I was walking down the street in Vrindavan when I saw her. I followed this old woman down the street, and after a few minutes, she noticed that I was behind her.
Vrindavan, India, is the city of widows. After their husbands die, they are often shunned by family and members of the community who see them as a drain on limited resources. They cannot remarry, and walking in their shadows is considered bad luck. Ostracized by society, thousands of India’s widows go to the holy city waiting to die.
My translator explained that I was fascinated with her and wondered where she was going. She told us that she had been a widow since she was only fourteen years old, and made a few rupees by praying for others. Even though she had nothing, she invited us for tea.
She had a wonderful sense of humor and made us feel at home. I was touched by her joy and the way she dealt with her infirmity. She had a wonderful spirit and not an ounce of self pity. I can’t look at her picture without deep admiration. The magic of this image is its ambiguity. The woman is anonymous, yet she embodies everyone who meets challenges with a deep-seated will to overcome them.