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Boarding a flight for the first time, getting an opportunity to meet their dear ones and savouring Durga Puja ambience in Bengal after years — it has been a perfect homecoming for Vrindavan's 50 widows who were either dumped by their families or had fled their inhospitable homes.

Organised by NGO Sulabh international, the widows, most of them from West Bengal, who are spending their years in the Hindu pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh as castaways, are in the city for pujas, the biggest of Bengali festivals.

With their life a tragic saga of hardships, the women are now overwhelmed with emotions after getting the opportunity to celebrate Durga Puja for the first time in their widowed life.

With a superstitious belief that their participation would bring ill luck to families, widows are kept off from auspicious occasions like a marriage ceremony or a puja.

"I don't have words to describe my feelings. I was widowed when 20 and since then I could never imagine I would be a part of any auspicious occasion, leave alone inaugurating Durga Puja," says 65-year-old Surandhini Dasi, who is back in her home state after two long decades and is to inaugurate a puja pandal.

Similar is the story of Sajja Dutta, 75, who despite having four sons and daughters, had to work as a maid to make ends meet. Disillusioned with her family, she left for Vrinadavan nearly a decade ago and is now happy to lead a "contented life" in a Vindravan ashram.

The women are thankful to Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International – an NGO which has been taking care of them, for the rare puja opportunity bestowed upon them.

Pathak, whose organisation has been working for the welfare of over 900 widows of Vrindavan, Mathura and Varanasi, has drafted a bill for the protection and maintenance of widows and hopes it will become a law soon.

The Padma Bhusan awardee is planning to meet political leaders as well as philanthropists from around the world, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, to pursue his dream project of making the widow protection bill a reality.

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