What have I become?
Source : Google photo of the widows of Vrindavan
Synopsis : Of all people in the world, no one is more important than the parents because they bring you to this world, make numerous sacrifices to raise you, feed you and give you the education so that some day you can stand on your own feet when they are no longer around. They take care of you when you are sick and they console you when you are unhappy about something. They are always there like solid rock that you can count on but now we see a disturbing trend when some people mistreat their own parents. Their numbers are small but it is a shame just the same .
The devotees of Krishna in India and elsewhere in the world know Vrindavan in North India as the birthplace of Krishna so millions make a bee line to visit it and offer prayers in numerous temples there. If you visit the city today, you will find many majestic and beautiful temples from where the chimes of bells can be heard from a distance. Huge crowds gather there in the evenings where prayers are offered to the Deity and religious songs are sung called bhajan meaning songs in the praise of their God.
Vrindavan is an ancient holy place just like Benares aka Varanasi known for its temples and religious lives of people there. You will find lots of ascetics called sadhus in their saffron robes or white robes wandering the streets or sitting near the temples with their prayer beads. You will also see thousands of widows in white saris some old and others not so old who crowd the streets and the temples where they beg for food. They wear white markings on their forehead that means they belong to the Vaishnav sect that follows the Krishna cult. Some are so old that they can hardly walk yet they hobble along painfully on their arthritic limbs with a begging bowl in their hand and look for food.
The pilgrims who take pity on these poor widows may give them a few coins and walk on feeling uneasy about the conditions of these poor widows of Vrindavan because these widows hide a dark and uncomfortable secret that the world knows nothing about so today I want to write about these widows of Vrindavan.
When I was in college, we used to go on educational tours of places of interest in India and traveled as a group with a teacher as our guide because it was a part of our college curriculum. We visited agricultural research stations, farms and milk and meat processing centers but many other places as well of great touristic interests so we ended up in Mathura one day while some of our classmates went to Agra to see the Taj Mahal.
So I decided to rent a bicycle and pedaled on to Vrindavan which was some 12 kms away to see the temples. It is near the Yamuna river where one can see a great number of huge turtles that the pilgrims feed so I saw the turtles and then went on to see some of the temples. There are hundreds of them. I saw many old women and the sadhus but I knew nothing about the dark secret of the widows then and went back to Mathura quite happily. I have never gone back to Vrindavan and after knowing the secret that Winfrey Oprah talks about in her video below, I never want to.
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Source : U tube video of Oprah Winfrey visiting Vrindavan , India (in English )
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Source : U tube video documentary on the widows of Vrindavan ( in Hindi)
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Source : U tube video documentary on the widows of Vrindavan ( in English )
This is the heart wrenching story of the widows of Vrindavan that I post here for you. There are three videos above. The first one is made by Oprah, the second one in Hindi that some of you may not understand so I will comment on it below and the last one is a propaganda video that says all is well in Vrindavan and the widows are happy there.Watch all three of them and make up your mind.
The Hindu widows face a serious social problem in India. The Hindu society ostracizes them because they are widows. They are supposed to wear only white and plain sari, they may not eat meat or fish and they may not wear any jewelry. They are often unwelcome to attend marriage because people still think that a widow’s presence is inauspicious during happy occasions. But this is not the worst thing that happens to a widow in India.
She is often expelled from her own home by her relatives who are greedy for her property and whatever money she may have so they put her out on the streets to fend for herself in a country that takes great pride in it’s ancient civilization. Her own sons and daughter do this to their mother and leave her to die on the streets or survive by begging so she takes the train to Vrindavan one day where she hopes to find succor.
At the railway station in Kolkata , she pleads with the train ticket collector that she has no money and has not eaten for several days so he should have pity on her and let her go to Vrindavan. Once she arrives in Vrindavan, she is given a cup of tea and a biscuit by a kind person that she savors like nectar and then starts to look for food and shelter.
Soon she finds herself in the company of thousands like her who have come from all parts of India to spend the rest of their pathetic life there praying,chanting hymns and singing religious songs in temples where she is given some food by the temple priest who happens to be a real tyrant.
