Nayana Udupi transitioned from being biologically male to a transwoman around 20 years ago, in an arcane initiation ceremony presided over by the guru and ‘dayima’ of a transgender community in Pune, but she always knew, from early childhood, that she was female inside.
Sitting on the terrace of our office in Indiranagar, Bengaluru, she first points to Shrabonti and says, “I always wanted to be this,” and then looks at Pankaj and says, “Not this.”
It was not an easy transition. Born into an orthodox family in Mangalore district, she still remembers preferring her sister’s clothes over the “boy clothes” her parents bought her, and her father — not the most supportive of her innermost desire to be a woman — calling her ugly names like ‘hijra’ and ‘chhakka’. Around 20 years ago, Nayana ran away from home and ended up working with the transgender community in Pune, begging and doing sex work to survive. She talks openly about this in our podcast. “I didn’t like that life. I wasn’t rough and tough, like you needed to be. I wanted to study, to work in an office.”
After a few years, she returned to Bengaluru and, while working as a receptionist at a hotel, started taking evening classes in computer languages. It wasn’t easy, because, along with her sexuality, “not being from an English-speaking background” was also a challenge. Slowly, with the help of NGOs like the Solidarity Foundation, she started doing freelance programming work. Finally, Bengaluru’s tech dream came true for her when she got a job with ThoughtWorks, where she is currently employed as a marketing executive.
We dare you to listen to Nayana’s story of struggling for acceptance in a society heavily loaded against people like her, told in her own voice, and not get goosebumps.