Mumbai: In a first, 33-year-old transgender sets-up book stall at Chaityabhoomi in Shivaji Park

Mumbai: The biggest attraction for Dalits and other followers of Dr Babsaheb Ambedkar is the book exhibition that is held at Shivaji Park every December 6. This year was a washout due to cyclone Ochki, yet few have put up stalls in the lane leading to Chaityabhoomi.

As a tribute to Ambedkar, his principles and most of all his emphasis on education, people buy books on Ambedkar’s death anniversary. The topics range from Ambedkar’s life, his books, the constitution, Buddhism and wide-ranging topics for avid readers in Devnagri.

Grabbing the opportunity Disha Pinky Shaikh, a 33-year-old transgender, is at Chaityabhoomi to run a book stall. She said Ambedkar’s teachings and his works have strongly influenced her and hence she decided to sell books related to gender equality. This is the main theme of her stall, along with books written on Ambedkar and Buddhism, in order to create awareness among people.

Disha has studied only till seventh standard but has good knowledge on gender issues and is now invited to colleges to give lectures on gender sensitivity. Being a transgender, she is aware of the politics and issues related to the community. “I have all books in my stall mostly based on gender. Also, the book stall was planned for three days but due to rain the plan got spoiled. However, many books are getting sold out and people showing a positive response.”

She further stated that she wants to create awareness about gender equality. Shaikh also gives lectures in schools and colleges on gender equality. Disha expects people from her community to join her in the movement and wants others to get sensitive about their issues. She is the first transgender to run a book stall at Shivaji Park on December 6.

Observing the response to Disha, Anurag Gaikwad purchased books from her stall and also clicked a selfie with her. Gaikwad said, “She is an inspiration for me. I saw her on some news channels and decided to come to her stall, purchase books and speak to her. More such people should come forward, only then change is possible. In addition, they should get an equal opportunity to earn livelihood.”

To encourage Disha in her journey, her students also joined her and and have lent a helping hand to sell books at her stall. Ajit Bhalerao, a student of Disha’s, said she gives impressive lectures on gender equality. “Her in-depth knowledge on gender issues inspires us. She should be encouraged, so that more people from this community will come forward,” said Bhalerao.

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