Pooja Sharma ‘Rekha’ has become an Internet sensation like no other, while she dances and asks people for only one rupee on the 7:40 am Mumbai ladies’ special local train. When Sandip Soparrkar interviewed Pooja Sharma ‘Rekha’ she discussed various experiences of her journey. Despite having a tumultuous life, Pooja’s faith in God and humanity is simply astounding! The way she recalls her childhood might put you to tears but her alight spirits and a bright smile can surely cheer you up any time of the day. Pooja always inspires fellow travellers to help others and her innocent demeanour will leave you in awe of her personality.
Tell me all about your journey?
God put me in a man’s body, I was called Palash aka Pols, we come from a very poor family and belong to a remote village near Kolkata. Our condition was such that we eat a small portion of the meal, once, every two days. In my community, dance is looked down upon and boy dancing is taboo. I would hide my feelings and love for dance but secretly draped my mother’s saree and danced to hit film songs with my girlfriends under closed doors.
Was this restriction difficult as a child?
I never made friends with boys, as they would tease me for my mannerisms, I felt safe in the company of girls. Girls never pulled my pants down to check if I was a boy or a girl but, the boys always did. The same trauma was a part of my house too. I ran away from home, so I could save myself from continuous embarrassment and humiliation. I met Deepa, my Guru who is from the Kinnar community, she embraced me, kept me in her house, looked after me like her own, she never asked me if I was a boy or a girl, she accepted me as I am.
How did you start dancing?
One day, I found myself amidst a dance rehearsal and seeing my moves the choreographer swiftly placed me from the last row to the top. That day I realized that I have the talent of dance which has the potential to impress people. For the show, I was given a new name ‘Pooja’. I got dressed for the first time, wore makeup, adorned gajra (flowers) in my hair, draped in a saree, wore lots of jewellery, Ohhh I felt complete that day. When I looked at ‘Pooja’ in the mirror I felt extremely shy, so the last name ‘Sharma’ was added to ‘Pooja’. The event was a hit, the organizer appreciated my dance, I became a lead dancer at all Kinnar dance shows. People started to call me to dance for their weddings, baby shower,s and all other occasions where the presence of a Kinnar is considered auspicious.
How did you reach the city of dreams, Mumbai?
In India, the Kinnar community is looked down upon, and in smaller cities, the condition is even worst, I came to Mumbai hoping for better acceptance. In this journey, I observed that Transgenders use Tali (clap) and beg on the crossroads of Mumbai and are humiliated, shamed, disgraced for their behaviour, and often laughed at the way they dress. I decided to change this, no Taali, only Namaste. No begging on the streets, only dancing inside a train and that also ladies train because in the gent’s train life was back to what it was in my village. I did not want myself to be touched in the wrong places because like all other women I respect my body too and no one is allowed to touch it without my permission. And most importantly no asking for money, if someone cares and likes my dance they can pay and that appreciation is restricted to One Rupee only.
How Does it feel when people say you dress like Rekha and dance like Madhuri?
I worship Rekha Ji, she is my epitome of beauty and style and I totally copy my idol. Madhuri Dixit is my dancing inspiration and I dance to all her song. But personally, I love to dance to devotional songs as it makes to stay at peace and helps me connect to the power above, which shows me the way. People love a lot, what more can I ask for? All I wish and pray is happiness for everyone. The love I have received on the train is priceless.