Siliguri’s Menuka believes Vrindavan fills all kinds of emptiness by breaking the barriers of society
“The constant pain of loneliness and the white color of widowhood became my new life partners. I was so stuck in the chains forced on me by the society, that there was no way out. But just then Kanha’s city, Vrindavan, gave me the support I needed and gave a meaning to my life.”
The emptiness in the life of a widow is such that it seems impossible to fill. On top of that, when the society puts its restrictions on her, the pain becomes nearly unbearable. Such is the story of Menuka Pal, who once lived in the city of Siliguri in West Bengal.
At the tender age of 10, Menuka got married to an 18-year-old man. Back then, child marriages and early marriages were a normal thing. Maybe that was the way the society worked. Menuka followed the same tradition, and at an age when she didn’t even know the real significance of marriage, she left her home to live a life with her husband.
Like any newly married couple, the two of them dreamt of a beautiful future together. While her husband didn’t earn a lot, it was enough for them to live a comfortable and happy life. And in between the normal ups and downs of live, Menuka gave birth to three daughters.
Menuka says, “I got married at a very young age, but my husband never let me realise that I left my home. We were both very happy in our little world. I gave birth to three daughters, but after two daughters, my husband wanted a son. But despite the third child being a girl, he was very happy. We brought up our children with a lot of love.”
When the girls grew up, Menuka and her husband got them married as ceremoniously as they could afford. And when their daughters moved away, both husband and wife became each other’s pillars of strength. Menuka felt lonely without her children, but her husband provided her emotional comfort, and the two held on to each other through the tough time.
Feeling emotional, Menuka says, “Our society asks us not to consider our daughters as our own. Their husband’s home is their real home. We had brought up our children very lovingly, and when they left, we felt very lonely. Without the children, my husband felt dejected too. But we both comforted each other like true life partners.” But perhaps fate had decided something else and life tested Menuka in the worst of ways. About twenty years ago, when Menuka was 55-years-old, her husband passed away and left such a void in her life that nothing seemed to be able to fill.
Many a time, Menuka considered living with her girls. But every time the thought occurred, it would be overpowered by the society’s orthodox face, clearly stating that parents cannot live in their daughter’s home. Thus, Menuka has accepted the truth and instead of going to her daughters’, she lived a lonely life, wearing the white color of widowhood.
Menuka explains, “After my husband passed away, I began to feel mentally and emotionally restless. I was haunted by the isolation and my health started to deteriorate with age. I needed rest. I considered living with my daughters a few times, but the thought of society’s judgment held me back. To tell you the truth, I myself was never comfortable with the notion of living with my daughters. I don’t know if it was due to the fear of the society or something else. But on the other hand, being on my own, life started to seem like a burden and I was looking for a peaceful life.”
Ten years after her husband’s demise, when Menuka went on a pilgrimage tour in search of peace, she reached Vrindavan. In the holy city, Menuka’s mind began to sing in the devotion of Radha-Rani and Kanha. She felt like perhaps this was the place that would rid her of her loneliness and help her find the peace she was looking for. Because Vrindavan had many other women like Menuka, whose lives were washed in the white color of widowhood, and yet had stability and peace.
Menuka has been living in Vrindavan for the last ten years. She now considers her life to be complete. Menuka lives in a widow ashram, where all responsibilities of the widows are taken by Sulabh International Social Service Organisation. Plus, the widows are given Rs 2000/- every month for their livelihood.
A beautiful smile spreads on Menuka’s face as she says, “After my husband’s death, I felt incomplete. But Vrindavan completed me again. This land is extremely pure, which takes away all sorrows of life. ‘Lal Baba’ (Dr Bindeshwar Pathak) takes us to many religious places and provides us with everything we need. I am truly happy in his shelter and now the only way I want to spend my life is in Kanha’s devotion.”
In Menuka’s words, “After all the struggles, life gets its true meaning in Vrindavan.”
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