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Why On Earth Are Widows Still Ill- treated And Considered Inauspicious?

Widows in India are still subjected to the mindless discrimination worsening their moment of grief in the name of tradition. Time for change is here!

Widows in India are still subjected to the mindless discrimination worsening their moment of grief in the name of tradition. Time for change is here!

Death and disease. The great levelers. Yet it seems that even within this realm of grief and devastation, there are norms of propriety and hierarchies of loss.

Whether pre or post pandemic, it is near impossible to consume social media and not have your heart blown to smithereens, or consume disturbing images that sear themselves into your memory. Such is the state of the world we live in.

In this vortex of ‘news and information’ one particular video caught my attention and stirred my wrath. It featured the funeral possession of a brave heart from the armed forces. While my heart saluted his valour, it went out to all those grieving and balked at the treatment being meted out to his wife.

Worsening the moment of grief 

She was understandably looking pale, distraught to begin with. Then she was besieged by multiple hands, of men and women alike, like a swarm of bees or locusts, tugging at the last few symbols of matrimony that remained on her body. One hand smeared the bindi on her forehead, another was busy scrubbing the smidgen of sindoor resting at her hairline. A man took his time smashing each bangle she wore while some particularly driven women seemed intent on wrapping a white dhoti on her shoulders even as the procession was moving.

What on earth were they trying to do while the poor woman was beside herself with grief and clearly in shock? Conforming to some ancient tradition that seemed to have outlived its sensibilities and welcome?

Do we really need these societal labels? 

From the rudaalis who found a place as professional mourners because upper class women weren’t allowed to make a ‘nuisance’ of their grief in front of outsiders to the forgotten widows of Vrindavan, it is beyond all logic and comprehension why a large number of women who are in no way responsible for their plight are subjected to abuse, marginalisation, stripping of their rights in addition to being told how they must look, feel and behave in accordance to their male-less (read devoid of all happiness and colour) existence.

We as a race are capable of unfathomable miracles and the most depraved and heartless crimes against our own. We are born with an inner moral compass that has a predilection for misinterpretation and misconstruing, anything that conveniently suits our logic. Even if we are to hark back to the reservoir of knowledge and enlightenment, the code of conduct for our culture, the vedas, these important texts also allude to the remarriage of widows. If the gods and wise men and women themselves have normalised the concept, then it can only mean that people along the way, have imbued this unfortunate event, and the ones who suffer the most from it, the widows, with hues of misfortune, curses, fear, foreboding and inauspiciousness. To what end? Will the husbands rejoice this treatment of their loved ones in the afterlife? Is it really a mark of respect or merely a societal act of pasting labels. Because labels make us comfortable, they define and draw lines of do’s and don’ts. No one will ever know. How can the ill treatment of someone in an unfortunate situation be a testament to our humanity?

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Time to let everyone mourn with dignity 

Women lose their husbands all over the world but India is one of those countries where widowhood is a blight that you can’t escape, especially in certain pockets of the country. It renders a complete, capable, compassionate human being into a helpless, hopeless one who must be treated a certain away and whose shadows becomes a bad omen. All this while widowers are not subjected to this mindless discrimination. While they quietly mourn their loved one, it’s the women who must deal with all the suffocating norms. Grief be damned.

Its time. For stronger legislation, for more activists, for louder voices and for better sense to prevail. Enough with the breaking bangles, white saris and the superstitious hoopla. Grief and loss are debilitating. Everyone deserves to be mourn with dignity and live their lives doused in every possible colour that comes their way.

Image courtesy : The Last Color on Youtube

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About the Author

Richa S Mukherjee

After chasing criminals as a journalist and spending over a decade in advertising, Richa penned a book of poetry titled A penchant for Prose. She has been a TOI Write India top 10 winner and read more...

34 Posts | 95,536 Views

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