Santhi Soundarajan - Nobody's People
The Asian Age, September 9, 2007

The tragedy of athlete Santhi Soundarajan is that her failed attempt at committing suicide brings back the spotlight on her for the wrong reasons. She failed the gender test after the last Asian Games in Doha and had the traumatic and embarrassing experience of being stripped of her silver medal in the 800m and being sent home alone. The Indian contingent did not want to know her.

Coming as she does from a poor background — her parents are coolies — it was a blow that would have shaken the most mentally strong. She did not get a job in the Indian Railways for the same reason that she lost her medal, and with no prospects of ever being able to settle down to a normal life, it is likely that this 26-year-old decided that ending her life would be the easiest way out. Reports say that she consumed a veterinary drug called Floxidine. And while the doctors and hospitals attending on her would regard their attempts to save her as a timely intervention, it remains to be seen what the victim’s reaction would be when she comes round. There is already talk about providing her with medical and psychological support, but at the end of all this someone has to foot the bills which will not be inconsequential.

Though Tamil Nadu athletics officials had washed their hands of her after Doha, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, Mr M. Karunanidhi ensured that his government kept its assurance of rewarding financially the winners of Asian Games medals. So she received Rs 15 lakhs, though a special function to honour her was cancelled. She also got a 42-inch television set to enable her parents to watch her exploits on the track. Unfortunately, nothing came after that, as she was not permitted to compete. Understandably, after December last year, her depression must have worsened and prompted her to take this extreme step. Now she will have to live with another failure in her life. Hers is the tragedy of those born with the curse "of being neither here nor there" in their gender, people who, it is thought, do not belong.