District Magistrate in Bihar intervenes, eats food cooked by a widow
In rural India being a widow can be a reason for ostracisation. Widows in many Indian communities are not allowed to mingle with married women, they’re not allowed to participate in community functions and celebrations and in extreme cases, their heads are tonsured and they can only wear a white sari — but this happens in only extreme cases. Normally, they are simply expected to live a secluded life.
In the district of Gopal Ganj, Patna (capital of Bihar) a widow named Sunita is employed in a government school. She cooks mid-day meal along with 6 other cooks for more than 700 kids. One day, the people of her village decided that being a widow, she shouldn’t be allowed to cook in the school for the kids. She can be a bad omen, they decided. Initially they complained to the school authorities but when the school authorities didn’t take them seriously, the crowd of 150-odd people gathered in front of the school, forced everybody from the school out and locked the school. They also warned that if the widow was allowed to work in the school, the school authorities would have to face dire consequences.
Instead of quietly reconciling to her fate, Sunita took a brave step and complained to the District Magistrate of the area, Rahul Kumar (@rahulias6). Normally in India we don’t have a good view of the bureaucrats, especially DMs who can be really corrupt. My wife Alka (@alka_d) often says that a DM of a district is just like the PM of the country — he or she can wield immense power and completely transform the area under him or her. Fortunately for Sunita, Rahul Kumar turned out to be exactly the sort of District Magistrate a district needs.
Upon getting the complaint, he promptly visited the school, restored the law and order situation, and got her reinstated. He didn’t just stop at that. He decided to walk the talk. He ate the mid-day meal cooked by Sunita along with the kids. In a caste-ridden society, this was a very courageous step to take. By eating food cooked by the widow the DM was able to convince the villagers that if she is not a bad omen for him, she can also not be the bad omen for the rest of the villagers. India needs many more district magistrates like Rahul Kumar.