Kolkata: There are firsts and there are firsts. But this one is really special. India now has its first third gender principal, at a government college in Bengal. Till 2003, Dr Manabi Bandopadhyay was Somnath. But all that is behind her. She hopes she has done the transgender community proud.
As she takes charge, there is no recrimination, no self-pity about how hard life has been - just excitement about her new job as principal, Krishnanagar Women's College, a post she competed for and won fair and square.
"I want to forget my past 'parichay'," says Dr Manabi Bandopadhyay who has a PhD in Bengali literature and is currently head of the Bengali department of a government college at Jhargram. "I am Manabi and I want to create many new Manabis, " she adds.
Manabi, who is 50, changed her sex and name in 2003. But till 2012 she was Somnath on college records, which caused her considerable annoyance. The big boost came when the Supreme Court recognised the third gender last April in a landmark judgement. Her message to her community: "Education. If we learn, all problems will be solved. I want all transgenders to get education."
She also has a message for the rest of the world that still looks askance at transgenders. "Those who look down at us, they are not good people. We don't need them. We are not ashamed by what they think. We are pure."
Dr Bandopadhyay, who has an adopted son and a 92 year old father, takes over as principal on 9th June.