April 10th at 10 AM PT/ 7 PM CET

Getting older East and west with Winnie Singh


So far in our series we were talking about life in our Western countries, how we live getting older, how older people are seen and treated in society and what we best can do to live better when getting older. We think that what we live is “normal” and we feel righteous to complain about the many missing things and about ageism as negative attitude towards ourselves and our fellow human beings.

But shouldn’t we be happy instead to live in a society which already works relatively well. Nobody here really has to beg for their daily food and sleep on the streets with all the social programs in place. This support sometimes seems to be even too much in the sense of putting people in a state of inertia where they don’t feel the need to get up and do something useful which can bring meaning to life.

Well, there are plenty countries who do not have social services like the ours and where the attitude towards older people and especially older women is incredibly inhuman and what we would think was reality in medieval times. We know India as the country of spiritual wisdom and enlightenment, we have a romanticised vision of its beauty, but reality is quite different from what we would have believed to be possible. 100 years ago a widow was burnt with her dead husband. Thanks God, that is not anymore the case. But if we Western women believe that we are victims of patriarchy – well: listen to what Winnie Singh can tell you about her work with widows in India. You will be very surprised!


Getting older East and West with Winnie Singh

00:00 Mechanics and introductions

03:00 What is Maitri (loving kindness)? It’s basis in culture

04:12 How she got interested in working for women?

05:20 Women see domestic violence lust a normal aspect of life,both from husbands and, as widows, by their own family. A complete loss of status! Details

08:30 Holy villages for widows, even young widows

10:55 It still happens in West Bengal. It’s all about wealth and property

13:20 Modern nuclear families no longer observe rules for older style joint families

14:00 Gov’t pensions of about 50 cents a month!

18:00 It took about 2 years to put together a plan to help these women, who have never revisited home or children, for fear of abuse.

20:32 Mark asks if the legal system would support these women, if they could access it

22:00 Their support nows lies within their own communities. And they are happy!

24:00 Legal support is available but few would like to, for example, regain possession of their homes. Many don’t even want their children to know when they die!

26:00 If a parent has some money, their children are much more tolerant of them. But if not….heidi asks why such a contrast between religious traditions of loving and caring and the current reality. Winnie tries to explains the cultural gaps between generations.

31:00 What happens to a husband when the wife dies? He gets married again!

34:00 Earphonicus interruptus! Similarities in western culture a generation or two ago

38:00 Need for new culture both east and west.  Emotionally draining work!

40:00 Great deference they show Winnie and other visitors.  Hungry for physical contact

42:20 Some acceptance shown now by local community! Little examples and some impediments

45:12 Do these women support each other? Some! Caste system impediment with the community. How Winnie handled that

48:33 what kind of staff do you have? NO gov’t funding yet….but perhaps soon. All private funding and crown sourcing. Send us a link!

52:00 Importance of visitors and photographers.  Mark asks about political support for parties or individuals.  Unfortunately…not.
54:47 Heidi’s last question to Winnie, “What made you so strong.” Winnie say that they did!  She listens to them!

56:50 Mark notes that her husband, a retired 3 star Army General seems to have been very supportive of what’s Winnie has been doing.  She confirms the importance of his support from the very beginning
57:45 Final remarks, desire to do another show, thank you’s and good bye’s



About a year ago, we noticed a new contributor to our website, a New Delhi woman named Winnie Singh who frequently posted bright and pithy comments about ageing – and also used humor to catch our attention. We looked forward to her postings but were a bit in the dark about her as her accompanying photo was in poor resolution and quite small. All we could make out was an erect figure with white hair outside in some attractive natural setting.
We assumed she was rather old from that “misleading” information and, as she was so articulate, we eventually asked her if she’d be interested in joining us for an interview/conversation, focusing on – since she was our only “Eastern” poster – contrasting views on ageing East and West. Finally she consented.

Then as we started “researching” this interesting quest, we were surprised that, however white haired she might be, she was not “old” by the “conventional” measurements we were in the habit of using in our discussions on our Facebook group page(By the way, ask to join us in this lively group!)

We found she was a highly active woman with a history of, among other things, working hard to improve the lot of Indian widows, who found themselves often in desperate straits with no social safety net in place. She was also a vocal spokesperson for women’s rights in general, using her skills and her social status to broadcast information and encouragement to both women and men who sorely needed her progressive positions.
An unusual woman using her particular talents and abilities, she is the founder of Maitri, a benevolent organization helping thousands at Maitri .  We obviously got much more in this woman than we had expected!


Winnie graduated in Psychology and Philosophy from Miranda House, Delhi University. Presently she is a PhD scholar in Public Health at Jodhpur National University. Winnie Singh is a committed social worker, with over two decades of experience at national and grassroots level in public healthcare, with special emphasis in the area of health, elderly and gender equity. Her lifelong interest in humanitarian relief, dynamic nature and action has been the driving force for a lot of new social programs in Northeast India, Domestic Violence, Widows of Vrindavan and in the slums of Delhi. Winnie founded Maitri – a non profit organization committed to Poverty Alleviation, Education and Health.

She has been instrumental in making a difference to the lives of many victims of Domestic Violence by empowering them with life skills and education. She is an advocate for respect and dignity for the widow mothers in Vrindavan and through Maitri have adopted 304 widow mothers, who are provided with a nutritious mid day meal 365 days in a year along with facilitation of health facilities.

Winnie is the Honorary Ambassador for Helpage India. She serves as a Governing Board member of Aashirwad, a non profit organization committed to serving the needs of Senior Citizens and an old age home.

She is married to Lt. Gen Bhopinder Singh PVSM, AVSM, VSM, who supports her in her initiatives.


MAITRI Winnie’s Association



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