You won’t believe what this transgender dancer-model went through outside a Kolkata bar last night!

Shreya Karmakar, a transgender person, was stopped from entering a bar in Kolkata’s Sudder Street area on Friday night. The humiliation and insult prompted her to lodge a complaint with New Market police station last night.

Shreya alleged that while the bar authorities denied her entry on the grounds that the place was full, she found many others – both male and female – continuing to enter.

Sunset Resto Bar and Lounge – which has been mentioned as a “Disco Bar” online – in Hotel Lytton on Sudder Street had a ladies’ night on Friday evening. Men and women were both allowed, with free entry for women. Shreya wanted to enter the bar at around 9 pm on July 13 with two male friends. A DJ who freelances at the bar had invited her for the event.

“I called the police from outside the bar when they refused to allow me in. Police officers arrived and talked to the bar authorities. They (the police) told me it was a privately owned property with rights of admission reserved,” she said.

Shreya says the police personnel told her that they would ensure she was able to enter the bar, “but it was too humiliating to enter in that manner, as if the bar authorities were allowing me on a request or threat from the police”.

“Rights of admission may be reserved and it may have been a private party, but I should have been allowed whatever the conditions. I was invited there after all,” she said. Moreover, the Facebook page of the bar had openly placed an “invitation” for the July 13 event, Shreya said. “How is it a ‘private event’ then?” she said.

When The Bengal Story called the Sunset Resto Bar and Lounge, the only number in which a call was received, was answered by a woman who refused to listen to “anything to do with last night’s party”. “You can ask me if you want to organise a party, but I won’t listen to anything about last night’s party,” she said before disconnecting the line.

What made Shreya think she was stopped because she is a transgender? “That’s because men and women continued to enter while I was the only one stopped. I visit a lot of pubs and bars – even in five star hotels. They do check a person’s profile – their ‘conduct and appearance’ – to decide if they are fit to enter. And nowhere in the top five star hotel bars have I ever been stopped,” she rued.



This is not the first time Shreya has been humiliated. Her life has been a struggle. Born a man – Samrat – she had realised right from childhood that she was a woman trapped in a man’s body. She would secretly dress up in women’s clothes, wear make-up and prefer to use women’s wash rooms.

Surprisingly though, there never was a problem in school or in college – her teachers “allowed” her to use the ladies’ washroom, even though it was a boys’ school and she got the same support in the co-education college where she went. “My friends always protected me,” Shreya said.

Her main struggle was home – her parents refused to accept that their “son” didn’t think he was male, a son who would secretly dress up as a girl, and who wanted so desperately to be a woman. Her father runs a shop in south Kolkata, her mother is a housewife, and both were convinced Shreya (then Samrat) was losing sanity. So they put her in a mental asylum even as she was working full-time at a call-centre and earning a decent salary.

Physically still a male, she was under huge pressure because it was difficult to convince the psychologists, doctors and her parents that she was not suffering from any mental illness.

“The mental asylum authorities were only concerned about money. On the one hand they told me they would counsel my parents, while they told my parents they would counsel me,” Shreya said.

Eventually, when she returned home, a lot of money had been spent but she was more convinced than ever that she wanted to be a woman physically.

This calamitous event in their lives – the loss of hard earned money but without any less desire on part of their son to be a woman – made the parents lay bare their cruelty. Ridiculed socially, ostracised, unwilling to accept this “fate”, her parents asked Shreya to leave home.

And she did. By then she had already lost her call centre job due to the long absence from work (since parents had suddenly put her into the mental asylum).

Unable to make ends meet, Shreya took shelter in the home of a man who promised to teach her dance. The dance teacher and many others subsequently promised her help but eventually stole her money. A few years after leaving home, Shreya finally managed to get breast transplant by saving up money from the little work that she got. After the breast transplant, she got more dance assignments and did some modelling.

By now, her parents welcomed her home. Now, Shreya lives with her parents who have now “accepted” her. But at work, she has tough competition with women. For the past few years, she has been a singer in a bar but sometimes her women colleagues have “disclosed” her “real identity” to the men visiting the bar where she worked.

“The fact that I am a transgender makes me somewhat less of a woman than them perhaps,” she said. “So, if a customer is happy with my performance and pays me well, my jealous women colleagues tell them secretly that they have been foolish to spend it on a chhakka,” Shreya said. “It is not that I am hiding my true identity, but this sort of cruelty hurts.”

Such lack of generosity and unkindness doesn’t surprise her anymore. She is always ready to fight, though it has been tough, she says.


Last night, after being denied entry to the Sudder Street bar, she went straight to the nightclub at JW Marriott Hotel on Eastern Metropolitan Bypass. And there, no one stopped her, and she danced to her heart’s content.


[Photographs courtesy: Shreya Karmakar]

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