I am going to interview Bobby Darling, I tell a close friend.
The resultant gasp makes it clear that the mention of Bobby Darling still triggers off intense reactions from many. A 29-year-old banking professional is empathetic. "At least Bobby Darling had the guts to speak up," she says. A Pune-based IT professional expressed fascination and intrigue, "Wow! Give me the low-down after you chat him up."
The 'him' in that sentence makes me smile. Bobby Darling uses the feminine gender when speaking, especially noticeable when she speaks in Hindi. Though Bobby was born male -- aka Pankaj Sharma -- and is biologically still that, she considers herself a woman 'trapped in a man's body.' Her dream right now is a sex-change operation.
What's so special about being a woman, I want to know. Her answers in general are peppered with bitterness, "Men are like dogs. Lekin ek aurat admi ko bana sakti kai, barbad bhi kar sakti hai (but a woman can make or break a man)," says Bobby, claiming she first felt the desire to be a woman in Class VII.
This discovery did not go down well with the family and Bobby is currently estranged from them and lives alone in Mumbai.
A recent experience on the reality television show Bigg Boss seems to have left her deeply scarred. She had to cohabitate with 13 celebrities in a bungalow. After one week, she was voted off the show by the others. According to her, many people featured on the reality show were two-faced.
Earlier Bhojpuri star Ravi Kishen, a participant, told Bobby his kids were great fans of her and praised her for having made a name for herself in a span of six years. But in the confession room, Kishen cited that Bobby was only here for the fame and voted her out.
"I think the channel was looking for bitchy people and negative things on the show. When I signed for the show they gave me big names like Ashmit Patel, Yana Gupta, Aftab Shivdasani and Poonam Dhillon. But when I entered, I saw a bunch of losers," she adds, but is all praise for item girl Rakhi Sawant. "To make her mark in the industry she has created a kind of aura and image. But she is actually a simple, nice, homely girl. She knows how to cook food. And in fact she washed my clothes all those days, " Bobby recalls.
According to Darling, another reason cited by others for her removal from the show was that she was gay. But Bobby vehemently clarifies that she is not gay. "I want to live my life completely like a woman and on my own terms and conditions," she says. Post-surgery, she wants to settle down with a straight man.
"Do you think this is possible in India?" I ask. "No, it's very difficult. I think I will only find someone abroad. Mereko lagta hai ki jab bhagwan ne mujhe banaya, mere liye bhi koi banaya hoga (if God made me, He must have made someone for me)," she adds. "I am looking for someone between the age of 35 and 55 years. I don't like young boys, because they only want to have fun. He should be nice, caring and loving. It's been a long time since I have fallen in love."
Not surprisingly, Bobby's dream role in Bollywood is that of a woman. "It must have substance, and could be a negative role too. Of course, my comedy roles are what got me recognition. I am very grateful to Ekta Kapoor for giving me my role in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. But I have to do something different now and take a bold step," she says, saying she has a huge fan following of women and kids.
The sex-change operation will cost approximately Rs 25 lakhs, if done in the US. "They do it in India too, but the results are not that positive. I have met some people who have had it done here and they are not happy after the surgery, " she says. The second option America is Bangkok. She is currently trying to raise funds for the surgery by doing roles in Bollywood and television, and welcomes any sponsors. "I pray for an angel who will help me," she says.
Sometimes loneliness strikes. "But I have a few good friends; I go for movies," says Bobby. "I was very religious and do puja everyday. However, little by little I am losing faith especially after Bigg Boss. But I still do puja for half an hour everyday," she says.
No doubt Bobby's sexual orientation is impossible for many to comprehend. For them, all she has to say is live and let live.