Monday, April 30, 2012

What an Amazing show Oprah did on the "City of Widows"! I am so glad that so many more people are aware of the plight of the widows there! Her interview with Dr. Giri was intense and eye opening. The reality that these women chanting in the ashrams and begging on the streets is demeaning and the hope that one day the widows seeking shelter in Vrindavan will finally be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve is what drives me to continue the work with the White Rainbow Project. Won't you join us! Visit our website to learn how you can be a part of the change for these women! As Dr. Giri so eloquently stated in the interview, now that Oprah has shed light on this injustice positive change is sure to come soon! 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Oprah Visits Vrindavan!

Thank God that Oprah has finally visited Vrindavan! Years ago when I first made the film "White Rainbow" producers from her show contacted me about being interviewed about the film and the plight of the widows in Vrindavan. Sadly nothing came of it. Now just last week, Oprah has seen their misery for herself! Here is a quote from her recent interview with Barkha Dutt a journalist in India about that experience. Now I hope that she will be able to watch "White Rainbow" to get a clearer picture of what their lives are really like. Go Oprah! When you speak the world does listen!
Oprah Winfrey: Well I have to say, that meeting with the widows, caused a shift in my own consciousness. You know, as I was saying, I wanted to use, and chose to use this platform of television for illumination. But there was a moment standing there with Dr Giri who's taken in as many widows as her pocket book will allow, that I realized that the marginalisation; you know I've spoken for years about the marginalisation of women, I've spoken for years on my shows about the need for women to own their own voices and to be able to hold the space for themselves. And that the greatest freedom in the world, the reason for freedom is that you get to decide for yourself what to do with your life. That's what real freedom is. And I'm not just an advocate for that, I live that, you know, being a woman who stands inside herself. So standing in the Ashram, with all of these widows who have been discarded simply because their husbands died. The shift for me was, this should not be allowed to happen. I immediately emailed my friend, Maria Shriver, who for years has held a woman's conference in the state of California, and I sent her the pictures of the widows, and said that you and I have to combine our efforts and we have to get with every other woman that we know, to combine our efforts and to make sure that this kind of thing gets eradicated in the world. It doesn't make any sense. Where intelligent women stand to allow the pervasive discrimination of a woman because her husband died, for something you don't have any control over. So you become a second class citizen. But I also had an 'Aha' moment in the midst of it because it's so easy to judge and say, "Oh my God, look at what they're doing". In the midst of interviewing Dr Giri, she said you know it happens, because I was asking is it just a, is it a caste thing, the situation? Or is it a class situation? Because certainly if you are a woman of privilege and your husband dies, this doesn't happen to you. She said you know it's subtle. When you're a woman of privilege and your husband dies, you just don't get invited to as many parties. You're not included, true? And you know when she said that, for the first time I thought, you know I've never spoken to widows in the United States, I'm sure it's true all over the world. Over the world, it happens. What I saw with the widows with her, is the extreme, but you just become a little less in the eyes of your friends because they think that death is contagious, and if it happened to you, then it reminds me that it could happen to me. So I think that attitude, that shift in attitude, needs to happen. Shift in consciousness, needs to happen all over the world, but certainly here. I'm going to be working with Dr Giri to see what I can do to support that. It's one thing to support the widows. And then she was saying you have to chant all day for 2 rupees and a bag of rice and you're discarded by your families. That doesn't make any sense to me. I couldn't understand the paradox of a country that loves its family, loves its tradition and has such respect and honour for their elders, and how do you get cast aside because your husband has died. Women outlive men all over the world. So automatically being, being made a second class citizen. That is a big issue for me.

Barkha Dutt: You have, as you said, been exposed to the paradox of India, the glitterati ..

Oprah Winfrey: India is a paradox.

Barkha Dutt: India is a paradox

Oprah Winfrey: Yes.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Indria Goswami, Celebrated Writer on Widowhood Dies

I just heard the sad news today that Indira Goswami had passed away. I have my google alerts set on Vrindavan Widow so that I can keep abreast of any news that affects our work. Today the alert was about a remarkable woman who was a source of inspiration when my husband Dharan wrote the screenplay for our film "White Rainbow". Many times people ask me who the protagonist in "White Rainbow" is based on and I always mention that the character is loosely based two women, one is a young affluent widow that was suicidal, but eventually went to Vrindavan and started helping the widows there.

Read the articles below and you will see the similarity. I am thankful that Indira spoke out and wrote about such a sensitive and personal issue so that many others can be helped!

Excerpts from The Hindu Newspaper

Indira Goswami, who died on Tuesday aged 69, was among India's most celebrated contemporary writers whose work spoke boldly and evocatively for the empowerment of women and other marginalised sections of society across the country. For this, she won the nation's highest literary honours, and respect and adulation in her home State Assam, where she was known as “baideiu” or elder sister. Far ahead of its times, her Neelkantha Braja was one of the earliest works of Indian literature to highlight the exploitation of destitute widows in Vrindavan. The book was born out of Goswami's own early widowhood, and a short experimental stay in a widows' home in the U.P town. Her frank Adhalekha Dastavej (An Unfinished Autobiography), written in 1988, details her battle with intense depression after her husband's death, her nights with sleeping tablets, handfuls of which she swallowed in two attempts to end her life, and the story of how she won the struggle by immersing herself completely in her writing. From Wikipedia After the sudden death of her husband, in a car accident in the Kashmir region of India, after only eighteen months of marriage, she became addicted to heavy doses of sleeping tablets

