Why are widows looked down upon? Do they remind men of their own mortality?

For reference only

I was watching this serial/soap which used to be aired on a popular channel. The story revolves around a widow and the challenges she faces simply because she is a widow. She is ostracized by her relatives and the people of the neighbourhood. When she visits temples or holy places, she is ridiculed and hated by the pandits and other holymen in the temples. They call her inauspicious, a harbringer of bad luck and believe that her presence can ruin every good occassion.

After a while, a man falls in love with her. The couple faces a lot of problems because the man wants to marry a widow. After a lot of problems, he marries her, helps her, protects her and keeps telling her that she is his ‘responsibility’ from now on. Some misunderstandings later, the storyline takes a leap and the woman is shown living as a single mother but she stills puts sindoor in her mang.

I too lost my husband some years ago. Though I don’t wear a traditional white sari or follow any orthodox norms, there have been times that I have been subjected to hurting words by my relatives or even strangers. All this has made me wonder why widows are only subjected to such treatments? Why not widowers or men who have lost their wives? After years of contemplation, I have developed my own theory about this subject.

It seems men fear their own death more than women do. Widows remind men of their mortality. The married women are reminded of their husband’s mortality and of the impermanence of their own life. Looking at a widow makes a married woman realize that the painful fact that her life and status as a married woman can be taken away by death any time. After all, getting married to a decent man is nothing less than winning a lottery ticket. The realization that this can change anytime perhaps is so painful that they prefer to pass on the pain to the widow through their words or actions. On the other hand, women who look at a widower do not feel this way because when a man loses his wife, his status in the material and social world remains the same. He may not be happy mentally or emotionally but he is not subject to any ridicule or hurting words by men or women. So, no one minds having a widower around because he does not even have to dress up differently.

Life is not perfect and will never be. Life is not secure and will never be. Life is not everlasting and will never be. However, we as humans try to deny all these facts by pretending otherwise. We don’t like to be reminded of our own mortality or our inability to control our lives. Women dressed as widows remind us of the stark reality of life which we prefer to forget.


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