Well, to these widow mothers of Vrindavan it can mean the world. Yearly thousands of widows flock to Vrindavan in seek of shelter and refuge. They are socially prejudiced against and are abandoned by their families. They have no means of making money, but in this city, they are at least guaranteed one meal a day. Unfortunately, their living conditions are awful, and very few have access to good medical care. On the bright side, there are many devoted NGOs who are determined to change this. They have set up refuges for them in the form of ashrams, where they provide food, clothes, and medical care. One such NGO is the Paramhansa Yogananda Public Charitable Trust. I visited them 2 months ago, and today I would like to share my experience with all of you.
They provide them with food, and medical assistance, they have even set up ashrams for them to stay.
Out of all the organizations, I have visited, this one just felt very special. Probably because they have a very loving, and joyful atmosphere. Even the sevaks who work there are always smiling and joyful. It is like you can see the materialization of the famous principle, “ What goes, comes around.” They are serving but I can see they are getting so much in return because they are abundant with love, joy, and bliss. It is because they are serving with expecting nothing in return. It is like they have become channels through whom the divine is actually helping the Mothers. Somebody I know used this analogy when “water flows through the pipe, the pipe cannot help but get wet.” One of my other friends, who is a Brahmachari and has been meditating for several years, said ‘I can see the reflection of the divine on their faces.’
Jayeeta Mam who runs the trust and overlooks everything is a wonderful and loving soul. I had the honor of staying with her the entire week.
I think I should tell you a bit of a backstop also of how I ended up there in the first place. I had attended a ‘Seva retreat’ and Jayeeta mam had come to give a talk there about their work in Vrindavan. And also to invite everybody to a Seva Pilgrimage which they were conducting on Janmashtami. So a seva Pilgrimage is like a group of volunteers will go there for like a week, and there will be activities like visiting the ashrams, the mothers, talking to them, sitting with them, etc.
There will also be a little bit of Pilgrimage like visiting the temples, kirtan, satsangs, etc.
Anyways, coming back to the story, I just felt so inspired, and I knew I had to ask my dad for permission. I had no hopes though, he would say yes, since it is very far, and I would be traveling alone, my exams were coming, etc. But he was very excited, even more than me! We talked to Jayeeta Aunty, I call her aunty, and she was just so welcoming, that we booked the ticket instantly after reaching home. I stayed in her house the entire time as I mentioned earlier and she looked after me like a mother, I didn’t feel like once I was in a stranger’s house. Not to mention, she also fed me like a mother, I gained weight in only a week! Anyways I am getting distracted again Jayeeta mam is a kind, magnetic, and wonderful soul. Some other people who are part of the team, Radha Mam, Rama mam, Tripti Mam, Rajesh Sir, so many more, but the amazing thing about these people are some of them have terrible backstories, almost all of them face domestic violence, some of them are single mothers, coming from poverty, but not once you will hear them complaint. Jayeeta Mam was once telling us a story of a sevak, she was holding a dirty diaper in her hand. Some of our mothers who are paralyzed are dependent for everything on the staff. So this sevak she was on her way out to throw the diaper. Jayeeta Mam was visiting the Ashram then, so as soon as the sevak saw her, there came a huge smile on her face, and greeted her with a very excited greeting. Completely oblivious to the diaper in her hand.
When it comes to resilience nobody beats the Widow Mothers. These are people who have lost everything in their lives, thrown out by their children, faced extreme poverty and social discrimination, but they stand strong. In fact one of the mothers, the trust found, was living in a box! Then there is the story of Pushpa Dasi MA who was also found by our staff in extremely bad condition. But when you meet these mothers in the Ashram, how can I even describe it, they were just so blissful. Like not a single tear, no complaints, no reminiscing of the past. You sit and talk with them, they will talk very happily, they will feel very grateful if you give them a massage.
The motto of the Trust is ‘ Restoring the dignity and divinity of widow mothers’ ; they have taken up numerous initiatives to do so. Some of them are organizing regular kirtan with the mothers, reading scriptures with them, doing early morning exercises, coloring, etc. They are not only providing them with a place and food but also helping in their spiritual and emotional upliftment. Plus, they are also fighting the social stereotypes attached to widows for so long.
One such initiative in which you can help out is the ‘Circle of Love’. Circle of love is a weekly 15-minute Whatsapp video call, with one of our mothers. The main aim of this is to provide the mothers with loving companionship but also to promote the spiritual upliftment of all the volunteers doing the call. How does this help the mothers you might ask, these mothers have experienced abandonment, humiliation, and loneliness. This call helps them emotionally, they feel less lonely and are happier. In fact they look forward to it a lot. Jayeeta aunty once told me they will fix their hair and stress about their appearance. Another question you might ask is what will I say to them, actually there are many things, you can read to them, sing bhajans with them, they will share stories of Krishna with you, some recipes they love, etc. I was a bit hesitant to do this call too since I am not that great 🙄 when it comes to talking to people. But I had absolutely no problem talking to Pushpa MA, we clicked instantly, she is always so cheerful and talkative. In fact I cannot skip it now!
Circle of Love is a perfect name because that is exactly how I felt, when I went there, when I do my calls, I feel surrounded by a Circle of Love. I invite you🙏to be a part of it too, So what do you say, can you spare 15 minutes weekly?
Some Important Links
Widows Of Vrindavan – Feminisation Of Old Age In India Rekha Pande :- https://tehqeeqat.org/downloadpdf/9260
Status of Widows of Vrindavan and Varanasi : A Comparative Study By The Guild of Service :- https://griefandrenewal.com/widows_study.htm
Forgotten Widows of Vrindavan by Soumya Pillai in The Hindu :- https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/forgotten-widows-of-vrindavan/article19574277.ece
Paramhansa Yogananda Public Charitable Trust :- https://www.yoganandatrust.org/
Circle of Love :- https://yoganandatrust.org/seva