Life as Faiq by day, Aashi by night

Had the government worked towards incorporating us into this society, I wouldn’t be selling myself to make ends meet

Arsalan Faruqi March 02, 2015
Aashi, a transgender who is Faiq by day and Aashi at night, says,
“Living a discrete life is not everyone’s cup of tea.”

It was an uphill task getting in touch with a person from this community who would willingly sit down and disclose the issues they face every day without much exaggeration and clichéd responses. We searched for one such individual from traffic signals to the slums of Karachi and eventually through a reliable source, we managed to reach Faiq’s apartment in a posh neighbourhood of Defence in Karachi.

Faiq was expecting us and greeted us with warmth and with great courtesy, which reflected upon his excellent upbringing and which raised our curiosity as to why he chose to live a secret life and whether he has a family in this city.
“I was raised in a conservative family of five in Nazimabad. My father was a government employee and was ashamed of my existence. Since childhood, I had this natural inclination towards floral prints, dolls, jewellery and the likes, and used to imitate famous female celebrities. My family, which included my parents, a younger sister and brother, had initially ignored this tendency in me and considered it as part of growing up. However, it was after the age of 16 that they realised that something was wrong which was now obvious through my accent, the way I walked, my gestures and some unusual biological changes that had started to occur.

This created panic in the family and the very next day, I was standing in front of a doctor who after examining me thoroughly, took my parents to a private room nearby and whatever discussion took place was never revealed to me. All that I remember was that my mother came out with tears in her eyes and my father with a frown on his face, who grabbed my hand and without saying a single word, drove us back home. Everyone in the family was told to keep quiet about it, and I was told to wear baggy clothes and avoid any kind of socialising at school.

I was lucky I was allowed to continue my studies, which I did and managed to graduate in psychology from a college in Karachi and later on a certification in hotel management. By that time, I had grown up into an adult with some obvious biological changes and that’s when my life took a U-turn.”

We were honestly amazed at the poise and grace Faiq had shown discussing some harsh and dark realities of his life and were naturally intrigued as to what happened next. After a long pause and tears in his eyes, he continued.
“I was asked to leave my home. The same home where I was born in, grew up, played with my siblings, spent some of the best years of my life, and here I was being asked to leave this abode just because I was becoming an embarrassment to the family. I did not even try to reason with my parents because this was a reality that I had to live with and this was just another phase of my life where I had to be strong and ready to take the challenge head on. With a heavy heart, I left my home and my family and rented a small apartment in a commercial area of Defence. For the initial six months, my father supported me financially and occasionally visited me to make sure that I was doing okay.

Each time he visited me, I greeted him with a smile on my face and never displayed any kind of anger or pain that was literally eating me up from inside. After retirement, his income trimmed down to a pension and that was when I stepped out in search for a job. After a month long search, I ended up securing a position at the commissioner’s office in the administration department. Initially, there was plenty of resistance by the staff but then I made an effort to win them over with my no-nonsense attitude and commitment towards my work. There are plenty of transgenders who are working at homes as domestic help, working for the government availing the two per cent job quota and providing services in the fashion industry.”

Photo: Arsalan Faruqi

The next question that we threw at Faiq regarding his engagements after work gave us an entirely new dimension to his personality.
“I met this man named Wajid Sheikh who visited as a customer but slipped his business card to me and asked me to call him for he had an excellent proposition for me. Willingly or unwillingly, I did place that call and took his offer. I was to first get in touch with a similar group of transgenders through Mr Wajid and get briefed up on some part time work that they were all involved in. I met Ms Komal, the manager of the discrete community that Mr Wajid was running, and was introduced to a totally new world where I was to use my ‘special features’ and my sexual orientation to satisfy a certain segment of the society which was running into hundreds if not thousands. I was to go with a pseudonym ‘Aashi’ and establish a network of clients through social media and word of mouth.

I became a dancer who used to entertain men at different gatherings and parties. This was initially hard on me for I had belonged to a conservative family background but the pay was really handsome and I gave in. There was no looking back and I quickly reached great heights in this entertainment segment. I now am Faiq by day and Aashi by night. My father and brother have completely broken all ties with me for which I can’t blame them. However, it’s my mother who often calls me to inquire about my health and to see if I’m doing fine. I chose this path myself and will face the consequences accordingly. I still miss my home though and I know for a fact that from what I have become, they will never accept me back so why fret about it. Financially, I’m independent and will even be willing to help them out if they ever need my help.”

Photo: Arsalan Faruqi
“Had the government and the civil society worked towards incorporating us into this society with equal opportunities for people from our community, I wouldn’t have been selling myself to make both ends meet and live a discrete life. I have to think a thousand times before visiting a doctor during illness and in public places, mothers distance their young ones from us, isolating us further and making a mockery out of our orientation. I have no other way but to use my skills to survive in this jungle of intolerance and narrow mindedness.”

Faiq’s phone rang, and he spoke with great confidence, apparently with one of the clients and fixed up a time an hour post our interview session. Faiq gave us a reality check and left us with a thousand questions which we, at least, had no answers to.
Arsalan Faruqi An entrepreneur with a degree in computer engineering and an MBA from IBA Karachi. He tweets as @arsalanfaruqi (
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


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