I am a proponent of collective consciousness thinking. I believe that we are all webbed together and our blinders prevent us from seeing or knowing this on a day to day basis.
I can rarely find an instant, where one action has not somehow affected another. There are simple examples:
I leave work in a rush, angry over some detail. I am striving to get errands done and arrive home timely. I am in traffic and become angry watching cars ahead of me race through the yield sign and shove their way into the traffic, further delaying my journey because of a lack of courtesy. Miles down the road, I sense a car patiently waiting could use a break, needs some considerate motorist to let them into the traffic so they don’t remain in place for the next hour. Do I notice, do I see, do I allow this person in or do I carry over my anger from my earlier frustrations? Do I in turn now punish this motorist for the ones earlier who almost ran people off the road without care? Do I stop and realize, at times, I may have inadvertantly been the one not slowing at the yield sign, perhaps not out of a lack of deliberate inconsideration, but because I was so in my own world, my own perspective, I simply thought it was “my turn”?
Now, this is just a loose description, the point being is that when you become aware, it is hard to divorce any moment, any action, any word from another.
Today, there are two striking news articles that made me again think: We do this to ourselves. The first is the treatment of “elderly” Hindu woman, the second the treatment of female brides and the price of dowrys.
I saw a picture of a young woman standing in traffic. BBC news entitled its piece: Indian Woman Strips in Dowry Row
This young woman, standing with just underclothes on in traffic and what appears to be a baseball bat in her hand. The picture sounds like a scream to me, I feel that I can hear her soul screaming.
The second article that I keep thinking of was posted on CNN, entitled: Shunned from society, widows flock to city to die:
“VRINDAVAN, India (CNN) — Ostracized by society, India’s widows flock to the holy city of Vrindavan waiting to die. They are found on side streets, hunched over with walking canes, their heads shaved and their pain etched by hundreds of deep wrinkles in their faces.
A widow makes her way in Vrindavan, India, where an estimated 15,000 widows live on the streets.
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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.
Hindus have long believed that death in Vrindavan will free them from the cycle of life and death. For widows, they hope death will save them from being condemned to such a life again. Watch how some widows are rebelling »
“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.
There are an estimated 40 million widows in India, the least fortunate of them shunned and stripped of the life they lived when they were married.
It’s believed that 15,000 widows live on the streets of Vrindavan, a city of about 55,000 in northern India.
“Widows don’t have many social rights within the family,” says Ranjana Kumari with the Center for Social Research, a group that works to empower women.
The situation is much more extreme within India’s rural community. “There, it is much more tradition-bound; in urban areas, there are more chances and possibilities to live a normal life.”
But the majority of India’s 1.1 billion population is rural. “The government recognizes the problem,” Kumari says. “It can do a lot, but it’s not doing enough.”
One woman, a widow herself, is working for change. Dr. Mohini Giri has formed an organization called the Guild of Service, which helps destitute women and children.
Giri’s mother was widowed when Giri was 9 years old, and she saw what a struggle it was. Then, Giri lost her husband when she was 50, enduring the social humiliation that comes with being a widow. At times, she was asked not to attend weddings because her presence was considered bad luck.
“Generally all widows are ostracized,” she says. “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.”
She adds, “It’s the mind-set of society we need to change — not the women.”
Seven years ago, Giri’s organization set up a refuge called Amar Bari, or “My Home,” in Vrindavan. It has become a refuge for about 120 of India’s widows. Giri’s organization is set to open a second home, one that will house another 500 widows.
But as she says, “Mine is but a drop in the bucket.”
At Amar Bari, most widows reject traditional white outfits and grow out their hair. Along the open air corridors that link the house’s courtyard are green wooden doors, leading to dark tiny rooms, home for each widow. See the widows of Vrindavan »
Bent over by osteoporosis, 85-year-old Promita Das meticulously and slowly sweeps the floor just outside her door and then carefully cleans her dishes.
“I came here when I couldn’t work anymore. I used to clean houses,” she says. “Nobody looked after me, nobody loved me. I survived on my own.”
She married at 12 and was widowed at 15. Seventy years later, she finds herself at Amar Bari. “I used to live in front of a temple, but then I came here,” she says….”.
On one end of the spectrum of life, there is mistreatment for not bringing enough into the marriage and the family. On the other end, there is banishment for not having enough left to give after already have given it to everyone else.
I have posted before about the eternal question: why? And yes, as I read these and other stories, my first impulse is to still ask why, but I no longer am convinced that figuring out the “why” will fix these problems. Whose “why” would I begin with? Through whose eyes would I look through first and with whose eyes would I end in trying to figure out the origin?