Widows in India have been living a miserable life since decades. Though the practice of Sati has been barred, widows are facing yet another form of torture. Soon as their husbands die, their children kick them out of the house, communities shun them and they have no place to go. They are forced to beg and plead and sleep on pavements. They have no means of living nor do they have a reason to live. They await death on filthy pavements lined by garbage and bred my mosquitoes. They live in isolation contemplating the injustices inflicted on them.
Vrindavan: The abode of widows
Instagram account: sonalid3
Vrindavan, a holy city of the Hindus in Uttar Pradesh is also known as the ‘City of Widows.’ It shelters more than 20,000 widows from all over the country. Government organizations, NGO’s and private enterprises contribute money for their healthy and sanitary living. Widows in Indian homes are associated with bad luck. They are ostracized by either their village homes or shooed away by their children. These widows find their way to the holy city of Vrindavan and spend rest of their lives chanting the name of Radha and Krishna. If you visit Vrindavan and look around carefully, you will find these widows, usually old, dressed in white garbs begging for alms.
Widows here live like a family supporting each other, sharing their sad stories and mending each other’s broken hearts. Being a widow is a lifelong humiliation, a life of distress and curse.
Mathura, another holy city also shelters refugees. 85-year-old widow PingelaMaiti says,
I was barely nine years old when I was forced to marry a 40-year-old man. He died within a few years, and I returned to my maternal home as a child widow. They made me shave my head, and I was forced to beg for food. I ran away from that life and moved to Mathura to be with the widows. I found others like me here and a purpose in life.
A woman should die before her husband’s death…
Instagram account: sonalid3
Another widow from Mathura fears death. She says she will die unloved and unwanted. There will be no one to mourn her death.
85 year old Manu Ghosh living with other widows in the City of Widows used to wash dishes and clothes of her neighbours to earn her living. As soon as they came to know about their marital status, they kicked her out of their house and shut their doors.
“I had to sleep on the street as even my family abandoned me after my husband’s death. I was married off to him when I was 11 years old and he was 40.My daughter died of malnutrition as I could not give her food since nobody wanted to help a widow. After her death, I decided to come to Vrindavan. A woman should die before her husband’s death so that she doesn’t have to live through hell like this”, says this agonized old widow to the Dailymail (UK).
Many of these women have a similar story to relate. They have all found refuge in this city and earn by begging or singing devotional songs in temples.
MeeraDasi (70) says,
I went to my parent’s house after I was widowed, but even my parents had turned into monsters. The time I spent with them after the death of my husband was a nightmare. I was beaten, starved, and not allowed to enter the main house to socialise with other family members. I ran away and Vrindavan has been my home since then.
We are still crippled with stigmas that must have died long ago. Superstitions die hard and it will be a long time before humans get back their humanity. The fight between the two sexes is never going to end. Similar to the sun rising from the west, it is unbelievable that women will achieve equality in the true sense.