Posted by & filed under Articles, In the Press, West Bengal.

KOLKATA: Do memsahibs take a phaeton ride to the ghats of Sovabazar? Hundred-year old Kanaklata Devi put this question to an NGO that plans to take the widows of Vrindavan for a three-day tour to Kolkata during Durga Puja.

Kanaklata's eyes glistened like Indira Thakrun in Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali at the idea of going back to the city she left 70 years ago. The excitement died in a moment when the widow spared a thought about her after life.

"What if I die in Kolkata? I will lose all the punya (good karma) that I gathered for all these years in Vrindavan," she said. Yet, she couldn't deny the attraction of the worldly good, her in-laws gave her a cold shoulder and forced her to leave for Vrindavan. Kanaklata started packing for her Kolkata tour with the inmates of Chaitanya Vihar, a home for widows, breaking into laughter.

Sulabh Foundation, an NGO that looks after 1,000 Vrindavan widows, has planned this Puja tour for nearly 50 widows from various ashrams in Vrindavan. The idea is to give them a feel of Kolkata festivity that has been unknown to them for all these years. All these widows from Bengal banished from their homes have been leading a solitary life.

"It is not just a Puja tour for them. They will go back to their roots. It is a journey down memory lane," said Sulabh founder Bindheswar Pathak.

"But, we have decided to restrict the number of tourists within 50. These elderly widows need much attention and care," said Pathak. How far widows like Kanaklata will be able to identify themselves with the city is a big question. For, most of them are stuck to the time when they left Kolkata or Bengal. Kanaklata's Sovabazar has undergone a sea change in all these years.

Monu Ghosh, an octogenarian who visited the city during Durga Puja last year had to fight much to place herself in the list this year. "Aar koy bochhor achhi, chokher jole desh chherechhilam, akhon bar bar fire jete mon chai" (My days are numbered. I had to leave my place with tears. Now after so many years, I feel an indomitable pull for my land."

Source :