By the age of 16, Malaika knew he was different. As a child he liked playing with his mother’s saris and makeup and by 16 knew he was attracted to men. Relatives would say he acted like a little girl, because he was shy, caring and did the domestic chores for his parents, normally a role fulfilled by daughters and daughters-in-law. At school, he would be teased and accused of being a Hijra Chakka, a South Asian term that roughly translates into “eunuch” or “hermaphrodite”. Afraid of the bullying, Malaika would skip school for a week at a time. At home he would fight with his brother who would scold him for his effeminate mannerisms or because Malaika had long hair. Malaika was constantly pressured to get married to a woman. Given that Nepalese society views gay men as diseased, he was torn between fulfilling his societal role and living his own life.
In his late teens, Malaika began to meet gay men in Kathmandu. They would hang out and exchange experiences in the local park; some would share their knowledge about HIV/AIDS, the need for safer sex and gay rights. A group of them had founded Blue Diamond Society, seeing a need to have an organisation that could provide information to the gay community and advocate for their rights. Malaika has now worked for BDS for 11 years as a social worker for their HIV/AIDS hospice.
In 2008, Malaika took part in MakeUp2MakeUp‘s hair and makeup workshop. He showed an immediate aptitude for it and later went on to win a big makeup competition in Nepal. He continues to get called to work for magazine shoots, beauty pageants and fashion shows. His dream is to become the top in Nepal in hair and makeup and eventually open a salon with other members of the LGBTI community. Whilst his family suspect he might be gay, he has never been able to talk openly to his ageing and frail parents for fear it would hurt them. Economic independence and being able to provide for his parents and siblings might help Malaika gain the much-needed acceptance from his family.