Ever since her husband had deserted her, right in the first few days of their marriage, probably for another woman, Vinodini had not trusted another man. She would roar in disgust anytime a man came anywhere in her vicinity. It was like she had an allergy for them - those hairy creatures that stank of lust.
She saw men as dragons breathing the fire of lust.
As a result of her hatred towards men, Vinodini ended up becoming a part apart. She could not venture out into the market where men would brush past her every moment, could not visit her relatives as there wasn't a house in her village without men, and could not even join those of the gossiping housewives - because they mostly talked about their men.
The village saw her hatred for men as overindulgence, dismissed her as a cantankerous outcast and banished her from their social circles. Thankfully they did not go so far as to brand her a witch.
Vinodini liked her peace and solitude. She lived, happily, in that shanty on the edge of town surviving on the berries she gathered in the forest and with a little income that she earned by selling handmade incense sticks to women in her area. She slept hungry most of the nights, but still did not complain as it was easier to tolerate the pangs of her own hunger than being forced to satisfy the hunger of male flesh.
On some nights she would wake up with a scare when she heard swishing and rustling outside the door. "What if its one of those drunk men?" She knew that sane men avoided her vicinity due to fear of her loud temper and shame for her unkempt looks. But the drunks could never be trusted. There was a liquor shop on the hillock and drunk men hovered around in the evenings, ogling at the women of the village. They would ogle at Vinodini too. She always made it a point to get indoor by afternoon and locked herself up till midnight. And then an hour before dawn, she would venture out in the dark to relieve herself and wash up. That was the best she could do to stay out of the radar of male lust.
For the villagers, Vinodini never really existed. She was like a tree - or more appropriately some weed - that grew in the forest. She did not bother them, and they did not care about her.
Until one day, some villagers caught a strange smell emanating from a pit in the forest. When they investigated, they found Vinodini's body lying in a pool of blood. She had been killed, right in the spot where she daily went in the dark to relieve herself. The police came and asked if anybody wanted to investigate the cause of her death. None intervened. After a brief silence, they dumped some mud and leaves in the pit and left Vinodini to rot in her own shit...
Many centuries ago a great saint from India, called Shankara, had logically proved that human soul is in a cycle of birth and death. It is unjust, he had said, that humans are born unequal. So if there has to be justice, then all have to get the same birth at some point, thus there has to be rebirth. It had probably missed Shankara's eye that, just like in birth, there can be great injustice in death too.
In memory of Vinodini, who passed away few days back. They found her body nearly four days after she had been killed. The body was gagged, with its hands and legs tied, and had badly decomposed. In a society that gagged Vinodini's spirit and tied down its flight, it is possible that her soul had decomposed much earlier.