How a journey into finding my gender fluidity connected me with the spirit of my Baba Ji
a light read on connecting with my angel
The first time I started to consciously experiment with my gender through clothes was about 10 years ago.
I was on Tumblr, the only place at the time where I found images of gender fluid people. This one look I came across made me feel so seen and inspired. It also reminded me of my Baba ji.
My Baba Ji was incredibly handsome and well dressed from what I remember. I usually stood by his side when he lived with us. I would sneak into his bed at night when I was scared and stare at him while he slept. When he was in the bathroom I would put his turban on my head.
When I was 9 years old, he became an angel.
During my last visit to India in 2015, I stayed at my Thia Ji’s home briefly, where my Baba Ji lived before he transcended. My Baba’s room had been kept exactly as it was when he passed. Even his toothbrush stood standing still near the sage colored sink. I saw his dentures and giggled, I used to put them in my mouth when I was little. I took pictures as I moved throughout his room, searching for more of him. I looked under the bed, in the closet hoping to find something. Anything. We had things planned that day, so I couldn’t linger as long as I wanted to.
Usually when we were in Patiala my mom took me to different shops. I knew that I wanted to get a few Punjabi suits but I truly could not visualize a fit that would make me feel or look good especially in this phase of my gender.
My mother took me to from textile shop to textile shop. We picked out colors, dyes, fabrics, etc and built some suits together. It was really daunting for me so we decided to try on some “ready made” suits. I felt sort of manipulated into buying this hot pink floral sari that sits in my closet to this day.
We met with my dad who was on his way to a tailor named Navdeep to get some formal suits made. I followed him in the shop. I remember it feeling sort of awkward but I couldn’t understand why, maybe because I was the only female bodied person in there. I picked out two different fabrics in two shades of blue with patterns that reminded me of my Baba. I wanted a coat and pair of pants made.
The man who measured me hesitated, but my Dad was there and the tailor told him to go ahead. He read the measurements out loud while the tailor opened up a book to a page marked “Kang” where he hand wrote my size. On it there were several years dating back to the 70s. I saw my Baba Ji’s name, my Dad’s and my Thia Ji’s. My name, and the year were written right next to theirs.This is the moment I remember most vividly.
I felt my masculinity enter my body like a lightning bolt. I felt accepted and officially written into this book of measurements with only the names of men in my family on it and mine. I felt permission seeing my Baba Ji’s name.
Later when my brother went to pick up the made suit, he said it was hanging outside the shop on display. Apparently it was the first suit the tailor had made for a female bodied person and two were being made for others.
The coat ended up being a little too-feminine (like Bette Porter vibe), I would have preferred it to be a bit more oversized to feel some gender euphoria, however the pants I still wear.
I’m wearing the pants right now as I write this. They have a label that reads NAVDEEP on the inner lining of the pants.
The thought of having to explain my gender to my Baba never crossed my mind. I don’t have to question or wonder whether I would’ve been accepted. Because in his angelic form I am already accepted. I am affirmed in my gender and I have his blessing no matter what.
During my trip I desperately wanted to connect with my Baba Ji. I never thought that he would find his way to me in a textile shop. I feel like I might have blocked the whole experience of begging for a coat and suit to be made, but I’d like to remember it as something I simply asked for and was given.
Those two pieces of clothing continue to play a huge role in my remembrance of time.
In my film Phiran Wali I had my cousin Saihaj wear a coat made by NAVDEEP and the pants. I see how much of a role textile plays in my spirit and subconsciousness. It sort of fills in the gaps of emotions I’m still processing with my gender, capitalism, patriarchy etc.
The power of connecting to our loved ones is beautiful and affirming. I’m not entirely comfortable connecting with all my loved ones yet but I absolutely know that in searching for myself, in finding my comfort and expression…I will meet more of my angels along the way. I believe this is why they are called angels. Staying on our path guiding us through the confusion, affirming us when we’ve taken a path that feels scary.
I can’t wait to have a more clearly defined relationship with those who have physically passed, I know they are with us whenever we call for them.
I hope that anyone who reads will meet their loved ones again in surprising and magical ways. Time after time.
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PS I was featured in my very first podcast called Tending Creativity. I had a really wonderful conversation with the host about being first generation, creative burnout, my dreams, and how I’ve evolved throughout my artistic career.
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thank you so much for this. so beautiful to read and be let into this ❣️
That was such a lovely read. Every photo was filled with emotion.