intersex is a biological reality. An intersex child is born with multiple gender traits which could vary according to the sexual orientation as the child grows up. But society views such kids as a shame or sin or curse. It’s this misconception that I intend to shatter through my poem.”
Why a lullaby? “Because a mother can make all the difference,” she says. “Intersex children, when born, are either undergone surgery to remove one of the genitals, or abandoned or killed. If a mother decides to embrace her child’s intersex identity and fight the stigma by deciding to stand with the child, that acceptance alone could bring about a change. All she has to do is to love and accept the existence and needs of her child and making the child confident. Society will have to follow suit in the long run.”
Poem is her medium
Vijayaraja Mallika has been, in strong words, writing about transgender issues and intersex realities through her poems. Her poetry collection titled Daivathinte Makal has won the Yuvakala Sahiti Vayalar Award and has been taught in various universities.
“The lives of transgender persons and intersex persons are a struggle. There are 42 intersex classifications, but how many are aware of it?” she asks.
Last year, the Madras High Court had banned forced surgeries on intersex infants to conform their bodies to the male-female binary and had directed that they are given time to find their true gender identity and make a choice for themselves. “That was a historic move,” she says.
“But even now, hospitals in Kerala perform sex reassignment surgeries and hormonal therapies on minors without their consent. What they don’t realise is that they can only change the physique of intersex children, but not their sexual orientation. These children sink into depression and mental disorders after their biological urges are suppressed. They drop out of schools or colleges and some of them end their lives,” she says.
She says intersex persons, who lead frustrated lives, have pleaded for euthanasia. “Such is the stigma. Let everyone live on this planet as human beings. Why is letting others live in dignity so difficult?” she asks.
For the wide reach of the lullaby and the recital, Vijayaraja Mallika expresses gratitude to several kind souls – her husband Jashin, whom she married last year against the wishes of their parents, Sunil and Shini who lent voice to the lyrics, and Sandhya, who converted the song into a mesmerising recital in a couple of days.
The lullaby has already been translated into Tamil by Padmanabhan Parameswaran and is rendered by 76-year-old playback singer Karimpuzha Rada.