As soon as a woman becomes a widow in India, her entire existence changes in society for the worse. After her husband dies, it's as if she loses her right to live her life normally, let alone fulfil her basic desires!!! Meet Granny Asha. She is a one-woman army who runs a homestay in Varanasi. She was barred from being at a wedding because she is a widow. Granny Asha doesn't come from a backward family. Her daughter, Shilpi Singh, is a corporate executive-turned-offbeat entrepreneur. Shilpi shared her horror at this incident in her own words.
She revealed how her relatives living in Mumbai prohibited her widowed mother from attending the wedding of her cousin only because she was a widow. Shilpi, taking a strong stand against this behaviour, said in an interview to SheThePeople, "I want to reach out to every young and old and ask them to break their silence against any wrongdoing happening in the family."
Her Facebook post was as follows:
“It was my cousin's marriage today and my mother, more popularly known as Granny Asha took a break from her busy schedule to go to Mumbai to attend the marriage only to be told by the girl's parents that she could not attend the marriage as she was a widow.” To her post, one person reacted saying, "This is so very sad and disrespectful. With the work she is doing at this age, she owes love, respect and admiration. These youngsters need to respect this and voice out. At least not expected out of them."
Shilpi spoke out in more detail with SheThePeople, adding that it was important to speak up. Even if sometimes it meant speaking up on key family issues. "The wrongdoings in the family are generally swept under the carpet. No one in the family stepped up to object to the archaic patriarchal custom. My cousin, my family members, all remained silent. I want to reach out to every young and old and ask them to break their silence against any wrongdoing happening in the family. Rapes, molestation, discrimination.. Do not swallow it in the name of family honour," she told SheThePeople.TV.
Granny Asha is no ordinary woman. The 71-year-old runs a homestay in Benaras. She is an inspiration for all women --young or old out there as despite being a homemaker all her life, she fulfilled her desire to become financially independent at the age of 65 when she, along with her cousin sister Aruna, started Granny’s Inn. Today, she looks after most of the operational activities of the homestay as Aruna is ill. Yet, when she wanted to attend a wedding at her house, the fact that she is a widow overshadowed all her achievements.
Widowed women in India are often omitted from several cultural traditions
This is 2019. Not 1919. Granny Asha and scores of women like her belong to educated homes, are urban, outwardly, social media aware and often perceived to be progressive. But if she is subjected to such discrimination, that too in a metropolitan city like Mumbai, then it is hard to imagine the condition of widowed women living in rural areas. No wonder there is a huge population of widowed women who beg for a living in Mathura and Vrindavan because their families abandon them, leaving them to die or fend for themselves.
Widowed women in India are often omitted from several cultural traditions. And as we are moving towards having more gender equal conversations, accepting ideas of remarriage for widowed women, why should they be left out? There needs to be greater awareness around treating widowed women with dignity and not be dumbed down by traditions and make another person feel lesser of a human.
Picture credit- Shilpi Singh