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A Study on Third Gender in Jeet
Thayil’s Narcopolis

M  (16PHD0608)

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of English

VIT University, Vellore.

[email protected]



of English

VIT University, Vellore.               

[email protected]



paper tends to examine the second face of Bombay by investigate the third
gender’s crucial life style through Jeet Thayil’s Narcopolis (2012), and it is an autobiography of his past 20 years
in Bombay where it led him to opium addiction. From this personal experience he
recollected Bombay life and he analyses the characters such as Dimple, Rashid,
The opium house owner, Newton Xavier and Mr.Lee to depict the picture of Bombay’s
sub-world. Particularly it investigates Dimple in the light of addiction to drugs,
sex, death, perversion, love and god causes to bring out the under-world of

travels era between late 1970s and 2004 Bombay, when the narrator arrives from
New York who himself entranced with the city’s underworld in particular an
opium and brothel of damned generation in this nation about to sell its soul. This
narrative transition between old Bombay of 1970 and 2004 replicate through the
characters Dimple, the Eunuch commonly she identified as a pipe maker.
Generally using pipes make fall of addiction which leads violation but moreover
in this story many of the incidents connects to relief and recreation to Dimple
by opium. Conceiving the violation of the city which signalling the hidden bleakness
of Dimple and she is searching her beauty of life from movies, pulp magazines, church
and new burkas.  

the celebrated painter who both rejects and craves adulation, Mr Lee, the
Chinese refugee and businessman, poets, prostitutes, pimps and gangsters.

Key Words:

Narcotic, Transgender, Sexuality, Gender, Underworld Bombay and Dimple



is a form of replication, which has adhered in 2004 novel Narcopolis, it tries to convey the originality of events where it
was some decades past. In Narcopolis, Jeet
Thayil reckoned both intrinsic and extrinsic face of Bombay between 1970s and 2000s;
from his authenticity this society could be observing the visuals of
under-world Bombay. Though this novel it tries to give the justification of
narcotic addiction and according to Jeet Thayil, narcotics are helping to tranquilise
the mind and it is a prevention part to life.

justify narcotics in Indian context, it is supposed to be bringing the understanding
of Indian indigenous cultures and transitions. While conveying the theme of narcotics,
sex, death and perversion, in Indian dogma it is against the nature. Because
Indian traditional and cultural values play ample role in develop the ovation
of Indian doctrine but on the other hand it fails to recognize the fourth world
people like Dimple (a transgender) as far as the enlightened heterosexual
society refuse to compassionate, inclusive, open minded and humane with Dimple
like transgender. Since Indian dogmas and doctrines have been failing about to
give priority of gender equality, non-confirmative diverged community turns
towards narcotic to control their whole some hungrier. So this obstacle about
to equal opportunities tends them eluder of this society.  

from Indian doctrines, a transgender rights NGO, Sahodari foundation by a
transsexual woman, Kalki Subramaniam points that in 2011 states that there are
4.5 lakhs of Indians who have openly come out as transgender but chances are
that there are five times as many who remain closeted of course because fear of
social ridicule. In India especially transgender people
very commonly have been excluded from schools, jobs, societies and family causes
of their non-conforming gender. So today absence of awareness and lack
education about gender equality, the predominant norms and values of society commute
insensitive towards transgender persons. This type of approaches and
explorations give more adverse impact on one particular community. In this
study it proves almost majority of the transgender persons have moved for
begging and sex workers for fulfil their appetite in addition often they are
taking opium for pain relief. 

Indian society tends to see the
phenomenon of identifying with a gender so they fail to recognise that having
an alternate gender identity is perfectly normal.

people are often driven into the field of sex work because they have no alternative
means of employment or survival, leading to high HIV rates among the group. They
are not accepted in society and their earnings are much lower than those of the
average individual. They face rejection from important supports like teachers
or parents, and are deprived of the means to proper education. They also lack sufficient
counselling centres and educational institutions where they can be at peace, making
the world a living hell for an ordinary gender-confused kid.” (Kalki)

Being in terms of cultures,
art forms or languages and gender is an issue which has been shunned far long
time India is identified as a land of diversity. This vast diverse gender
spectrum spreads binaries between hetero normal and non hetero normal beyond
the land.

