Now began a completely lopsided period of my life. I had a specific, yet vague task: "find people who have undergone transition in India and obtain references and the protocol they have followed." Easy enough, if one knows where to look; next to impossible if one is out of the loop of things because, as a rule, information of this nature is not advertised.
I was also being assigned tasks of increasing responsibility at the work-place, tasks that were above the scope of my designation and required me to apply and train myself with inordinate dedication. Add to that the extended evening, night and sometimes even mixed (3-day evening, 2-day morning) shifts and my brain chemistry was so messed up that it was now reading sunlight as a cue to fall asleep. Plus the coffee addiction - my only vice - and the associated daily withdrawal (few hours after drinking coffee, withdrawal begins) were killing me.
Vague tasks that required a gargantuan effort on the part of a procrastinator who is also a perfectionist took an obvious back-seat. Then there was pressing family/friend emergency after emergency that always took precedence. And the procrastinator was only too happy for an excuse to not have to draw up and execute an elaborate action plan. Time passed. The procrastinator did not.
Months after, I gave up my job and some transitory stimulus pushed me to renew my search on the internet. I found a reference to a gender clinic run by the Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science and Research, New Delhi, on a website. Not knowing the reputation of the institute, and knowing no one I could ask, I remained sceptical - I tend to be wary of anything that seems too good to be true. Note the devious ingenuity with which the procrastinator's brain comes up with perfectly plausible 'reasons' to evade tasks. Consequently, the tab remained open in my browser for weeks but I did not follow up.
Then, an unexpected turn of events caused me to rush to Delhi for a couple of days. It was very short notice, but I took a chance. While still in Mumbai, I placed a call to the hospital and found out that appointments to the gender clinic are usually booked up to two months in advance. I had less than a week. I explained the situation and was given numbers of the psychiatrists associated with the clinic to ask them if they would make an exception. Needless to say, my calls went unanswered. To date I am ashamed that in my desperation to get an appointment I placed in excess of 20 unanswered calls to each of the numbers. Almost absent-mindedly checking the website, I came across the email addresses of the doctors in question. I emailed them and one answered - she agreed to see me and told me how to go about setting up the special appointment she was granting me.
During my meeting with her, we discussed my readiness, the protocol, where I could have HRT and get my procedures done, and how feasible it would be for me to be a long-distance patient of the clinic. I then returned to Mumbai.
A day or two later, she sent me an introductory email to Satya, the founder of Sampoorna, a trans Indian group. Satya, very promptly, sent me an invitation to the first Indian Trans Healthcare Meet, conducted by Sampoorna in collaboration with the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital & Medical Research Institute, Mumbai, which I attended (23rd Oct, 2010 - I remember for it was one friend's birthday and another had just been discharged from hospital). And just like that, I was a member of the group. After the meet was over, the attendees had dispersed and the group members had had refreshments, we rose to leave when two of the transguys from the group excused themselves and headed over to the pharmacy in the hospital - to buy their doses of testosterone! It was so matter-of-fact. "Hey hold on a minute, we'll just buy our testosterone and be back". I was happy for them, no doubt. But I was insanely envious - I ached to walk in those shoes.
Satya and I met solo, to get to know each other, now that I was in the group. We discussed options for me, a future for the group and just hung out. It was a refreshing change to have an intellectual conversation in which I wasn't holding back on anything. I attended the next group meet where one of the members demonstrated how to self-administer an intra-muscular injection. I was more than ready to begin. Satya sent me an email introduction to the endocrinologist who has been treating most of our FTMs (as of this moment, I'm not sure about the MTFs - will check and update). Unfortunately for me, a few other things cropped up preventing me from making an appointment with the doctor.
In the interim, I received an invitation to attend an LBT conference in Kolkata, India, conducted by Sappho for Equality (Dec, 2010). After a lot of rumination, I agreed to go. Understand that, up until now, I had never intended to do more than transition, write a blog about it and then move on with my life. Attending the conference changed that. I had always been of the opinion that instead of Indians migrating to 'greener pastures' we need to stay here and avail of, and contribute to, the verdure here, and I realized that queer rights, finally, was where I could work towards making the difference I always spoke about.