As an Islamabad resident, I can bear witness to the person that is Bijli, as fierce and unapologetic as her name. You’ve run into her in F-10 markaz, in and around Gloria Jeans in F-11, sometimes in F-7 as well. Always smiling, but not making the run-of-the-mill cliched “Allah apki jori salamat rakhay” joke. On two occasions, she saw me with two different male friends and winked. Now, we’re on first name basis.
We’ve sat together for coffee a few times, a college kid or the other always ends up interviewing her for she’s thoughtful and perceptive. When short on cash or change, my friends and I have shared a smoke with her.
So naturally my heart swelled when someone told me it was her birthday today and she had a MASSIVE celebration.
(After some pining for not being there, I thought we were friends?)
We’ve been told that Bijli got ready from a beauty parlor. She got a blowdry and party makeup done.
and boy does it show.
She got her own banner and everything…
Look at how her face has lit up right next to her cake(s)
Bijli got five cakes on her birthday. While cutting the one with the sparkling candles, she was very scared. She later asked everyone not to light them up saying “Bijli khari hoi hay, aur jalanay ki zarurat nai hay”
All of Bijli’s friends came dressed for the occasion. They fondly call Bijli, “baby doll”
All the ladies are glowing, might I add.
The tagline of the night was “Bijli hay tau Pakistan main Bohran kaisa?”
Bijli’s bestfriend could not make it to the party because she was busy getting ready at the parlor. She later visited Bijli at her house, where they cut one of the left over cakes and danced.
And there was quite a turn-out.
According to the good folks at Dairah, “over 50 people laughed, ate, and took pictures with Bijli and her friends, we saw no differences, no animosity, and no contempt.”
And we spotted WonderWoman Muniba Mazari there too.
Speaking to MangoBaaz about the birthday celebration, Founder at Dairah Areej Yasin shares, “In the Khwaja Sera community of Pakistan, tradition dictates that a transgender is meant to celebrate their birthday once in their life. Usually celebrated in their middle age, the birthday honors the life of the transgender and the societal obstacles they have overcome to reach this point. The birthday is also a way to collect gifts and monetary support to help sustain the transgenders in their old age.”
Bijli is one of the most beloved people in Islamabad.
“By virtue of her captivating personality, she not only spreads happiness wherever she goes, but she is also involved in widespread humanitarian work. She has also been acting as an ambassador for Dairah, as she has connected us to underprivileged transwomen who required help and support.”
Dairah-The Support Group helped Bijli host her birthday party on the 28th of April, to celebrate who she is, and what she has achieved so far.
In a status update which also lamented on the whole experience, Dairah writes, “When we organized Bijli’s birthday, we saw the best & the most moving examples of how truly integrated all of us can be. Today, when ChaiChowk, Juicy Gossip, Baramda, The Cheese Factor, Coffee Planet Pakistan, Bits n’ Bites and Funky Bake – CupCake cafe, Islamabad came together to celebrate Bijli, we witnessed the generosity and social responsiveness of our local businesses, and the ease with which we can collaborate for a bigger cause.
All we saw was love and humanity.
And that is how we know better times lie ahead.”
Dairah came into being as a support group over eight months ago to not only shed light on the transgender community, one that has been recently targeted in multiple acts of violence but also, bridge the divide between the general community and the people with different gender identities. There were group talks, seminars, fundraisers and feelings circles, bringing participants closer together with the transgender community, hearts beating as one.
Here’s to hoping we can finally make that Pakistan a possibility where the transgender community has the same opportunities as you and I. We hope Dairah can contribute as much as possible towards the betterment of transgender persons across Pakistan. Here’s to a future without labels.
Where the transgender community can acquire education without being prejudiced, treated at hospitals without the confusion of whether or not they belong in the female ward, given access to public spaces without the fear of ridicule and allowed to pursue their dreams and ambitions instead of being shunned by their own families.
A community where their bodies are not sexualized.
…Where Bijli can be your best friend, too.
To get involved, please reach out to Dairah here.
Cover Image via: Zunaira Arshad