Abstract

Mona Ahmed, a hijra, died at the age of eighty-one in 2017. Before that she lived in a graveyard for more than two decades where she built a community of friends and animal companions, a community that was ever changing with both human and nonhuman characters leaving, dying and new members joining. Mona became famous when a photobook titled, Myself Mona Ahmed with text by Mona and images by photographer, Dayanita Singh appeared in 2001. Years later, writer, Arundhati Roy based Anjum, one of the protagonists of her novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness on Mona. Although both the representations of Mona give us a harrowing account of a hijra’s life struggles in a heteropatriarchal world, they also depict the generosity with which Mona/Anjum welcomes various so-called deviants—beggars, mad women, women who have suffered domestic violence, the caste oppressed, the disabled and even nonhumans into the home they built over the years beside the dead. How and why does one build a home in a graveyard? How is such a home so capacious and hospitable that it can welcome anyone who defies the norm? How do we theorize this generosity and what is its connection with gender? This article will explore these questions through a close reading of both the texts alongside conversations with Mona’s family and friends. I argue that following Mona/Anjum’s life worlds, we can trace a minoritarian affect that exceeds any normative understanding of identity, kinship, and community making. These affects shimmer with the potentialities of a queer politics based on horizontality, generosity, and care that exceed the grammar of structural violence and loss that overdetermine transgender and queer lives in South Asia.

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