Narthaki Nataraj, the first transgender to be awarded the Padma Shri, opined that she was chosen for the civilian decoration not because of her gender or identity but solely on the basis of merit and her talent as a Bharatanatyam artist.
"I was chosen not because of my transgender identity but on basis of merit as a Bharatanatyam artist. I have given more than 30 years of my life in the service of Bharatanatyam," she told news agency ANI.
Nataraj, a professional Bharatnatyam artist specialising in Thanjavur-based Nayaki Bhava tradition of dance, said that though she is in her fifties, she still feels like a 16-year-old.
"On Facebook, I have mentioned myself as Nityakalyani, because I feel like a beautiful angel from the core of my heart, I feel like a beautiful transgender woman, a beautiful dancer. Though I have a lot of wounds, I hide them," said Nataraj.
Union Ministry of Home Affairs on Friday announced the name of 112 recipients of the Padma awards, one of the highest civilian awards of the country on the eve of the country's 70th Republic Day.
The Padma awards are conferred in three categories, namely, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri, the second, third and fourth highest civilian awards of the country respectively, only after Bharat Ratna.
This year's awardees comprise four Padma Vibhushan, 14 Padma Bhushan and 94 Padma Shri recipients.