Her Facebook page is overflowing with messages complimenting her for her new job.
Congratulations, you have hit the headlines, writes a student, attaching a newspaper story headlined “Bengal college to have India’s first transgender principal”. “We salute your courage,” writes a friend.
“Yes, it has taken some courage. It’s been a struggle to be accepted as a transgender professional,” says Manobi Bandyopadhyay, 51, shouting over the din of heavy traffic down a telephone line from Kolkata (Calcutta).
Born into a lower-middle class family – her father was a factory worker, while her mother is a homemaker – Ms Bandyopadhyay went to school on the outskirts of Kolkata before heading off to a prominent city college to study Bengali. She wrote a paper on women’s rights and joined a college in a remote village in a Maoist-affected region in West Bengal to teach Bengali.
In 2003, she says, she decided to go in for hormone replacement and surgery to change her sex. At work, she completed a dissertation on the role of transgenders in West Bengal, where their population exceeds 30,000.
She says her troubles began when she changed her gender and her name in 2006. Authorities refused to recognise the change, and she was denied pay rises at college “because they could not come to terms with my altered gender”.
“There were taunts at work about my sex change. At home, my parents and siblings were worried sick whether my body would be able to cope with the changes.” Her life – and identity – went into limbo.
It took five years and a new government in West Bengal – led by a feisty woman politician herself – to “recognize my status and give me my identity”, Ms Bandyopadhyay says. “I have always been popular with my students, but my colleagues and peers were not always so favourably disposed after I changed my gender.”