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The widows in our society are women just like you or me. Let’s understand them and not degrade them with our superstitions and discriminatory beliefs.
23rd June was International Widow’s Day. While a day is not enough to realize a cause, it is also true that a particular day has the power to remind us about the cause so that we become aware of our shortcomings and change our attitude for the better.
Here, I share some of the myths and the whys that I witnessed while growing up and how a day like this can actually help us be aware and urge us to take active steps to start life afresh.
A woman never becomes a widow by choice, unforeseen circumstances make it happen. So, why is she considered inauspicious and is barred from attending a marriage, or giving her blessings to the newly-weds?
Just like everyone else, she too has the right to bless and congratulate the couple. Who are we to stop her from blessing her newborn grandchild or any other relative? Why can’t she actively participate in Sindoor Khela which is played on the last day of Durga Puja? God belongs to everyone, irrespective of sex, race, and marital status.
In the name of ‘family honor and purity’, widows were always prohibited certain foods. No one ever thought about their health or choices.
Times have changed and now many women are single mothers who need to eat well and stay well, not only for their children but for themselves too. Although many women choose to avoid certain foods, there are instances where the patriarch or the matriarch decides what their widow daughter-in-law eat.
Again, who decides what to wear and which color to wear?! Red is for married women and white is for widows is as baseless as blue is for baby boy and pink is for baby girl!
Let color bind us together in celebrating life and not dictate a woman’s marital status or a gender of a child. I wonder if the widows in Vrindavan really wants to wear white all the time? Have we ever asked them what they want?
Losing a spouse creates an irreplaceable vacuum and the last thing we want to do is to define what a widow should wear. The fault lies within us and we must change our mentality to help others, if we really want to evolve. I think this is the kind of society that Raja Rammohan Roy or Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar have dreamed of too.
Our Indian society needs to come out from the vicious tentacles of superstitions and be all-inclusive. Until and unless we usher positivity, we cannot progress. No one likes to be discriminated against, so why to burden anyone with such things that threaten to make them feel uncomfortable? Just because certain things have happened over the ages does not give them the guarantee to stay on forever.
In 2017, Calcutta Times took an initiative to bring in change through a lovely video on inclusivity and positive change.
Note: In the video, the smile that you can see in the faces of the older women while the Sindoor Khela is priceless!
A few years back, my husband’s childhood friend died of cancer leaving his wife and newborn daughter behind. Recently, the boy’s parents (who are well known in the neighborhood for their traditional values) solemnized their daughter-in-law’s marriage with their family friend’s son. While this garnered mixed reactions amongst many, what matters most is the family’s feelings towards their daughter-in-law. This family has a special place in my heart for what they did. It takes real guts to do what they did.
Another family that I know is my father’s client, Aparajita. She became a widow within her first year of marriage and before people started criticizing her, her mom-in-law shielded her from every judgemental glares. Soon, she started looking after the family business with her mom-in-law. Now, she stays equally with her mom and mom-in-law. To me, this is true Mother Courage!
I bow down to these family members in awe and admiration. They are my true inspiration and it is through people like these that society can move towards a positive start. The power lies within us; it’s just that we need to unleash it.
Image source: YouTube
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