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“Shun the sight of a Widow”

It’s been a year since I have lost my husband. If that has changed my status in this society, then the so called society gives me a new name – a widow. So what? I look the same and I do the same what I did all these years.

But reality brings me into a different scenario. Here in my place religious beliefs, culture or tradition or whatever they may frame to put their ideas, another step to target women, shut them up in a shell, being a widow – in every aspect of life the negative status is reinforced.

I am staying in a rented house in the first floor. Down at the ground floor are the landlords, an old couple who rarely come out for which I didn’t know the reason. It’s been six months now and only now when their daughter in law came home, I was struck with all that happened one by one. She would not come out until I leave the place. She wouldn’t even let her husband to go to the office even it got late. She would wait until I disappeared from the colony. Sometimes, eventually, when her little daughter came running out calling me ‘aunty’ she would come running from the house pulling the child inside as if I were a monster. They have just tolerated me because they get enough money as rent from me.

I may talk of social activism, women’s independence and rights, but somewhere it hurts when I fall a victim of this and emotional pain that I am going through.

Last week there was this ceremony at my neighbour’s place here – their daughter in law was leaving to her mom’s place for delivery. (this is a very special occasion for a girl, to give birth to the first baby). And it’s a celebration here. A widow is unwelcome here because it would bring bad luck to the mother and child. Shunning the sight of widows in all such happy occasions is a very normal thing and it is expected that the widow herself should keep her away from such celebrations and get together.

Losing a husband, becoming a widow – who is to be blamed?

India has always been a land of vast natural beauty, ancient tradition and beguiling intrigue. Modern India is a nation where a highly-skilled and highly-technical minority coexists with a larger provincial population that is steeped in tradition, superstition and religious dogma. This backdrop provides the basis for recognizing the plight of India’s most marginalized citizens – the more than 40 million widows that face a future that offers virtually no hope.

They have been ostracized by society, detached from their families, economically deprived and reduced to non-entities by tradition.Ancient custom dictates that widows are unlucky, become “inauspicious” and as such, there are a number of taboos that serve to demoralize these unfortunate victims of circumstance. A widow is not allowed to appear at auspicious occasions, such as weddings or births. She is stripped of her jewelry and forbidden to wear colored clothes or flowers. She is denied every form of dignity that she knew as a wife and mother. In every aspect of her life, her “negative” status is reinforced.

In the holy city of Vrindavan, India widows face a life that is so abysmal and cruel that it is difficult to imagine in the modern world. Vrindavan has thousands of temples dedicated to Lord Krishna. For generations, widows have made a pilgrimage to Vrindavan. They are either admonished by the families of their former husbands or are literally abandoned by relatives that no longer want them. Once there, most of these women are forced to beg for scraps of food and to scratch out subsistence on the street. Many are robbed of their pensions, sexually exploited and physically brutalized.

"An educated woman may have money and independence, but even that is snatched away when she becomes a widow. We live in a patriarchal society. Men say that culturally as a widow you cannot do anything: You cannot grow your hair, you should not look beautiful."

Rising problems with widows and their husband’s family after the death of their husband can sometimes include sexual abuse from a husband’s brother or father, starvation or abandonment.

In my story here at least I have the freedom to be where I want and to be myself and above all I still have the courage to fight against my in laws who are trying to grab my children from me just because they can inherit my husband’s properties if they take my children into custody. I have the courage to fight my husband’s brother who is trying to abuse me just because I have no one to support now. I just survived a major accident which was another effort by him to kill me because I didn’t give into his will. my spine is damaged for the second time and i broke my left hand too which will take time to heal. i was just dragged along with my bike for about some twenty feet on the rough stony road. the broken mirror pieces went straight into my face and tore my flesh apart in my hands and legs. my dresses torn and there i was lying in the middle of the road with no one to help. from one end of a small lane came a lady running with a pieces of clothes and water. she just wrapped me wiping all the dripping blood and covering my exposed body. in no time there was a crowd just to watch me, but not to help me. Everyone was very careful in giving a statement since they will become a witness if i die or will have to come to the police station to sign. That will be either a headache for them or another threat for their life. There was no evidence that the boys who tried to kill me were known to none and nothing could be done unless someone identifies them. so what? i am alive and ready to fight this dangerous life. no matter come what may.

Simply breaking my bones or making me bedridden will not grab the woman in me. I am still the same with all energy to climb up high. I also have the courage to fight for others who are in a greater struggle than me.

What would a man do if he loses his wife? Will he wear in white and remain in a shell? Will he never think of remarrying? I really wonder where this leads to.

"It's the mind-set of society we need to change -- not the women."

Shun the sight of those who call a woman a widow. She has other names – a mom, a daughter a sister and above all she creates life.

So what is her name – choose one which should be next to the supreme power, the creator.

I am proud to be a woman!

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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carina-b's picture

Moving Story

First: your story is very powerful, emotional, and full of strength. Thank you for sharing it.

Second: A few comments to really bring out the power of your story.

Outside of India very little is known about the status of widows there. I think the first few sentences-if you could include one or two sentences there that say something about what the term "widow" means in your society, the rest of your story will resonate more.

And then, sometimes there are too many words used-if you try and make some of your sentences more direct, especially towards the beginning, it would help.

I really think the last half of your story is the strongest part.

Again, thanks for sharing your story and your positivity and strength with the rest of us!!

Sharontina's picture

Thanks for that

Dear Carina,

Thanks dear. Those were really valuable comments. I need to improve on that.

Actually WP has provided us that platform to express and make it better heard and understood when friends like you who support are reached so easily. Thanks to World pulse.

Here i want to share something. It was 28th of Sep, 2011 my husband was murdered. And now its one year. And still the suffering continues as i have mentioned in this story, my in laws are still after me trying to kill me and my children. for the past four days i have been running to the police station and the church authorities for help seeking justice. Today morning i have somehow settled down travelling back to the town where i am living now. Due to my poor health and emotional status many a time i lose heart and then i regain strength. Hope all goes well.


Merlin Sharontina

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