“Never prove people right. Never prove them wrong. Prove instead that you make your own path in life.”
― Katina Ferguson
In a world where a lot of people look down on transgenders, Kalki Subramanium has managed to become a writer, journalist, social activist, actor and an entrepreneur. She wishes to empower transgenders and see them working as business entrepreneurs. Kalki holds two post graduation degrees-one in Journalism and Mass communication and the second in International Relations. In the past, she has gone through a great deal of abasement and struggling like the other members of her community. But today, here she is…living her life the way she wants without concealing her true identity.
Kalki was born in a middle class Tamil family. Despite of belonging to a well educated family, her behaviour wasn’t accepted by her family. She grew up with rejections and constant harassment in school. At the age of 16, she started taking hormone tablets and by 23 endured a surgery to become a woman.
She is the founder of ‘Sahodari Foundation’ an organization aimed at socially, economically and politically empowering transgenders in India and holds campaigns to attain their rights. With the help of Sahodari, she strives to improve the standard of life of transgenders, for instance she has come up with entrepreneurship training to change their livelihood choices so that they can do something beyond begging and dancing to earn their daily bread.
After moving to Auroville from Chennai, she encountered some talented craftsmen who made Metallophones. A Metallophone is a musical instrument consisting of tuned metal bars which are struck to make sound, usually with a mallet. In order to become an entrepreneur and inspired by their art, she requested them to teach her how Metallophones were made. Ultimately she came up with a business venture named Brand Kalki with products like Metallophones and Wind Chimes.
Participation in a few exhibitions helped in garnering orders from some shops. During the first month, Brand Kalki sold about 30-40 Wind Chimes and made a profit of Rs.7, 000. As of now the products are sold in Coimbatore, Chennai, Pondicherry and Auroville. The products are available only in exclusive stores and Brand Kalki is one of the few manufacturers of such instruments in the country. Every month 20-25 Metallophones are sold, making a profit of Rs. 20, 000- Rs.25, 000.
Kalki is also the founder of a matrimonial site for transgenders named thirunangai.net. The site has gained a good response from all over the world and people are showing willingness to marry transgenders. In the past, she has trained the members of her community to make documentary films. One of the documentaries, made by Kalki and another seven transgenders grabbed an opportunity to get screened at the Russian Cultural Centre in Chennai.
Apart from being a social activist and entrepreneur, she is also a writer and actor. She has written scripts for documentary and animated films and is currently working on a novel and a semi-autobiography. Kalki played the lead role in a film called Narthagi, which is based on a transsexual’s journey and struggle for happiness and identity. The film also made her the first transgender to play a lead role in a feature film.
Acknowledging her dedication towards empowering transgenders in India, she was awarded the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by the Lioness Club of Chennai. She has spoken at several seminars, colleges and universities in India as well as the USA. In October 2010, Kalki was invited by the government of the United States of America for a 16 day Human Rights activism & Awareness program through IVLP. None of us is oblivious to the hardships faced by a transgender in today’s society. Yet Kalki had the courage to change the course of her life and lead it the way she wanted. She expresses her opinion of transforming the existing education system to make people aware of various genders and sexuality which will ultimately lead to abatement towards their ill-treatment.
Kalki is an inspiration for everyone and not just her community. Her expedition doesn’t end here; she is constantly trying her best to transform the lives of others so that they can live with dignity, respect and love.