He may deny food to the starving woman if he feels that she is not religious enough or can’t sing loud enough or for other trivial reasons so these poor women find themselves at the mercy of these so called priests who are in reality like demons who exploit the poor women. They are the real psychos but very well fed psychos.
Once these proud women were well taken care of by their husbands and lived in comfort but that changed when the husband died and her own kids threw her out on the streets. It makes me ashamed to write about this shameful part of the Hindu society where such things still happen today that shocked Oprah and the world through her video. She is a very kind and generous woman who has come to the aid of these poor widows of Vrindaban and has helped them financially to live a life with some dignity.
Now the Government of India has started to pay some attention and gives them some pension every month but how much of the money reaches these women is not known. Due to the corruption , some middlemen siphon off a part of the money sent to the widows by the government so now a direct deposit scheme into their bank account is being considered. But these women do not have 10 cents to their name and do not have a bank account so that is another problem the authorities have to solve.
The inhumanity of it boggles the mind. I have just published a blog where I wrote about how the old parents are thrown out by their own sons on the streets due to their greed for money and property that you should also read in this context unheard-cries here.
There was a time not too long ago when very young widows were thrown out on the streets for the same reason so they used to go to Benares to find food and shelter just like these women in Vrindavan and some ended up as prostitutes to support themselves. The British were appalled by such barbaric practice so they promulgated laws to give such women some protection. Many social reformers of the day in Bengal like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar pressured the British to ban the practice of Sati where young women were forced to die with their dead husbands on the funeral pyre.Their motive was the greed for the properties the widow inherited .Thankfully this practice was outlawed by the British.
Now there are some NGOs that are helping the widows in Vrindavan and Benares but the root cause is not addressed because it has to do with the immoral practice of some people who treat their parents this way. Thankfully not everybody does it so the numbers are low if you look at it that way but the evil is evil so it should be condemned as I am doing through this blog because even one helpless woman on the streets like this is one too many. When Hindus show compassion for the abused Moslem women and push for the triple talaq bill in the parliament, they are duplicitous because they should first learn to take care of their own parents.
There are many evils in the society that I often write about to make people more aware. The real awareness should come from their own heart and such people should realize that what they are doing to their mothers is not only immoral, it is outright evil so they should face the full force of law. I have written in my previous blogs that women are also complicit in such crimes committed against their mother in laws so they are just as guilty. I hope someday there will be a law to punish such evil doers in India.
The news papers and the media do not focus their attention on a lone old woman crying silently and waiting for the train somewhere so this sort of story is hidden in plain sight. They are treated as garbage that the garbage collector takes away and dumps at a garbage site far from the city so it works to clear their conscience because they do not see it any more. The only problem is that such people do not have a conscience. The conscience is the moral compass that guides a person to always do what is right.
My Ma used to say that the real enemies anyone has are his relatives and no one else. It is very true. You will read in the papers almost everyday that someone has killed his uncle over a land dispute or a property of some value. Brothers fight over land and money and in laws fight for more dowry from the hapless parents of the girl. The step mothers , step brothers or step sisters may have no compassion for anyone just like in the Cinderella story.
I still think that a child is born innocent so why such a child turns out to be evil later on ? What makes him a psycho who does bad things ? I think it has to do with how a child is brought up and under what circumstances. People say that poverty is like fire where steel gets it’s strength so it can also help develop great character in a person and teaches him right from wrong. I have seen great compassion and kindness in poor people in many countries but have also seen haughtiness and arrogance in rich people.
The worst kind are the poor who have become rich later in life because then they try very hard to forget where they came from and what values they had. India has many positive things to show to the world and has made great contribution to the science and technology and in numerous other fields . It is a growing economy so the poverty level is being reduced and the middle class is growing but with such rapid development, India may end up losing its soul someday if they lose compassion for their mothers who have to beg for food in the streets of Vrindavan.
People should look in the mirror and ask this simple question “ What have I become ?”
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