Around 50 widows had attended the Puja celebrations last time and a new batch of as many widows in their 80s will have the privilege this time.
"It is not just a Puja tour for them. They will go back to their roots. It is a journey down the memory lane," Sulabh founder Bindeshwar Pathak, who has been working to rehabilitate widows, said. "Their trip to Kolkata is an effort to bring some joy and sense of belongingness to their lives. They are going back to the land of their ancestors," he said, adding that the trip will also give them a break from their monotonous life in the ashrams.
Sulabh is looking after 1,000 Vrindavan widows as part of a Supreme Court directive to remove the stigma attached to their lives. Festivities will unfold when they reach Howrah station on September 25 as they will be welcomed with the beat of traditional drums by 'dhakis' and blowing of 'shankha' (conch shells), besides showering of flower petals.
During their week-long stay, they will visit clay modellers' colony of 'Kumartuli' to see for themselves how life is breathed into the idols of Goddess Durga. They would also be visiting dozens of Puja pandals in the city and take a tour of important landmarks like Victoria Memorial.
Several widows, including 95-year-old Kanak Lata Devi, who is living in Vrindavan for around 45 years, desires to meet the Governor and Chief Minister for which appointments have been sought by the NGO.
Forced into a life of isolation, dejection and poverty, these widows were living under pathetic conditions without any proper food, medical and hygienic facilities.
Sulabh has now started providing pension, food, health and other facilities to these women, besides giving them vocational training and employment.