VARANASI/KOLKATA: One of them watched the play of sunlight in the clouds, another fiddled with the headphones to watch the in-flight movie, while yet another said that a plane ride gave her an empty feeling in the stomach… much like a ferris-wheel ride had given her many years ago when she was just a little girl.
On board the aircraft carrying the Vrindavan widows back home for a feel of Durga Puja, even the IT professional from New York – a been-there-done-that frequent flier – agreed he had never seen something like this before.
The IT professional from New York, a frequent flier agreed with his Korean co passenger lady that both of them have never seen such huge group of 'strange' and innocent looking elderly widows on board as co passenger.
Back at the Indira Gandhi International airport in Delhi, a chorus of "Radhe, Radhe" from the 50-odd "special travellers" – who were being brought to Kolkata by Sulabh International – left their co-passengers bemused. "This chant in an hour of crisis saves us from disaster," Manu Devi said.
Manu Devi told that in hours of crisis they always chanted that mantra which saved them from the disaster.The 50 odd widows from Vrindavan ashrams were being brought by Sulabh International to Kolkata to fulfill their wish to come to Bengal during Durga puja festival. The widows who have left the state after their husband's death due to several practical constraints will witness Durga puja this time more or less after 30-40 years.
Sixty-year-old Kunjalila Dasi, formerly a resident of Kalyani in Nadia, was trying hard to wear the headphones, but couldn't figure out how. A serious-looking man wearing a business suit stretched out a helping hand.
At the airport, there was a minor flutter when a jaanti (supari-cutter) was confiscated 90-year-old Pushpa Devi. "We had no choice," said a security personnel.
The group of widows reached IGI airport at 12.30. After overcoming several security hurdles when they reached the final security check point they faced probably the toughest situation in their life. " ora amare sarch koirya amar supari katar jati da loia loichhe…" ( they had taken my cutter during the searching process. It was my long day companion.) lamented 90 years old pushpa devi. The lady at the security point smiled, " We know these items like scissors, sewing needles and cutter are harmless in their hand but we are helpless."
The widows who boarded the flight for the first time in life were behaving like girls. When the flight was flying high and reached 41000 feet Lalita devi (104) the oldest widow told, " Chhoto belay nagordolar mato mone hochhe…. Pet khali hoe jachhe mone hochhe…" ( The feeling is as similar as experiencing a merry go round in my childhood, it seems my stomach has been emptied suddenly". Basana devi (32)the youngest of them was always by Lalita's side taking care of oldest of them. Every one was busy looking after their 'ma'. Vinita Verma, the lady from Sulabh who was accompanying the widows to Kolkata did not want to loss the opertunity to convince Basana Devi to give consent for arranging her marriage. Basana, a homoeopath stayed at Pagla baba ashrams for last 10 years, and she is unmarried. Though Basana instantly refused her proposal as she never wanted to leave Vrindavan and these elderly widows. Vinita told, "You should experience the family life my dear"
A young boy offered his window seat to Kalpona Devi (75), who was leaning from the aisle to have a glimpse of the golden clouds. She asked the youth if the plane would "cross the walls of heaven".
Kunjalila Dasi had no time to watch the celestial wonders. She was busy packing a Gita. It was a gift for Mamata Banerjee.