From Ab Rashid to ‘Reshma’, Is third gender finally getting its voice?

Kashmir Wire

SRINAGAR: Abdul Rashid alias  “Reshma”, a trans-gender,  has already made waves across Kashmir for his singing abilities but his desire  to unite the “third gender” population is likely to make him a leader. He has already chosen the revered shrine of Hazratbal shrine as a platform.

Ab Rashid alias Reshma (Screen Shot of a video)

On Fridays, Reshma , as he is popularly known, interacts with his ‘gender’ with whom he goes and offers congregational prayers in Hazratbal shrine lawns. At the end of the prayers, they are meeting and talk primarily about the social stigma towards their community.

“Our community must be led by example,” Reshma tells his fellow beings inside the lawns. “We should get education and step into different professions which the third gender community is doing elsewhere in the world. If they can do it, why can’t we?”

Most of his audience agree with clapping in their own way and proudly call him their “leader”.

Abdul Rashid, who prefers to be called “Reshma” says he had not become singer overnight. “I, as a child, was a passionate singer but was not able to pursue my career due to family pressure,” Rashid is quoted saying in various videos which have gone viral on the Internet. “It was due to family pressure I mastered in tailoring but was struggling to open myself to society and trying to become what I was not.  I was a female trapped inside a male body. I wanted to be a girl; dress, walk, talk and live like girls.”

Off late, Rashid is the singing sensation in the middle-class weddings of Srinagar.  A lot of his videos, some of them quite innovative in style and substance, have been captured and put on the Internet. It has led to a huge demand for Reshma to be part of the auspicious occasions of weddings.

Interestingly, Reshma uses the only instrument, the Tumbaknaer, an instrument endemic to Kashmir. In the last few weeks, he has devised new songs in which he uses different languages which, although carries no meanings, but offer a different soothing sensation.

Screen shot a performance of Ab Rashid alias Reshma during a marriage function

A resident of old Srinagar city, Reshma was invited by various Kashmiri Pandits to sing on their weddings.

But Reshma is not about weddings, singing only. He is a model human being as he has raised the family of his younger brother, who died young, leaving behind four orphans. Incidentally, he had made his debut appearance in the wedding of the same brother who did not survive later and whose family he has adopted and is supporting till date.

His dependents told reporters that Reshma has left no stone unturned in ensuring that they get the best facility, the best education and the best food, within the available his resources.

Reshma works so hard, sometimes he falls sick for many days. “We always try to stop him suggesting that he would now take rest but he never takes our pleas seriously and sings non-stop in the marriage season,” one of the dependents, whom he raised, told without offering his identity. Reshma is in his fifties now and requires a lot of rest from the routine toils of life.

Reshma works in both seasons. In summer, he sings at weddings and in winter, he goes back to his profession: tailoring.

With Reshma finally getting acknowledged as a concerned human being, does the situation offer him the opportunity of representing the third gender in Kashmir? This gender, caught between the two sexes, has failed in having some sort of voice in social, economic and political structure and continues to live in shadows and margins. Is Reshama the new hope?


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