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S O C I E T Y : W I D O W S
Lost in transition
Ill treatment to all in the age of progressive women

In the ancient land of the Hindu mythological God, Krishna, there live several women belonging to the modern era repenting their supposed sins of a previous birth. Almost rotting on the margins of society, widows from across the country seek solace in the holy city of Vrindavan earning for the town the infamous distinction of ‘city of widows’. Clad in white and deprived of ‘worldly’ pleasures, most of them ironically find a place in these ashrams because their family members refuse to treat them well. Singing bhajans (holy prayers), the destitute clan finds nothing more than a few hundred rupees a month to carry them through their worldly chores. Most
of the time in a single piece of clothing, head shaven and ailing, these women have reflected the deep dark malaise of Indian society.

Kicked out of their homes, their plight gets worsened by the prevailing superstition that links a widow to bad luck in the family. That notion gets dangerously mixed with the economic liability of feeding them. Social workers have reported that most of them flee their homes in fear of the scary possibility of sexual abuse from their family members.

In India, across centuries, this gender discrimination has made close to almost 40 million Hindu widows a pariah. So while the widower has maintained the right to marry as many times as he wants, the same privilege doesn’t get extended to a widow. Then, even if the infamous Sati gets forbidden by law, similar pyres have burned through the lives of several women throwing them into penury, disgust and shame. Compare this to the glitterati and the flashbulbs, bedecked beauty contests and claims of rising and shining women of India. Compare this also to the claims of unfair portrayal of India and her 5,000-year-old civilisation by foreign countries.

India seems to be living simultaneously in several ages. On one hand there are claimants for the space age and on the other the medieval mindset lies deeply imbued. While Water might get ostracised for the alleged mischievous portrayal of widows the truth has always looked India blandly in its face. The truth even if bitter is that the majority in India treats women very unfairly either killing them before birth, burning them after marriage or abandoning them in their widowhood.

Kumar Anuj

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