Against All Odds

Against all odds. 

Binodini’s prayers were answered. A few weeks later, a woman named Durga came to meet Binodini all the way from Mathura. She ran an organization that trained women in martial arts. She urged Binodini to educate the members of her organization and train them in practical work skills. In return, the women of her organization could teach the young widows self-defense tactics. They could train them in martial arts and even teach them how to use weapons for self-protection. Binodini happily accepted the offer, realizing that it was just what was needed to boost the widows’ self-esteem. 

However, even as Binodini and the other widows at Gokul ashram were learning to protect themselves, there was someone else who needed protection much more than they did. The wrath of the religious organizations finally struck Madhav & Meera. They were kidnapped and killed. Their bruised bodies were found hanging on a tree near the Yamuna. 

The news struck Binodini like a lightning bolt. Yet she had to put on a brave face before the other widows. The young and old, all of them looked up to her. If she were to look weak and shaken, then they too would crumble under the weight of this tragedy. 

During this testing period, Mr Pandit became a pillar of support to Binodini. His friends in the media and activists strengthened her resolve to continue striving for the rights of the widows. Their zeal for a shared cause brought Somnath and Binodini closer together as they spent more and more time with each other in finding ways to improve the life of the widows of Vrindavan.  

Their bond grew stronger, and both realized that they were in love. Theirs was a special kind of relationship, a friendship expressed on the level of the soul. They communicated more through their eyes, silently, than through words. One day, Binodini was overcome by fear, and she asked Mr Pandit if he would always support her. He replied with his characteristic tranquil assurance: “Tum aur mai ab alag nahi hain, humari aatma to ek ban hi chuki hai.” His affirmation of their divine union renewed Binodini’s conviction in herself and her struggle. 

The fight for their cause gathered momentum. Inspired by Binodini and the widows of Gokul ashram, widows from other ashrams also began demanding permission to celebrate Holi. In fact, support for the widows grew by the day. Monetary help poured in from various parts of India and even the world. While the fundamentalists were against them, the liberals supported them wholeheartedly. What had started as the struggle of one ashram soon became a topic for national discussion. Courts were petitioned, intellectuals debated on television channels, the public discussed the concerns of the Vrindavan widows in their living rooms. Pressure mounted steadily on the guardians of the Hindu traditions and faith.

Photography: Jassi Oberai

Location: Vrindavan, Mathura, India

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