What a bummer! Being killed by a stupid virus!
Goku’s dialogue (Dragon Ball Z)
In Dragon Ball Z, when Goku, the major protagonist of the franchise, returned to Earth from the Namek planet, future Trunks, another protagonist, told him that he (Goku) would die of a heart virus in the near future. Goku, one of the Earth’s bravest fighters, was unimpressed. True to his fighting spirit, Goku did not want to die of the disease, he would prefer to die fighting. I consider Goku’s statement as an important metaphor of my condition at the quarantine centre I stayed for 14 days – I needed courage to overcome some of the most miserable situations at the centre. We, people of the planet Earth are facing a pandemic now, and I want to reiterate that my personal allegiance with Goku does not mean to downplay the seriousness of any deadly virus. Covid-19 is not stupid, while suffering itself is life’s illuminating experience that makes us our own protagonist. The number of deaths and pain that family/friends of those who died and who recovered faced should not be fiddled with for ideological and sensational cravings.
The nupi maanbis are a man to woman transgender community of the contemporary Manipur (the essay exclusively discusses transgender women, although other queer communities need crucial attention). The 21st century nupi maanbis occupy a paradoxical place in the Manipuri society. One may observe that many nupi maanbis are accommodated in family and society, mainly for the social roles they perform today, such as a beautician or a designer or a breadwinner for the family (it is still very common for people to mock a lay nupi maanbi on the roadside). (The role of the beauty parlour industry in bringing a social role for nupi manbis requires a deeper analysis). The act of “accommodation” however does not ensue cultural legitimacy, which would involve a wider acceptance of the values necessitated by a gender variant identity. In this intersection of denial and cautious inclusion, nupi maanbis’ social relations are framed by “tolerance”, not “acceptance”. However, in the last 10 to 15 years, nupi maanbis have begun to mark their presence in the Manipuri society albeit entrenched marginalisation, they have acquired different means of articulating identity and community, and socio-cultural legitimacy that were not feasible in the past. What makes the contemporary period an unprecedented one for the visibility of nupi maanbi subjects? The global movements for gender and sexual minorities (including queer initiatives in India), aiming at acquiring civil rights for queer subjects, is a broad spectrum within which the visibility of nupi maanbi community in Manipur is contextualised. Alongside the discourses of democracy and human rights, the age of information has seen people from different minority positions documenting their struggle in social media, culture, cinema, fashion and beauty industry, etc. Conterminously, there are structural interactions between the society and various minority groups mirroring each other’s politics; a crucial outcome of these interactions is the element of cultural subversion. In this trajectory, the nupi maanbi identity today poses challenges to the conventional understanding of gender in general and the societal construct of womanhood and femininity in particular.