July 13, 2008

Why?


This post can be reckoned as a continuation of my previous post titled Widow. I have written the poetry here as the sorrowful thoughts of that young Widow.


Never wished anyone bad
Ill-luck, curse, how am I?

Love colours, jewellery
Can’t wear and eat what I wish? Why?

Degraded to dark-room
Why none touch or love me anymore?

Always wished for his long-life
Why am held responsible for his death?

Please understand, I’ve always loved him
Then, why must I suffer for that?



*


With a population of over 1 billion, it is estimated that there are about 50 million widows in India. Mostly in the rural parts of India, widows are looked down upon as disgraceful, unlucky, even cursed.

Girls in India are often married off at a young age, instead of being educated. In case of adverse situations like death of spouse, they usually lack the required skills to support themselves or the knowledge to fight for their basic rights.

In the olden days, widows were expected to jump on the funeral pyre of their husbands to commit a practice called sati. Though the practice was outlawed in 1829, widows still undergo ritual humiliations.

The mark of marriage sindoor that a married woman wears is sometimes substituted in a widow by a vertical ash smear from the top of her forehead to the top of her nose. In extreme cases, a widow’s very presence is considered so ominous that even her shadow is not let to fall on a married woman lest her dreadful destiny befall the other woman!

A widow is quite often made to wear white and to give up wearing fine clothes and jewelry. The unintelligent reasoning is that this is necessary so as to not arouse any carnal desire in other men. In some traditions, they are forced to shave off their heads. Sometimes she is even blamed for her husband’s death. The so called belief then, and probably even now, was that the wife’s bad karma caused the death of her husband.

Widows from joint families are vulnerable to abuse by in-laws and at times evicted from home. The widow rarely succeeds in inheriting her husband’s property which is often usurped by greedy relatives. She is sometimes denied the right to remarry. The poor woman is shunned, and left to live, on her own, a sad life of impoverishment. She is ostracized and is treated as a burden by society. In some cases, widows are not allowed to attend their own children’s weddings because they are so despised in certain cultures!

All this is carried out not necessarily for religious reasons, instead, most likely because of certain savage cultures and traditions!

The 1856 Hindu Widows' Remarriage Act gave women the legal right to remarry and the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 gave women the same inheritance rights as men. Sadly, those rights are not always put into practice. Then there are disheartening clauses like, under Section 2, "a Hindu widow, on remarriage, shall forfeit her right to the property which she has inherited from her husband." I am not aware if this Section 2 has been repealed by the Hindu Succession Act.


