The blog of Satyam Roychowdhury
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Colours of Freedom

I sat on the balcony feeling the fragrant winds of spring and stared at children in the lane smearing each other with colours, as a faint tune of Tagore’s ‘Ore grihobashi Khol dwaar khol, laglo je dol’ from a neighbour’s house filled the morning air. Smokes of vibrant dust rose to touch the blossoms of spring, and smudged the treetops in myriad hues. Like every year it happens on the occasion of Holi. The social network page had photographs of friends and relatives playing with colours, and suddenly I came across a headline that read – ‘Breaking the taboos, widows play Holi at Vrindavan’.

I had to read the full story. I came to know that this ritual of widows celebrating the festival of colours among themselves began only in 2013. They were allowed only to offer colours to Lord Krishna until four year ago the stereotype was broken. Defying the age-old restraints, more than a thousand widows clad in white sarees splashed colours and threw flower petals on one another at the Radha Gopinath temple in Vrindavan this year. A total of 1,500 kilograms of gulal of different colours and 1,500 kilograms of rose and marigold petals were used for the Holi celebrations.

Their sarees were no longer white. Their eyes no longer had the agonies of being forbidden and forgotten. For decades, superstitions of the society had snatched away their rights to celebrate festivals, and they too have been quietly living a colourless life. Many of these widows are women who have found shelter in the ashrams after their families shunned them and turned them out of the house; some have been dumped in the temple town by relatives after they have become aged.

Amidst all the disturbing news of this mundane world we read every day, this one made me instantly realise the true meaning of colour.  Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of the NGO Sulabh International is the name of the person who has taken this giant step in changing the lives of so many women in a city that has much of its present still living in the past.

This is not just a story of breaking age-old traditions, but also a story of immense courage and hope. Certainly, the brightest colour I have ever known of!