Indian tradition says a widow will spend her life in seclusion, mourning her husband and avoiding public gatherings. If she comes to a wedding, she is thought to bring bad luck to the family. If she comes to a birth ceremony, she brings bad luck to the baby.
After her husband dies, she will wear only white, Hinduism’s color of mourning. As much as she can, she will live a life without color.
So when Holi arrives, the festival of spring and India’s riotous annual celebration of color, when friends and strangers shower one another with colored water and bright powders, she is supposed to disappear into the background.
Then there is Holi at the Meera Sahabhagini Widows Ashram, a shelter for widows abandoned by their families, in this city of temples where widows have long been dropped off and forgotten.
In that ashram, hundreds of widows gathered Tuesday to experience what they are not supposed to: Joy. Organized by an Indian aid agency, Sulabh International, the gathering was a way to let the women celebrate their lives, and to show that losing a husband doesn’t mean losing one’s life.
Colour was everywhere. On the women’s faces, in their hair, coating their clothes.
For once, white was hard to find.