Formation of gender based abundance:   

is an umbrella term which consist all non-heteronormative community. Transgender
is an accumulate part of LGBTAIQ i.e, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender,
Asexual, Intersex and Queer. Here except Bisexual, rest are identifying as
non-heterosexuals because of gender unreliability with heterosexuals. This
intrinsic idea based sex, gender and sexuality, through the by-product of queer
formation, possibly help to study the realm of society and culture in base of
performance; also it can be used as a range of methods, concepts and tools.

highlight the term ‘sex’, it has connected with biological body such as male
and female, whereas defining gender, according to Judith’s ‘Performative’
progresses, it is socially constructed tool strictly not by natural cultivation.
Moreover Sullivan has refigured gender as a ‘cultural fiction’, neither natural
nor universal and therefore it is an ‘inner sense of self’ through the practice
of what we are received from our society in acceptable and permissible way to
us to do, be and perform. The growth of gender identification has labelled as
man, woman and very recent inclusion of ‘third gender’. Taking the last part,
Sexuality is commonly the understanding of sexual orientation or sexual
identity, which linked with biological factors recognized through their
attraction and desire. To clarifying sexual orientation, need to refer the two
prominent attachments such as same-sex oriented and opposite oriented in
practice of romantics, physical desires and attractions to same-sex or other

reference to sex, gender and sexuality, calling oneself a ‘queer’ reclaims one
who once derogatory slur and servers to unite people who are marginalised
because of their non-conformity by dominant gender identities or heterosexuals.
Commonly, queer is one of the inclusions of acronyms LGBTQIA, represents
different sexual orientations, which is an enduring pattern of attraction,
behaviour and identity related to one’s desire and drive.  Comparably inclination plays major role to
develop intimate emotional and sexual relationships with same or other people
to define the sexual representation. Moreover the word queer is a descriptive
term used to describe whom they engage relationship with same gender; it is
enduring physical, sexual and romantic attractions.

appropriate the ‘Queer’ definition, in 1996, Anna marie Jacose rethinks David
Halperin’s definition which is often quoted that “‘Queer’ acquires its meaning
from its oppositional relation to the norm. Queer is by definition whatever is
at odds with the normal, the legitimate and the dominant. There is nothing
in particular to which it necessarily refers. It is an identity without an
essence”. So it has given the hierarchal connection between society and queer.
Summarily, in 1945, Broadway musical Carousel, Oscar Hammerstein’s lyric
“You’re a queer one, Julie Jordan” represents queer ambiguous as adjective,
noun, and verb. Causing ‘Queer’ – adjective is the conventional and traverse
several, because it is not easy to answer single and it can be placed by
personalities, behaviour, desires, abilities and ambitions. ‘Queer’- noun is a
discomfort terminology cause of ‘homophobia’ where in power of classification
an accordance with 19th centuries debate carries out with medical
references of ‘change or be changed’. Donald E.Hall reframes the polemic
approach on queer verb as “to be a man is a lesser version of woman, to be an
effeminate man is a lesser version of masculine man vice-versa homosexual is
heterosexual”. ‘Queer’ – verb is laudable as queer noun will take as transitive
verb which spread its queerness, convert others, awaken discontent and
undermine the system.   

‘Queer’ conventions sometimes affiliate with uncomfortable, suppressed,
violent, slur by dominant culture whereas Donald E.Hall insights Sedgwick’s
words as; queer is a continuing moment, movement, motive-recurrent, eddying,
troublent highlights ‘queer’ itself means across
(rooted from Indo-Europeon- twerkw,
German- quer, Latin- torquere, English- athwart) keenly in its relation and strange.

