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The Hypocrisy we live in. Why India's culture is failing our widows

The journey to the 'secret' town

India celebrated "Karva Chauth" yesterday. 'Karva Chauth' ( Karva = earthen pot and Chauth = fourth day in Hindi) is a one day ritual of fasting observed by married Hindu women for the longevity and health of her husband. The fast is extremely strict with women not even taking a single drop of water or food, beginning from early sunrise till late evening. They break the fast only after offering prayers when they view the moon through a kitchen sieve and worshiping it to ensure their husbands have a long and healthy life. Karva Chauth is celebrated primarily by women since men are not allowed to participate in the festival's observances until moon rise.

The Indian culture and its rituals have often worked as an instrument of social control of women by men. Karva Chauth happens to be one of the more popular ways of perpetuating the sexist notion that: women are subservient to men. That they have to undergo extreme rituals in order to appease Gods for long life of their men. In Hindu culture a married woman is often called " sumangala" or the harbinger of good luck.

But, what happens when the same woman loses her husband ?

The once 'harbinger of good luck' becomes "Amangala" or the unfortunate one. In fact she is such bad luck now that she is shunned from attending weddings and other auspicious functions lest her bad luck rubs off on other people. She becomes the "husband eater" who the society ostracizes and expects to lead a life of penance.

Vrindavan, the temple town of Northern India is also called "city of widows". A refuge for more than 20,000 widows, this town is swamped with widows from all over the country. Thanks to the active intervention of activists and NGOs, their situation is slowly improving.

But, a little far from Vrindavan, in a "secret" town of another state, lives many widows whose lives continue to be in the shadows. With few people aware of their existence, will these widows continue to live in shame ?

My module 4 multimedia story tries to unravel their mystery and bring to light their condition of living anonymously in this "secret" town.

Watch their story here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPI_jK5RMIs

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Comments

lynnemhealy's picture

Another very powerful message

Congratulations Mukut - you have done it again! Your presentation so powerfully raises awareness of the plight of these women and is a compelling call to action. What you have created here will already be rippling through the consciousness of the people of India and all of humanity. It is my joy and privilege to be your mentor on this journey.

Lynne Healy
www.lynnehealy.co.uk

Sarah Whitten-Grigsby's picture

You & Mukut!

Dear Lynne,

Your words to Mukut are beautiful, and I congratulate you both! Two magnificent women forever in each other's orbits.

With Admiration,

Sarah

Mukut's picture

You are fabulous

Lynne, I do not know how to thank you enough. You have been the perfect teacher, guide and friend to me. Without you and your support, I sould never have achieved all this.

Thank you for being the best mentor.

Love,

Mukut Ray

Mukut's picture

Lynne, I love you

Lynne, I love you so so much. Thank you. WE did it !!!

Love,

Mukut Ray

Dear Mukut,

This video is an astonishing piece of work in all respects. It is so strong, so beautifully and movingly presented and so valuable, I feel that you must submit it widely, if the spirit moves you to do so.

First and foremost, I am of course struck by the grotesque injustice in which these dear, dear women live. Imagine singing for hours a day when your heart is deeply wounded and joyless! Imagine not being fed unless you sing for hours, and sing music forced upon you, rather than even singing something that comes from your own soul!

Imagine being given up by your own child once your husband dies; being forsaken by everyone, from the government on down to your own family. They should be exalted! They should be honored and cared for. They should be loved.

Mukut, the photos are exquisite, evocative and heart-rending, the music is beautiful and the overall presentation is, well, perfect, I feel. (As a former documentary filmmaker, I view this work from all angles.)

I will share it widely -- is that okay? -- on FB, etc. -- and I trust you will, too.

With Great Respect (and Love, always),

Sarah

Mukut's picture

I am overwhelmed

Sarah, you made my day. Such kind, sweet words of admiration from you makes me feel special.

I am glad you liked the video. While interviewing the women and lhotographing them, many asked what will you do with our story. I told them I will show it to the world. Today, am so happy that I feel I have done justice to their words and their story.

Yes, you can go ahead and share. I am extremely fortunate to have such positive people in my life. Thank you for all you have done for

Am blessed.

love,

Mukut Ray

Sarah Whitten-Grigsby's picture

My HUSBAND . . .

. . . has been so moved by this piece, too, Mukut. I put in on FB, but also hope , well, have you thought of submitting it as a concept to ABC World News, for example….? (Diane Sawyer is anchorwoman)

Just a thought. You can submit ideas on line to them, so you might want to send a query email when you have a few moments.

Love,

Sarah

Mukut's picture

I would love to Sarah

Sarah, I would love to submit it to ABC. I will look for more online. I was thinking of submitting it to Maitreyi organization as well which works closely with widows of Vrindavan.

