An Unique Initiative: Vrindavan Widows Become Photographers


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{/googleAds} '25 widows, most of them 70 plus, have learned photography in the first phase,' said an exited Sulabh founder Dr Bindeshwar Pathak here.
He said it is a unique initiative to boost the morale of these widows of Vrindavan.

Visiting journalists saw for themselves a group of widows holding cameras in the narrow lanes of the temple town.

These widows have brought out four Wall Newspapers in Bangla language at the end of a week-long workshop organised by Sulabh International with the-help of few Delhi-based photographers and media professionals. As majority hails from West Bengal, they preferred to write their articles in Bangla. They have given names of the wall newspapers as Vrindavan Khaber, Chaitanya Jagran, Lilakunj Khabar and Radha Vani.

Dr Pathak, who takes care of around 1,000 widows, observed that such an initiative will bring cheers to their lives. 'We’ll organise many such programmes for them in near future,' he said. The event came close on the heels of these women celebrating the festival of lights in Vrindavan. The widows celebrated 'Dipawali' after decades of darkness and social apathy, thanks to the efforts of Dr Pathak, a well-known social reformer and sociologist.

Breaking several established traditions, Sulabh International helped widows bathe in the Sangam at Allahabad this year and later organized a visit of the widows to Kolkata to participate in Durga Puja celebrations.

Holi and Raksha Bandhan too were celebrated by these widows, breaking shackles of social ostracism.

Sulabh NGO, known the world over for promoting the concept of low-cost sanitation, started taking keen initiative in the welfare of widows after the Supreme Court took strong exception last year to the manner in which the bodies of widows, who lived in government shelter homes at Vrindavan, were disposed.

In places like Varanasi and Vrindavan, hundreds of widows lead an isolated life to attain ‘moksha’ or liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. Living in small rooms in narrow alleys, they spend most of their time praying and looking for food, in absence of family support.

Every widow is given Rs.2,000 per month by the NGO which takes care of their health and other needs, even entertainment in the form of organizing ‘ghazals’, ‘kirtans’ and ‘bhajan sandhyas’ and providing Television sets, with satellite connections, so that they can see serials of their choice.

The NGO has provided the government-run shelters in Vrindavan five well-equipped ambulances along with medical equipment for providing timely and adequate medical attention for their treatment. Regular medical checkups for their eyes, teeth are also being taken care of. Arrangements have also been made to impart education to the widows in three languages -- Hindi, Bengali and English. Teachers have been appointed for them.

Widows after death of their husbands faced humiliation and insult from the family, which often treated them as inauspicious. They are asked not to be present on any auspicious function in the family. They are also not supposed to wear coloured sarees, ornaments and they have to wear only white sarees and not to take garlic, onion and non-vegetarian food and they have to spend their whole life without it.

'So, my idea how to change thoughts, behaviour and attitude of the people of this country towards widows of India, who are their mothers, sisters, aunties and so and so forth,' Dr Pathak explained.