She lived by herself in a small hut at the edge of the forest. The hut - surrounded by fences encircled a small area which she referred to as her garden as well her ‘farm’ – was constructed about five years back with the help of one of her brothers who had come down from an adjacent village where he lived with his family, to put together the house for her. He never charged her anything for it; at least that’s what he maintained. But she was after all his own little sister, she had ‘forced upon him’, as a token of her gratitude, some of her ‘special’ crops which she grew in the farthest corner of her farm, far removed from the other vegetable and flower plants. These special herbs grew quietly and rather unobtrusively at a lonely, ignored corner of the garden and were left in neglect on purpose. She knew he loved to roll them up in a paper and smoke them. It made him act funnily.
At a certain distance from where her hut was, on the banks of the fresh-water stream there lived a settlement. These people had come down the great road in the forest a few years before in caravans and in long lines carrying their belongings and children. Later, she had learnt from some of them, that they had once been citizens of a country far away and were banished from their motherland for having belonged to a lower caste.
What a strange reason for getting rid of so many people from their lands and uprooting them from their livelihoods, she had thought, but, there were a great many wrongs being done in the world that she had heard of from messengers, random passersby and travelers, and she dismissed this as merely one of them and got on with her life.
These people, a melee of about two hundred odd, men, women, children and old folk were the peaceful sort. They had established small trades and occupations at the banks of the stream and set up small vegetable and fish farms for a livelihood. Some of them became carpenters and some, lumberjacks, who would spend a great deal of time in the forests and return with logs of wood around afternoon. The wives, astonishingly, were the quiet types, fights were seldom and crimes rare. Brought together by an odd and tragic twist of fate, these folks lived in rather friendly terms with each other and often regarded each other in familial and friendly terms, as co-sufferers usually do.
Some of these people would at times come over and pay her a visit. A lot of them liked her cooking and didn’t mind bartering their services in exchange of her delicious beef stew. She, in turn, looked forward to the company. The little visits by these gentle people not only took care of a lot of her chores and repair work around the house but also earned her some money. But most of all, she looked forward to their company, to the hours of friendly banter, the loud singing and the banging of mugs of ale on her wooden table.