The girl whose mother was not allowed colours and celebrations.

So a salient feature of Indian family values involves all women having to Get Married and Stay Married – so that they are ‘looked after’, when they are young and in their old age?

Then why is widow remarriage seen as against Indian Family values? Obviously welfare of women and children is not a concern in a Patriarchy.

When Jyoti Yadav was born, her mother was 17 and a widow. Seen as inauspicious, her mother was not permitted to participate in celebrations, weddings and other happy occasions.  Jyoti, a class eight student, grew up in an extended family in Alwar, Dabadwas , Rajasthan. [Link shared by Anil Singhal]

She saw the humiliation and disrespect heaped on her mother but was too young to know how to bring about a change. So, she approached the head teacher in her school, Sangeeta Yadav, and found out more about the plight of widows in India. Knowing that she needed more support from authorities, she approached the sarpanch of her village, Bhagwati Devi. Hearing her concerns, Devi was enthused enough to convene meetings to rid the village of this age-old custom.

In 2010, Jyoti started campaigning for this cause. She went from house to house trying to convince people to change their attitude towards widows.

“Initially, nobody listened to me as I was so small. Often , I would be thrown out. But I didn’t lose courage and went right back. I also used to do nukkad nataks (street plays) with 4-5 friends as taught by my teachers. Eventually, the elders decided to give me a hearing but I had to face quite a bit of opposition, especially from the men. They couldn’t digest that a girl was breaking their customs and would beat us up,” she says. But that hardly mattered. Jyoti says with practiced ease, “Log tho aise hi hai” (People are like that only). If it helps improve society, I don’t mind.” Her efforts finally paid off. Widows, like her mother, are now employed as anganwadi workers and are paid Rs 3,500 monthly. [linklink]

22 thoughts on “The girl whose mother was not allowed colours and celebrations.

  1. Read this in the paper…. It is truly an inspiration for us all – That a young child not only had the maturity to observe that what was happening was wrong, but also had the courage to DO SOMETHING to correct it. We should also give credit to her Teacher and the Sarpanch of the village – they could have easily laughed her away.

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  2. God bless the little girl! She is a brave girl and is doing more than what she can to erase social stigma associated with widows in our country. May you succeed in your efforts, Jyoti. Here is hoping that your mother and many like her will gain respect and acceptance that is long-deserved.

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  3. God bless. May her tribe increase.

    Stuff like this warms your heart up and brings hope to the dismal situation in India. This 13 yr old apparently aspires to be a Doc. She has already started healing.

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  4. II wish there was a publicity campaign (like the family planning campaign of the sixties with the Red triangle as it’s symbol) declaring that widow remarriage is not to be shunned and actually encouraged.

    If the government won’t do this, then may be some social organisation or NGO take this up. Suitable ad campaigns could popularise this and hopefully, orthodox society will gradually overcome their revulsion and fall in line with modern times.

    I see no difficulty in the cities. It is not uncommon nowadays. The problem will be in the villages particularly those ruled by the Khap Panchayats.

    I think a decent mourning cum waiting period of up to two years is sufficient and no eye brows should be raised at widow remarriage.

    My own family history has contrasting examples.
    My paternal grandfather had a sister and a also cousin sister.
    Both were widowed as child brides around the age of 12 or 14 perhaps and were issue less.
    At that tender age, I wonder if they had started living with their husbands.

    My grandfather’s sister, per the customs of those times, had her head shaved, and wore ochre robes all her life and devoted herself to being a mother to my Dad and his brothers and sister after my grandmother too died.

    My grandfather’s cousin sister showed tremendous courage and with the support of her family, left the village and moved to a big city, resumed her education and became a doctor and set up a Nursing home. Though she never re married, she faced ostracism from within the family for having defied tradition and custom, but I salute her memory.
    Both these women are of course, no more today.

    Our community has at least made some progress.
    Even if widows hesitate to remarry, at least they have stopped shaving off their hair.
    One step at a time is better than no reform at all.
    I have hopes that the next generation will accord all widows their due place in society.
    Regards
    GV

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  5. What an inspiration! Considering the limited exposure she would have had to the outside “modern” world, this girl is truly remarkable for not just realizing a wrong for a wrong, but for having the courage to go against social norms to bring about change. And at that age too. With her courage and determination, this girl should go places. IHM, considering that we’re constantly reading/hearing about rapes, assaults, harassment and other such depressing news, this was a much needed breather.

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  7. Get married and stay married so that they are ‘looked after’? Your observation about the concern disappearing if women are widowed is astute. Marriage has to be based on caring and companionship – something both partners need because they are human beings – social animals. As for Jyoti’s story, it blew me away. Thanks for sharing the link.

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