Their enthusiasm has been building up since last Saturday, when they heard that constable Lalit Salve, a native, is set to be discharged from Mumbai's St George Hospital after a genital reconstruction surgery. "I don't know what the term means, but what I do know is that it's not every day that a woman leaves our village to return as a man," says villager Ranjit Gore, 23, who runs a cell phone shop in the village. Like most others, he has always addressed Lalit as 'didi'. "But now, I'll have to call him dada. It's weird," he adds sheepishly.
Home for now
The village came under the spotlight after the Beed constable approached the state police department, asking them grant leave to undergo surgery last September, so he could return as a man. While the first stage of the surgery is over, the second operation will be conducted after six months. Till then, Lalit needs to get acclimatised to the changes - both physiological and mental.
"He needs to rest for five days. There is no diet plan. Fortunately, due to considerably less blood loss, he's recovering fast. The follow up will be on July 3, which is why he can go home in the meanwhile," says plastic surgeon Dr Rajat Kapur, who has been overseeing Lalit's treatment.
Fireworks all around
Back at the village, the moment Lalit's private vehicle hovers in sight, a flurry of fireworks rents the air. "I expected the celebrations. My father had mentioned in passing that they had a surprise in store for me," Lalit tells mid-day.
What he did not expect, however, was a warm hug from his father - something that hasn't happened in over two decades. "Fathers never show their affection for their daughter here. Certainly, not my father. He rarely even speaks. Today, he did not utter a single word. But the embrace said it all," says Lalit, who has by now quickly swapped his trousers for a lungi.
Slightly embarrassed, he says the change is by compulsion. "I'm a denim and t-shirt person, but there's tremendous pain and I cannot afford any friction on the operated portion," he says. Despite the pain, Lalit is enjoying his new-found identity.
There's a constant flow of guests arriving with sweets. "I've lived both, as a woman, and now as a man. But I do think that people will start respecting me more," he says.
Crying out of happiness
Lalit's family is overjoyed with his all-new avatar. His mother, Kesar, who steadfastly refrained from interacting with the media during their Mumbai stay, broke down on their return. "I am crying, but it is out of happiness. He has been through a lot, and I'm just happy it all worked out," she says. Lalit's brothers Dayananand and Dhammanand are happy about their clique getting a new male member.
"We can swap clothes," laughs Dayanand, the youngest brother. The happiest, however, is their sister Anita who jokingly adds, "I'm now the only sister. So I can be the pampered one in the family," she jokes.
Business as usual
"There might be people who have problems, but in our case, it will be business as usual," she says. Lalit's haircut, cap and name badge will undergo a change but his uniform will remain the same. "We are happy to welcome Lalit into our team," says police inspector Rajiv Talekar. He recalls the time Lalit broke the news to him. "I'd heard of such a case in Madhya Pradesh but never thought we would witness a similar case at our workplace," he says. The news has compelled Talekar to read up on the topic and consult his doctor to understand it better. "When I read up on the subject, I realised that although this is a rare case, it's not all that unusual," he says.
After Lalit Salve's successful genital reconstruction surgery, the state-run St George hospital is now considering opening a gender reassignment surgery and cosmetology OPD by next week. Lalit's story has also inspired others to come forward to seek help. "A teenage girl from Pune visited the hospital with her family and enquired about the surgery. Her case is a lot like Lalit's; she feels like a man in a woman's body," says superintendent Madhukar Gaikwad.
All in a day's work
Meanwhile, at the Majalgaon police station (urban), where Lalit has been working as constable, the news of his new identity has been received with mixed reactions. Lalit's colleague, PSI Priyanka Fandh, who has been heading the preventive measure department, admits the change might affect their bonding. "Of course, we cannot the share the same kind of camaraderie we used to as two women working together," she says.
Cool in school
The news of Lalit's return has also put the spotlight on Saraswati Vidyalaya, where the constable did his schooling. The teachers remember Lalit as the bright kid who was always "behaved like a boy". "When we heard about him, it all made sense. He was always had boyish mannerisms. But we never gave it any thought back then, because we did not know such a thing existed," he says. They, however, concur that Lalit had it relatively easy because he was moving from being a woman to a man. "Had it been the other way round, it would have been far more difficult. People supported him because he's not a part of their family. The true test will be if it happens to their own child," says school teacher Suraj Solanki.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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