Meaningless rituals

When one of my friends came back from a visit to Vrindavan, she asked me not to go there at all, because she said that I wouldn’t be able to ever forget the sadness prevailing in the eyes of the widows all over the place.  I was completely crestfallen. But the news item a few days back  that -‘Santa Claus brings joy to Vrindavan widows’ truly conveyed hope and joy, that the prevalent sadness in their eyes will eventually start vanishing, thanks to such humane efforts by NGOs. 

Hundreds of widows singing carols and dancing around X’mas tree in the holy land of Lord Krishna depicts secularism of this country and the power of humanism. The news item also said that ‘everything is being done ( by the NGO) to fill the lives of these widows with happiness and joy’, on reading which I said a loud ‘Amen’.

When my mother as a mere 42 year old became a widow, though there was no apparent social ostracism because of her status as a senior IAS officer’s wife, somehow some age-old rituals left a deep gash on my psyche and I still remember it intensely. After the 10th day obsequies, few of the elder women folk came to me and said that we children should not sleep with our mother that night, as the next day morning she will be ‘officially’ made devoid of all auspicious marks as a ‘sumangali’ – so, it is considered inauspicious to see her in the morning on waking up. 

I was shell-shocked and shattered. When my mother needed her children most to be with her, when she needed all the emotional succor from them to withstand her deep personal loss, in the name of rituals can we allow that separation and disconnection, even for one night? How can a mother’s face ever be inauspicious for children, in fact, she becomes a representative of the parent gone and becomes doubly auspicious. Defying the ‘elders’, we all slept huddled as one warm bundle to see only her face the next morning on waking up…

If there is no one to protect widows from the apathy and emotional injury they experience due to baseless religious, social notions they will never be able to merge in the mainstream confidently. They will hesitate to mingle freely in auspicious celebrations and social gatherings. There are no scriptural evidences where it is said that widows portend ill-luck or that they are inauspicious. In fact a conversation between sage Agasthya and his wife Lopamudra, emphasises the fact that a widow should be considered as sacred as River Ganga and that she is ‘Uma-Shiva’ personification.

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