“Why did he constantly feel like he was a girl even though he had male parts? Why was he attracted to boys in a way that girls usually are? What could he do to stop feeling so incomplete? “ His arrival in the Bandyopadhyay family turned the stars for the family. It was labeled that he was A Gift of Goddess Lakshmi. Little did anyone fathom that he was a reflection of the Goddess herself. Today, as we know her Manobi Bandyopadhyay, was not always Manobi. She was Somnath Bandyopadhyay, but from a very young age knew that her destiny would lead her to become Manobi someday.
Her life is full of struggles, for to be different from the usual norms and be accepted in the society is not an easy proposition. The world portrays a façade of liberalism and open-mindedness; but at its heart, it is still conservative, orthodox, and non-accepting in nature. This is what I found while reading Manobi’s struggle. For her, the tussles and the battle to be accepted began in the comforts of her own house. For years, her father remained in denial towards Somnath’s true calling. Her mother quietly accepted the truth and supported her, but her meek nature dissuaded her to openly supporting her child. To top it all, the chirpings of the neighbors and society who would leave no stones unturned to taunt her and her family, continued for a long time.
It would not be wrong to say that her mother’s background and thoroughness with Bengali Literature inspired her in pursuing a career in academics. What interested me the most was that she wrote for newspapers and magazines during her college days. She even got an assignment to interview Shabana Azmi. Being a journalist myself, this has already formed an imaginary bond between us.
A Gift of Goddess Lakshmi explains Manobi’s life lessons and experiences for the readers to take a cue from and to learn a little more about the human nature and psyche in this world. Right from her school days, she was attractive and the boys eyed her. In fact, many fought amongst themselves only to grab her eyeballs. As the years progressed there were other men in her life, but unfortunately they resulted in heartbreaks, betrayals, disloyalty, and infidelity. But throughout her life, Manobi has held her foot firmly and shown to the world that a woman can survive alone despite all odds and do quite well in life. Her biography shows her relations with her friends from and outside the community. Their lives, occupations and their decisions in life have also been highlighted in the book. A few special pages show some beautiful photographs which clearly portrays how Somnath transformed into the elegant beauty Manobi.
I would take the liberty to end this post on a personal not. I was fortunate enough to sit through her session during the Kolkata Literature Festival 2017.Her’s is a story that would be etched in my mind for a long time. The mental strength that Manobi has, and the ability to face the world with confidence is an inspiration. Her oddity had never been an issue and she has accepted it from the very beginning, and after a long-drawn battle, made the world accept her as she is. The biggest lesson from her life is to realize that it is all right to be different; one must accept, realize and make the world accept it and respect one for what they are.
Manobi, today is the first transgender principle of Krishnagar Women’s College. she took on her duties on 7 June 2015. She currently resides with her adopted son. A Gift of Goddess Lakshmi is available at your nearest bookstores or can be purchased online through Amazon, Flipkart, and Snapdeal.