At September 21st-23rd/25th 2018, the Autumn School “Ageing and Gender“ of the DAAD-cooperation project on “Active Ageing“ (Jawaharlal Nehru University and Heidelberg University) took place in New Delhi. It was attened by PhD Students from JNU (School of Social Sciences), MA students from HU (Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies, Institute of Gerontology and South Asia Institute) and Indian-German project members.
Prof. William S. Sax (Head of the Department of Ethnology, South Asia Institute) opened the event at the Jawaharlal Nehru University with a lecture on ageing in India focussing than on widowhood and the discrimination of Hindu widows within North Indian society. The life situation of North Indian widows, mostly marked by abandonment, poverty and deprivation, was further described by students‘ presentations‘ of the key readings and also illustrated by a screening of the Indian documentary film “Krishna’s Waiting Room” (2017). The film on widows living in Ashrams in Vrindavan is based on womens‘ narratives and questions Indian societal norms, the politics of inheritance and economic entitlements, which disadvantage North Indian women. The aim of the first workshop day was twofold: to introduce the participants to Indian Models of Ageing and to prepare them for the excursion scheduled for the next day.
The destination of the very impressive two-days field trip was Vrindavan, a town in the district Mathura of Uttar Pradesh and a pilgrimage centre, where around 20 000 widows live.
The group visited an old age home for elderly widows called “Maitri Ghar“, run by the New Delhi-based NGO “Maitri“ and supported by Help Age India. It houses around ninety women, which were in majority from the Northeastern state of West Bengal. Students received the possibility to engage in conversations with the widows, who were sharing insights from their (spiritual) life in Vrindavan, their family status and the reasons for leaving home amongst many other topics. In the afternoon a walking tour through the city took place including the visit of the Banke Bihari temple followed by a boat trip at sunset on the river Yamuna. At the second day the group visited another widow home, also run by the NGO “Maitri“ and located in the rural small town Radha Kund, where students could conduct more individual interviews with residents.
The workshop closed at the India International Centre, New Delhi, where students presented and discussed their findings combining and applying the reviewed theory and key readings from the first workshop day with fieldwork data and experiences from the Vrindavan excursion.
Here you can download the program of the Autumn School (PDF).