It is extremely unfortunate that the State of West Bengal,which is run by a woman, refuses to acknowledge their plight as serious. Voices of women are still being ignored whether run by a woman or man.

And again a big thank you for sharing it. It means a lot to me.

Sarah, you have been such a positive force throughout these months that we all are indebted to you. Your prayers and posts on this group have given us hope and encouragement to do more. So honored to know you.

Lots of love,

Mukut Ray

Sarah Whitten-Grigsby's picture

YES, SUBMIT!

. . . and definitely submit to the Maitreyi organization.

I'm stunned to hear that West Bengal is run by a woman -- she must surely be ruling with blinders on, or, in fear - and I feel that, unless it would jeopardize or endanger you in any way, you should send your video to her. (I love gestures of defiance for the greater good . . . but not if it might be detrimental to you and your mission.)

At any rate, please do pursue ABC World News. I've suggested that because I like them, and their anchorwoman, unlike most news anchors in the US, is a woman, as I mentioned in my previous posting to you.

You go, girl!

Love,

Sarah

Mukut's picture

Absolutely Sarah !

I would love to send this video to her and her party men. I think you will also be stunned to know that this woman is a rape apologist who believes in victim blaming. In my module 3 assignment, I interviewed a rape survivor ( who belongs to West Bengal state). The woman was blamed, ridiculed and called names by the same government post the incident. My article criticized about the state's policies, especially towards its women, and am so glad many people responded positively to it.

You will be glad to know that I submitted my video to Maitri and soon will be submitting it to ABC World News. Thanks so much !

Love,

Mukut Ray

rabia.salihi's picture

Wow...

It really grabs you when you start it and ends beautifully. You've brought up a very important topic. :)
Cheers,

rabi

Mukut's picture

Thank you my dear

Thank you so so much Rabia. Am glad you liked it :)

Lots of love,

Mukut Ray

JaniceW's picture

Very moving

Well done, Mukut. Your powerful imagery and music provide the perfect backdrop to this devastating situation. What I love is that although society views them without humanity or dignity, your photos tell a different story. Your respect for these women comes through in the images and I am so glad they have you as an advocate for them. Your voice, commentary and this video are powerful tools and I am confident you will go on to make a positive difference in so many lives.

This is a moving and compelling video that cannot be ignored. Well done.

Mukut's picture

Janice, you are extremely sweet

Thank you Janice. You must know that I look out for your feedback and comments. Am so so glad you liked it. Thank you so much.

You have been extremely supportive. Thank you for being so nice.

Lots of love,

Mukut Ray

Sahro's picture

Learned so much, thank you!

I learned so much from reading your article! Very well written and powerful.

Well done

Love, Sahro
2012 VOF Correspondent

WorldPulse Community Advisory Board Member
Blogger at http://genderineducationsomalia.blog.com/
Globcal Ambassador at: https://www.facebook.com/301986015692/photos/a.10150304573125693.561701....
Founder

Mukut's picture

Thank you Sahro

Am so glad you found my article powerful. Thank you so much for reading :)

Love,

Mukut Ray

Leigh Anne Kranz's picture

How Dare We!

Dear Mukat,

I recently became aware of the dishonoring (genocide) of widows in India. My thought at the time was, "What OLD STORY (cultural myth) has brainwashed the people to think this way?" Thank you for making the brilliant connection with the Karva Chauth ritual. YES--this is exactly how these inhumane perceptions are passed down from one generation to the next, spoon-fed to children, "celebrated" by everyone. This happens in my culture, too. It must end.

Your multimedia piece was POWERFUL! You described the widows so eloquently. Yes, they do have a lost look in their eyes. So sad. How could a son abandon his mother--after years of loving dedication? How sad that the widows are made to carry the burden of shame--when they are the victims. Another OLD STORY.

Your ending was especially effective. How dare we!

Beautiful work! My best to you!
Leigh Anne

Mukut's picture

I am so glad you liked it !

Dear Leigh Anne,

I am glad you found my story powerful.

What I witnessed in Nabadwip is heart-breaking. I felt terrible listening to their stories of abandonment and shame. What a pity that a government led by a woman stands mute to their plight and does nothing for them.

Thank you for taking the time to read and watch my video. Thank you so much for your feedback.

Love,

Mukut Ray

Ray of Hope's picture

Reality of India

Thanks Mukut for being so insightful in this issue. Your post takes me back to the movie "Water". It is really so sad that the culture we embrace and we are taught to follow is the root cause of our problem. These kind of ideologies have entered so deep into our culture that people do not think about it. Men's identity is given so emphasis in the identity of women in India that people even forget that women are also human beings before being in relationship with men.

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