They are frail but they are feisty – 50 widows of Vrindavan who arrived in Kolkata today to celebrate the Durga Pujas have a simple message for Hema Malini, the BJP MP from Mathura who recently said the widows of Vrindavan should go back to their own states, Bengal and Bihar. Their message – come to us in Vrindavan, sing “bhajans” with us, do “darshan” of the Lord and you will never want to leave.
As they arrived at Howrah station, they were greeted by the organisers of their visit with showers of marigold petals and drum beats from the tradition “dhak”. They danced like schoolgirls out on an excursion. Hema Malini was far from their minds. But asked about the BJP MPs recent comments, their replies were spirited.
“Hema Malini …she is saying Bengalis will be sent back to Bengal…I am an Indian citizen. I can stay where I please. I am not happy with what she said,” Urmila Sarkar, a Vrindavan widow, said.
70-year-old Manu Dasi was even more belligerent. “Why Vrindavan? If I want to go to America or Mumbai or Chennai, how can you stop me? You are not paying for my travels or upkeep?” she said.
These widows have been brought to Kolkata for Puja holidays by Sulabh International, which has, as it were, adopted a thousand of them. The man who runs Sulabh was reluctant to join the controversy. “I don’t want to say anything about Hema Malini. I am an apolitical person. But, yes, I believe Indians have a right to live anywhere in the country they want to,” said Bindeswar Pathak.
The 50 Vrindavan widows, however, could teach a lesson or two to the BJP MP in diplomacy. As they boarded a ferry from Howrah station to Baghbazar, where they are going to stay for the Durga Pujas, Meena, who is originally from Odisha, said, “I never met Hema Malini. When I meet her and she tells me to go to my state I will tell her I won’t. You stay with me. See how lovely it is.”
Nirmala Kar, originally from Tripura, who has been in Vrindavan for 20 years, was saccharine sweet. “When Hema Malini says, go back to your state, I will tell her, you come here with me to Vrindavan. Do bhajan with me, do “darshan” of God with me. You will feel so happy.”