March 2015, again and beyond

March 2015, again and beyond. 

Eventually, the determination of the widows of Vrindavan prevailed. Rigid codes of conduct cracked under public pressure. 

It is Holi in March 2015, Binodini and the widows of Gokul ashram are playing Holi in public at the Gopinath Temple. 

Jaya and Mita accost Binodini, who looks lost in reminiscence. Wiping a tear from her eye, Binodini explains that she misses Meera and Madhav. The smile disappears from Mita and Jaya’s lips. They solemnly inform Binodini that Mr Pandit is looking for her. 

Even as Binodini rushes to meet Pandit, she spots her grandmother standing at the gate of the temple, smiling at her benignly. Binodini’s heart swells with happiness and tears cloud her sight. After wiping away the tears, Binodini searches for her grandmother again. But the vision has left. 

Meanwhile, Somnath Pandit walks up to Binodini with aabir in his hands. Binodini bursts into a smile on seeing him. As a symbol of her respect and gratitude, she puts a pinch of aabir at the feet of Mr Pandit, while he smears Binodini’s cheeks and forehead with red aabir. Even as Binodini feels shy, she finds herself embracing him passionately. Both of them repose in the thought that their struggle is finally over; the tradition is finally broken. The battle is won. A new bridge has been built between the widows and society. 

Holi, Vrindavan, Jassi Oberai

Back in the ashram, a few days after Holi, Mr Pandit enters Binodini’s room demurely. He asks her to marry him. Binodini does not reply. Somnath repeats his proposal. After a while, Binodini breaks her silence: “Jab humari aatma ek hai toh fir shadi karne ki kya zarurat hai, Somnath ji?” Contented with soul union, Binodini finds that marriage does not fit their lives’ plan. Binodini is sure. She wants to spend her life working for women, for widows, for those outcasts of society who are daily oppressed by social customs. Somnath tries to interrupt her, but Binodini refuses firmly. Her mission is to help these women. She can no longer find purpose in the little joys of house and hearth. Apologizing to Pandit, Binodini announces that leaving the ashram for a marital home elsewhere would be an injustice to the ashram, to its widows and to herself as well. 

Mr Pandit is stumped. The very struggle that had brought them together is the greatest obstacle to their conjugal felicity. The very qualities that he admires in Binodini are what repel her from marrying him. Somnath nods in approval. His respect for Binodini grows manifold as he watches her continue steadfast with her principles, even in the face of a temptation to which he had succumbed. Noticing a smile on Somnath’s face, Binodini upholds her loyalty to him and to their joint struggle for ever-greater freedoms: “Aap mere humsafar ho aur humein aur bhi aagey jana hai.” 

Photography: Jassi Oberai 

Location: Vrindavan, Mathura, India

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