But there is hope, thanks to some organizations and social activists who think of ‘service before self’ and endeavour to give status to widows as full-fledged individuals. Dr. Mohini Giri is one of them working on changing the mind-set of the society in this regard.


~~~


This post is written to bring to attention on the plight of some widows in certain parts of India. For some cheerful news, I invite you to read my post on Orchha wherein I have given a glimpse of how successful and liberated some Indian women are.

Excerpt:

How could I discuss my thoughts with her on matters like though a majority of women in India think and live a kind of life like she did, there is, however, a small percentage that are thankfully liberated and have been so successful that they have won several accolades in every imaginable area - to choose a few fields like in politics, sports, justice, music, activism and service, brains, beauty or films or a combination of them, or for that matter sheer selfless social service.

21 comments:

GMG said...

Hi Celine!
Great post! Raising awareness on injustice may also help!!
The second Khajuraho post is also gorgeous!
Thanks for your comments on Blogtrotter, now at the Michigan Law School! Left a reply to your last comment there!
Hope you take pleasure in it and wish you a great week!

*~*{Sameera}*~* said...

That was a heartrending poem!

The plight of widows in our country has considerably improved after Independence.Sadly these bourgeois mores are still prevalent though.

Have you seen the movie "Water" btw?

Cuckoo said...

Very touching, Celine. The emotional trauma which a widow goes thru remains the same.


Beautifully written.

Cuckoo

Sandra Ree said...

Angel, that's the word that comes to mind when I read your posts. Excellent writing.

Nandan Jha said...

Hmm.

Celine - How much of text of this post, is based out of a first hand experience ? (family, close friend, next door neighbour and likewise)


I have seen many widows (in my family, friends etc) and I have not seen a single case as what is usually described by people, more notoriously by NGOs.

I do not doubt your intent and I have not see enough of world myself but in my personal opinion, if one has to write such clear statements, as in this post, then one should either share that they have a first hand experience (family, close friend, next door neighbour) or should mention thats its mostly based on what they have read on this subject.

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Saibal Barman said...

As usual a very soulful conveying of deeper feelings !

Eyes are beautiful, they let us see colours around, explore beauty laid abound in our beautiful planet. But, they do not bear inherent strength to see; it is the vision that let it do so for us.
Yet, they see or not, they have vision or not, they bear tears...
Vision is powerless to hold it !
Some events of life can only be experienced, they do not depend upon material analyses. Social oppressions of widows ( and broadly women ) are undeniable facts of reality; but, colours are inherently amiss in general fabric of our social life where at every individual finer fields we are powerless, oppressed, insulted or humiliated. We have only tears in our favour.
Tears, I love you so much for being with me and to let me believe in having faith in the Absolute power !

Best wishes,

indicaspecies said...

Gil,

Thank you. I shall be right over to your place as the Law School will be of particular interest to me.;)

indicaspecies said...

Sameera,

Thank you.:)

Things may have improved but not nearly enough. Probably the increase in literary rate post-Independence plays a role. I wish we had some statistics available to elaborate on your statement.

Yes, I've seen Water, and Baabul and Dor - all touch on the topic of Widows.

indicaspecies said...

Cuckoo,

Thank you.:)

You've well understand my sentiments. Has it got to do with any personal experiences in the neighborhood or family, I wonder.

indicaspecies said...

Sandra,

Thank you very much. You make me smile.:)

indicaspecies said...

Nandan,

What can I say? I just published an entire post to respond to you. I shall await your response to this:

http://indicaspecies.blogspot.com/2008/07/plight-of-widows-in-india.html

Cheers.:)

indicaspecies said...

Saibal,

"Social oppressions of widows ( and broadly women ) are undeniable facts of reality..."

Spot on. I saw this just after publishing my subsequent post and am glad, as a visionary and responsible citizen of India, you observe that.

No more tears, it's now time for some action!

Thank you for your comment.:)

Lakshmi said...

Celine,

Your poem is extremely moving and brings us closer to reality ..In many cases, we tend to sweep the tragedies under the carpet and showcase the happy, brighter side of things..thanks for the post.

JUJI said...

Ofcouse widows as oppressed.. I know few Brahmin women... back in my home town, their head shaved and they had to wear a maroon sari without a blouse:) Discriminating, disgusting practice...
I also know Christain women - widows were not allowed to participate in their children's roce/ wedding ceremonies. The ladies from the so called society were preventing them from entering the Mantap. They had to hide inside the rooms in their own houses when the ceremonies were going on.
one bridegroom came to his mother (A widow) and said "Without You I will not enter the mantap". I was there to witness this incident asked the mother "Who is important - traditions and people or son's desire". She immediately obliged.

Hats off Celine for brining out this subject. If you want to know who this groom is I can tell you.
Keep up the good work.

indicaspecies said...

Lakshmi,

As I wrote subsequently, problems are there everywhere. That's a fact, whether they are acknowledged or not.

Thank you for understanding and your kind words. I'm glad you appreciate the sentiments in that poetry.

indicaspecies said...

Juji,

Thank you for your valuable comment, and it is sad that you have also been a witness to such incidents. Customs and traditions are wonderful to follow if they bring about an atmosphere of joy, happiness or any positive emotion for that matter.

I admire the bridegroom for his stand on going against such deplorable customs and traditions, and delighted to read about his wish fulfilled against all odds.

I shall email you shortly to find out from you more details on this.:)

Shantanu said...

Great post! I hope things are changing. Of course, it first happens in the urban areas, but hopefully will filter down to the rural masses too. One of the few benefits of television and 24x7 channels has been its impact on rural areas by spreading awareness. In spite of all the age-old traditions and customs, things are actually changing fast. Or so I hope!

indicaspecies said...

Shantanu,

Thank you.
I would like to believe things are changing but I'm afraid it is not so at the pace we could have been pleased about. It's some consolation that things are changing albeit gradual.

Anonymous said...

Good point, though sometimes it's hard to arrive to definite conclusions

Anonymous said...

Good evening

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