In 1987, Roopkuvarba Kanwar, a Rajput woman was celebrated by a huge number of people in her community for committing Sati at Deorala village of Sikar district in Rajasthan. She was just 18 and had been married for just eight months to one Maal Singh Shekhawat. Thousands of people watched her immolation into a heap of ashes and did nothing. In life, she was disposable and in death, Roop Kanwar was hailed as a Sati mata. It was never established clearly if the act of immolation in the pyre of her husband was voluntary or forced because really, who cares whether a woman wants to live or to die. What is important is that she aligns herself to something greater than her cheap, useless existence.
Be it tradition that deems a woman dying in a funeral pyre to be more honourable and more valuable than one alive on her own terms. Or religion that celebrates her for fasting for her husband, or starving herself to death over a span of 68 days in the name of her faith. Unaligned and unattached, she is nothing. Nothing brought this fact home more clearly this month than the fate of two women. One traditional. The other independent. Both are dead now and yet note how their deaths were reported and received. 13-year-old Aradhana was hailed by many members of her community as a saadhvi after she died of starvation caused by religious fasting. The press used a picture of hers where she was indeed dressed like a benign goddess. On the other hand, the murder of Monica Ghurde, a 39-year-old perfumer in Goa was reported with salacious headlines focusing on the state her body was found in because somehow that information was of key importance. That and the fact that she lived alone and was divorced.