 Again he emphasizes Michael Warner’s word from
Fear of a Queer Planet: Queer Politics
and Social Theory (1993) about queer as “‘Queer’ represents, among other
things, an aggressive impulse of generalization; it rejects a minoritizing
logic of toleration or simple political interest-representation in favour of a
more thorough resistance to regimes of the normal….for both academics and
activists, ‘queer’ gets a critical edge by defining itself against the normal”.
Extracting ‘regime of normal’ suggests mess up with queerness is a demarcation
to legitimated society and culture.

the way Sullivan’s conceive of queer and identity politics determined queer
theory as “a deconstructive strategy, aims to denaturalize heteronormative
understanding of sex, gender, sexuality, sociality and the relations between
them. Identity politics, on the other hand could be said to be based on the
assumption that sexual inclinations, practices and desires are the expression
of a person’s core identity”. It capsulated historicity behind, only then can
trace out the assumption based ideas.  

gender historians like David M. Halperin and Michel Foucault’s exploration of
sexual paradigms during classical Greek were same-sex desire celebrated as like
anything and had much more to do with power position and social status.
Relevantly in sixth century BC, Poet Sappho’s erotic lyrics (her verses later
celebrated as homoerotic by Plato and others) about young women later termed as
‘Sapphic’, his island ‘Lesbos’ became as ‘Lesbian’. In Plato’s Symposium foregrounds a major statement
about same-sex quest by Aristophanes theorises ‘world once made up of conjoined
beings, some of mixed sex, others of two men or two women’. Same way Zeus
divided these conjoined beings into separate individuals, sexuality is
determined by search of one’s missing half, either of the same or different sex.
Dramatically tolerances towards homosexual activity in Christian era changed
completely against because it considered as sin.

E.Hall underlines latter stage of queer from John Boswell’s Christianity, social Tolerance and
Homosexuality (1980) suggests early church sometimes countenanced same-sex
relations but not many times. Again Carolyn Dinshaw’s reading insists that in
medieval period, they perpetrated against ‘sodomites’. Actually she proves
through Boswell’s reading as there were several penalties after thirteen
century for all erotic contact between same sex like castration, incarceration
and public execution.  Historian Judith
Brown explores medieval church articulations against sodomy between women like
for example during fifth century St. Augustine’s warnings to his sister about
woman relation and prohibitions against nuns sleeping together devised by
councils of Paris. Like Alan Bray explored ‘mooly-house’ is a meeting place for
men who wish to arrange sexual encounter with other men and Randolph Trumbach
enumerates in seventeenth and eighteenth century ‘Libertine’ was a radical
sexual identity theorized by upper-class men challenges against power of

nineteenth century Foucault reclaims on homosexual is ‘invented as a species’
because of non-conformity and through his thesis scholars referred queer as two
distincts, one as ‘essentialists’ means of essence of same sex desire is
transhistorical and trans-cultural and another as ‘constructionists’ means of
meaning drives from Deriddean concept of binary opposition between heterosexual
and homosexual. But Sedgwick does not take essentialist and constructionist
concept instead her views on unrationalized coexistence of etiology models as
‘minoritizing’ and ‘universalizing’.

reinforced Sedgwick as ‘anxiously universalizing terms’ conceives potential
threat to gender and sexuality and ‘comforting minoritizing ones’ conceives
peculiarity of a small class of deviant individuals.                                                                                  

Negligence: An analysis

Indian context, society has given much lesser important to LGBT community and
literally transgender people never get any rights except few like some menial
works. Most often trans* people engaged with begging and prostitutions, so with
reference to Norcopolis, Dimple is
working as an opium Pipe maker and a fulltime prostitutes rather anything.                                     

“She said: Woman and man are words other
people use, not me. I’m not sure what I am. Some days I’m neither, or I’m
nothing. On other days I feel I’m both. But men and women are so different, how
can one person be both? Isn’t that what you’re thinking? Well I’m both and I’ve
learned some things, to my cost, the kind of thing you’re better off not
knowing if you mean to live in the world”. (Norcopolis 1)

it raises so many questions of tolerance, bears and endures, people like Dimple
only solve because of drugs like opium and others parallels. This is a not for
to get intoxicate but for forgetting the suffering as well to endure the pain
and suffocation within their own premises.

