Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Plight of Inidan Widows

Today over at CNN's website is a heart-breaking story of impoverished Indian widows in "holy" city of Vrindavan. This is the same subject that was at the heart of the controversial (and excellent) 2005 Deepa Mehta film Water. It happens like this:

These Hindu widows, the poorest of the poor, are shunned from society when their husbands die, not for religious reasons, but because of tradition -- and because they're seen as a financial drain on their families.

They cannot remarry. They must not wear jewelry. They are forced to shave their heads and typically wear white. Even their shadows are considered bad luck.

* * *

'Does it feel good?' says 70-year-old Rada Rani Biswas. 'Now I have to loiter just for a bite to eat.'

Biswas speaks with a strong voice, but her spirit is broken. When her husband of 50 years died, she was instantly ostracized by all those she thought loved her, including her son.

'My son tells me: 'You have grown old. Now who is going to feed you? Go away,' ' she says, her eyes filling with tears. 'What do I do? My pain had no limit.'

As she speaks, she squats in front of one of Vrindavan's temples, her life reduced to begging for scraps of food.
This is one of those situations that gives credence to the Hitchens-eqsue arguments about the pernicious influence of religion in this world.

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