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KOLKATA: At a time when celebrities inaugurating pandals is a big draw, some puja organizers are treading on a different path. They are flying in 50 widows from Vridavan to grace their pandals. 

Puja committees of Pally Mangal Samity Durga Puja in Jodhpur Park, Salt Lake FE block and Hindustan Park have invited these women, many of whom are from Bengal. They will return to the state for the first time after their husbands' death. 

The widows will reach the city on October 6 and waiting to welcome them at the airport with a band party will be members of YLO, a youth organization. 

Bindheswar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International that takes care of over 2000 widows, said, "A few days back, some of the elderly women expressed the desire to visit Kolkata during Durga Puja. Though it was a good idea we were scared of the crowd. In the meantime, some organizers approached us and said they would make special arrangements for the women. We were relieved and grateful to them." 

Joydeep Mukherjee of Pally Mangal Samity Puja said, "We've decided to inaugurate our puja by these women." "We are eagerly waiting for the women to grace our puja pandal," Arijit Roychowdhury of Hindustan Park puja told TOI. 

These women led a life of hardship till Sulabh stepped in to help. They are being taught alphabets and trained in making handicrafts, said Pathak. 

Septuagenarian Kanchana Devi is happy with her life now. "We used to earn Rs 5 per day earlier. But now, we are getting Rs 2,000 per month. What else do we need at this age!" she said. She couldn't hide her excitement of visiting Kolkata after 50 years. 

Her joy was shared by Sumati Devi, 81. "We have no grief in the land of Radhakrishna. But going to one's motherland is different. I have no idea how much the city has changed." 

"On the first year of my wedding I went to Shobhabazar Rajbari to visit Ma Durga with my husband," recalled 95-year-old Promila Devi. She lost her husband at 17 and left the city at 27. 

Most of the women expressed their wish visit their homes in the city and its suburbs. 

Fifty widows from some Vrindavan ashrams will fly to Kolkata to inaugurate the Pally Mangal Samity Durga puja at Jodhpur Park this year. The Puja organizers have sent an invitation to Sulabh international who are taking care of these widows staying in different ashrams in Vrindavan. Apart from the Jodhpur park puja some other puja organizers like Salt Lake FE block and Hindistan Park puja committee have also invited the widows to grace their puja pandals during the festive days. Many of these Vridavan widows, mostly from West Bengal, have never visited the city after they had to left the state due to different practical constraints they experienced in the family after their husbands died.. Some of the widows had left the state even 70 years ago after their husbands died young. The widows will reach the city on 6th October. YLO, an youth organization has planned to welcome the women with old charm 'Band Party'at the Dumdum airport. 

The widows who were famous worldwide for their sufferings in the ashrams heaved a sigh of relief after the Supreme court advised the Uttar Pradesh government to hand over the responsibility of taking care of the widows staying in the ancient city densely populated with numbers of temples to either ISKCON or Sulabh International. Finally Sulabh International,an organization mostly popular for making clean and cheap toilet facility by roadside or market places is now looking after almost over 2000 widows who had to live on the meager earnings they used to get by singing bhajans in the temples." Rs 5 per day was our earning, We had to buy food and fuel depending on that amount only. Now we are getting Rs2000 per month. What else do we need at this age when we are waiting for the final call !" said with a smile Kanchana Devi (78) who had left Kolkata 50 years back. 

Bindheswar Pathak, the founder of Sulabh told," These elderly women had nothing to refresh themselves except doing bhajans and kirtans, now they are being taught alphabets, given training to make some light handicrafts like incense sticks, garlands made of Tulsi stems or small wallets. They are living a life with dignity, they have to depend on none", " A few days back when some of them expressed desire to visit Durga puja in Kolkata we thought that this could be a noble idea to get them rid off their long closed and monotonous life in the ashrams. But we were afraid of Kolkata puja crowd. In the mean time some of the puja organizers approached us that they would make special hassle free arrangements to make the pandal hopping easy for the elderly women. We were relieved and grateful to them" added Mr. Pathak. 

Joydeep Mukherjee of Pally Mangal Samity Puja told, " We've decided to inaugurate our puja by these women who have lost many happy moments from their life". Dr Arijit Roychowdhury of Hindistan Park puja told, " We are eagerly waiting for the women to grace our puja pandal. We are in regular contact with Sulabh and assured them that they will be greeted with warm welcome from our society." 

The excitement of Sumati devi (81) could be felt when she was expressing her feeling of returning back to the city she had to leave with a broken heart 51 years back after her husband died only in a week long fever." Radha Madhaber jayga ei Brajobhumi, ekhane amader kono kasto nei kintu nijer janmoshtan to mayer moto, kato bachhor pore jachhi, Jani na Kolkata kato palte gechhe, manusgulo kemon ache !" ( We have no grief in this land of Radhakriashna, but going to one's motherland is different thing. I have no idea how much the city has changed, how are my known people.). The soft spoken Bimala devi (76) of Shova bazaar told, "Ami nagordolay chorechhi kintu plane' kokhono chorini, Bhoy o lagchhe " ( I have an experience of taking ride in a Merry-go-round at a tender age with my father but never fly in an aircraft. I'm really afraid". " On the first year of my wedding I went to Shobhabazar Rajbari to visit Ma Durga with my husband" told a sobbing Promila devi who lost her husband at the age of 17 years. The 95 years old woman with amazingly strong memory left the city at the age of 27. Many of the widows will leave for Vrindavan on 10th October. Some of them expressed wish to visit their home in the city and suburb.

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