“She was learning to live with pain. It
was always there, in her shoulders and her back. The opium reduced it to
something manageable, but she woke with pain” (15)

is highly difficult because often they violated, in fact in the analysis oh
this novel, it brings that they can’t even have dwellings, though they have,
it’s not in proper as like an others it is in slums and slum likes. This is
never giving them comfort life; instead it gives diseases and physical
sufferings. They can’t have proper medicines, though they get it is not good
so, it won’t give complete recovers. Even doctors also treat them like aliens
due to the cause of Trans*, if from red light slums, the consequences will be
more severe.

“The doctor wore glasses with gold
frames and he didn’t actually examine her. He didn’t touch her at all, not even
to shake hands, as if he knew her, knew where she lived and what she for a
living and the exact amount of opium she took on a daily basis, and even if he
made no moral judgment about her life, he had made a medical or personal
judgment, which he had every right to”. (19)

certain point Trans* community forget about general hospitals instead they
prefer their own medicines unless it should be definitely drugs and opium.
That’s what Dimple learned to make pipe and preparing own recent days. It gives
more pleasure than anything from the society since she is from same community.

“Lee told Dimple he was sick. He had a
grating in his throat and he didn’t want to go to a hospital because there was
no point, he knew what it was. He said he needed opium for its pain-killing
properties, just a she did. He had a list of aches and pains. It was a bond
between them, the itemizing of pain. In pain, he said, as if it were a country.
As if he were saying, I am in Spain”. (30)

there is no space to red light workers to this universe for survive, if at all
a trans* still more difficult to them, because of marginality. Practically
these people have sexually marginalised so society not even touch them and
speak with them, this is real atmosphere for moving towards drug and opium. “Revolution
must follow revolution without interruption. I’m tense before midnight but I
take sleeping pills and feel better, try pills”. (34) Dimple realizes the
original situation and started to adapt the society with those indifferences
and lead her life as such. So this lines exaggerate the reality of trans*
sufferings and isolations

“Dimple understood the exact nature of
Janice’s suffering. To know you were unloved by your parents, it was a wound
that would never heal. Nothing Dimple did to forget her early life could change
this fundamental fact. She was always under the sway of it. It never went away.
She would think she was okay, but she was not. If she was not sleeping enough
or if she was anxious, it would catch up with her, as fresh and wet and red as
it had ever been. In the scene when brother and sister are finally reunited in
a village in Kathmandu, Dimple made no effort to hide her tears. Others were
crying too, men and women, entire families weeping together as they munched
their popcorn and sucked noisily at bottles of Thumps Up and Fanta” (89)

with the picture Jeet Thayil’s Narcopolis
(2012) the gender minorities never get resolutions for new life though the
country gives much more effort to establish liberalization and development. And
it gives that sufferings is the by birth of LGBTs life, so without make
understanding, Dimple like people never ever get relief from difficulties.

Work cited:

Subramaniam, Kalki. The fifth estate: the students’voice of IIT
Madras. Gender Diversity. IIT. November 4, 2014

Choudhry, Monika. “Jeet Thayil’s Narcopolis-A Critical Review.”

Day, J. (2007). Queer sexualities in
French and Francophone literature and film. BRILL.

Doncu, Roxana Elena. “Narcopolis: The
secret life of opium in the city.” Journal of Romanian Literary

Hall, D. E. (2002). Queer theories.
Palgrave Macmillan.

Khan, Nasreen Hannah. “Which Side Are You on?: Prosthetic Vaginas, Cross-dressing Madonnas,
and Queer Theology in Virgin of the Flames and Narcopolis.” (2016).

Koteshwar, K. “Another One Bites the Dark:
Reading Jeet Thayil’s Narcopolis as a  Continuum
of Aravind Adiga’s Dark India Exploration.”

Thayil, Jeet. Narcopolis. L’Olivier, 2013.

Verma, Anjali. “Narcopolis: A Reflection
of Mumbai of 1970s.” Language in India 16.2 (2016).

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