Her experiences as a widow as well as a researcher finds expression in her novel The Blue Necked Braja (1976), which is about the plight of the widows of Vrindavan who lived in abject poverty and sexual exploitation in everyday life. One of the main issues that the novel touches upon is the plight of young widows for whom companionship beyond the confines of their ashrams and fellow widows become impossible. Their urge to live, as well as the moral dilemma that they face vis-a-vis the order of precepts of religion in this regard, are brought out with astonishing clarity and feeling in the novel. The novel exposed the uglier face of Vrindavan — the city of Krishna, an Hindu deity — inviting criticism of Goswami from conservative sections of the society. It remains a classic in modern Indian Literature. It is autobiographical in character as she says the anguish of the main character Saudamini, reflects what she had gone through after her husband had died. It was also the first novel to be written on this subject. The novel was based on Goswami's research on the place as well as real-life experience of living in the place for several years before she joined the University of Delhi as a lecturer.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giving Thanks!

And don't forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.
Hebrews 13:16

Dear Friends, November is a time to give thanks and the White Rainbow Project is very grateful for all our blessings! We had an amazing "Friend Raiser" dinner, a very successful "Party with a Purpose" and I just returned from a very productive trip to India. Please read the below to get all the exciting details and please continue to remember our work in your thoughts and prayers. All the Best for the upcoming Holiday Season, Linda

First Annual Friend Raiser Dinner A big thank you to all who came out to our first annual Friend Raiser dinner which was held on October 11th at North Coast Calvary Chapel in Carlsbad California. Over 65 people came to hear about the exciting ways that God is blessing our work. Suzanne Baker of the Spiritual Spa hosted our event and shared about the importance of friendship - friendship is something that is chosen something to cherish and not taken lightly. Linda Mandrayar the co-founder and executive director gave an overview of the history of the White Rainbow Project where we've been and where we are going. Anne Taylor of Anne Taylor Catering provided a delicious Indian meal and the rest of the WRP team shared about ways to become friends of the White Rainbow Project by becoming a social media friend, sponsoring a widow, hosting a Party with a Pupose or joining us on an upcoming service trip. Learn more at Party with a Purpose Carolyn Feneck and Debra Kolek hosted a wonderful Party with a Purpose on October 18th at Debra's beautiful home in Temecula, Ca. Over 20 of their friends came and watched the White Rainbow film enjoyed a light Indian meal and then many of them purchased items from the White Rainbow Collection. Over $800 dollars was raised to help the widows. Won't you consider hosting one as well? It is so rewarding and the items make wonderful Christmas gifts. There is no cost and we will send you everything you need. Contact us right away to get your event kit.
YWAM Team comes to Vrindavan to help the Widows
Youth with a Mission is an international volunteer movement giving young people opportunities to demonstrate the love of Jesus to the whole world. When I was in India this past July, I met with a YWAM team that worked in another holy city, Varanasi. I shared with them about our work with the widows in Vrindavan and I showed them a copy of White Rainbow. After viewing the film, 9 of them felt led to come to Vrindavan to minister to the thousands of widows living there. I was fortunate to meet up with them on my recent trip to India, October 29th - November 12th. They are doing fantastic work and have had such a positive influence on so many already. They are staying in Vrindavan for the entire month of November so please keep them in your prayers!
Ganga and Mukesh's Wedding One of the most rewarding parts of working with the White Rainbow Project is to see lives that have been transformed. Ganga is one of those lives. Ganga was a young widow living in a shelter with little hope for the future. Last summer, Katie and I taught her how to make paper beaded necklaces and offered to pay her for the necklaces and asked her to teach other widows how to make them as well. She started to earn a living, regained her confidence, and married Mukesh a paraplegic man who had also been abandoned in Vrindavan by his parents when he was a child. I was fortunate to attend their wedding ceromony on November 2nd. The bride was radiant in a lavender sari that had been dontated for the White Rainbow Collection. God is Good!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

WRP Fabulous Weekend at Pepperdine University

The White Rainbow Project team had a fabulous weekend at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California to help celebrate Pepperdine's 75th Anniversary. We were invited to participate in the Waves of Service showcase. What is Waves of Service you may ask?

The Waves of Service movement celebrates, supports, and connects Pepperdine alumni committed to volunteerism and careers of service worldwide. The vision of Waves of Service is to become the world's most active alumni service movement in the world.

My husband, Dharan and I are Pepperdine alums. It was so much fun to be back at Pepperdine where we met and were married over 25 years ago!

We made some really great connections with other amazing alums who are making a difference in the world.

Chelsea Kadovitz of Global Christian Taskforce -Focusing the Light to Free those trapped in Darkness- They specifically want to help orphans and widows worldwide by partnering with other non-profits. What a great fit for us!

Kelly Gonzales of The Mulligan the lives of children with disabilities in Central Vietnam

Doug Plank of, Connect, Raise Funds- They help other non-profits connect with donors.

We feel honored to be surrounded by such caring and giving people and we are so proud of our alma mater for encouraging service to others!

Go Waves!!!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Celebrating the !st International Widows Day with the Widows at Ma Dham

On June 23rd, we got to celebrate the first International Widows Day with the widows at Ma Dham. This day was recently instituted by the United Nations. We purchased snacks and sweets for the widows with the money that WRP board member, Jon Silvester's daughter, Jordan and her friends raised by singing at church. We had a big picture of the girls and cards and pictures that they had made and we shared with the widows that the girls were praying for them and how they had donated the money to treat them. They were so happy and really appreciated our being there with them. The girls' smiling faces touched their hearts and warmed their spirits.