Hues of celebration and lively faces, words we associate with wedding bells. She became a wife and a daughter-in-law and tied the knot with several relations as she stepped into a new life. Moments of sheer bliss and fruitfulness showered with blessings for a happy life with her better half were abound. But one day, she lost him. She did not have anybody to wake up to in the morning and unfortunately, the wishes weren’t enough.
She was abandoned and left alone. They said, “It’s not right for a widow to lead the same ‘normal’ life now. She should go.”
And so, she yet again had to start a new life. Rather, she could no longer live but only exist.
Such is the plight of widows in many parts of the country. While one side of the coin boasts of an emerging global power in the name of India, the other side still reeks of social stigma and taboo. Bereft of the right to lead a normal life, Varanasi has emerged as one of the hubs where these widows find repose. Ageing in shelters run by NGOs and eking a living by menial chores like begging and street-vending, life has taken a tough road for them.
But this time, things have changed. Breaking the stereotypes and century-old traditions, several ashrams- Nepali Shelter, Birla Widow Home and Durga Kund Ashram decided to let these widows rejoice and feel colourful on the festival of Holi.
On 21st February, 2015, Assi Ghat in Varanasi witnessed an unusual day, ushered in red and gold of the flowers blooming graciously as the joyous vibe took over. An orthodox system of society has long prevented widows from indulging in activities involving anything beyond white colour. They have been forced to live dull lives of monotony and dismal fate. This time, the lines were crossed and they were free. The question is, for how long?
Across the banks of the Ganges, she let her hair lose and smeared colour in the air. She raised her hands and felt the freedom, no longer tied to her past. She moved with the sound of the drums beating and basked in the glory of being alive and not being weighed down, though short-lived but real. She was ecstatic in that moment. She was not a widow, no longer the one who lost her husband. She was just a woman, in true spirit.
Picture Credits- Google images
By Pratishtha Khattar