Reena’s life was beautiful but then the 1971 horror happened…
When you least expect it, life throws you a curveball. And that is what happened with Gadchiroli’s (a district in Maharashtra) Reena Gupta.
Reena was married at the age of 12 to a 20-year-old man who hailed from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Despite getting married at such a young age, life was all sunshine and rainbows for her, all the while until 1971.
The horrors of the 1971 Bangladesh Genocide turned hopes into despair for thousands and thousands who witnessed it, and one among them was Reena. The nine-month-long conflict saw military crackdown, ethnic violence, murders, rapes, and what not.
“People were being brutally slaughtered infront of our eyes. Houses were set on fire. Women were raped, killed and thrown into rivers. There were dead bodies lying around as far as the eyes could see. The horrific scenes made me believe that the world is a lie, and that humanity never existed. I was scarred emotionally.”
Reena and her husband finally escaped the disturbing environment when the then prime minister Indira Gandhi called back all the Indians living in the violence-hit region and provided them with assistance to start their life afresh.
Though the couple left the horror behind but it was all stuck in Reena’s head. She could not let go of the horrific sights she had come across. She had become like a living machine, losing the sense of reactions. Images of people being torched, butchered or raped would keep flashing infront of her eyes.
“I could not forget how the inhumane acts had blanketed our surrounding. It was like not for a moment my mind would rest. The scenes kept reeling infront of my eyes. The violence against women was especially what would keep me awake. The screams, the horror. It was all too much for me.”
In the course of time she gave birth to two children – a daughter and a son, with the hope that her and her husband’s life will get back on track. But that is not how easy life is.
Amid all the uneasiness and lack of peace and quiet in her head, Reena decided to visit the holy land of Vrindavan. It was some 15-years-ago from now that she first set foot into the place. And ever since, that is where she would be found.
“When I left for Vrindavan, I had my doubts whether anything ever be able to erase those scars from my memories. But I anyway proceeded with it. When I reached Vrindavan, its soothing aura, people and culture just captivated me. Roaming around a few days only I started feeling a sudden lightness in my mind and soul. And so I realised that this is what I needed, this is where I belong.”
So Reena decided to stay back. She explained her feelings to her husband and children and bid them adieu. Yes it was difficult separating from them, she says, but this is what she really needed. She wanted to get lost in the prayers of Lord Krishna and Radha Rani and attain inner peace.
“My husband died four years ago. It was a painful time for the family. But Vrindavan eased my pain like it did in the past as well. Vrindavan has played the role of a pain-reliever in my life again and again. This place has given me what I had given up on – peace.”
Reena says that while Vrindavan gave her peace, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak and his Sulabh International Social Service Organisation has given her a way to lead her life here with ease and comfort. She doesn’t have to worry about anything, all is taken care of by ‘Lal Baba’ (alias of Dr Pathak). She just sings bhajans in peace.
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