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The silence in the room

The doorbell rang again breaking the flat silence of the room. In the silence that prevailed inside, even this simple clang of doorbell sounded like a thousand cutlery falling at once. But only for a moment. Nothing happened after that. No sound of footsteps approaching the door. Silence rushed in like water. It was the third time that the bell had rung. It didn’t ring again.

Behind the door the room was dark. Only a solitary shaft of evening light filtering into the room through the space between the worn-out curtains of the window. It fell at an angle on the floor, illuminating the cheap marble. The rest of the things in the room — the shabby sofa, the broken table, the faded walls — remained hidden behind the veil of the darkness.

As the evening progressed, the shaft of the light became more and more oblique, moving away from the window. Like a white boat in a dark sea, it glided across the floor. Then climbed up the table. Crossed the length of the chipped table top and then reappeared on the floor on the other side.

There it revealed something different than the others, something that wasn’t old or worn-out. Something that stood in stark contrast to the everything ordinary. Something that was not only ‘not ordinary,’ but in fact fact very beautiful. It was a foot of a young girl.

The patch traveled further to reveal a leg, the skin smooth as porcelain. It was covered from the knee above by a green dress. It looked beautiful.

But in that house of cheap marble and worn out furniture, the green dress existence seemed rather improbable. The dress lay on the body with the grace of clouds resting on a mountain. There was no crease on that dress. It’s fold and seam perfect as if sewn by the Goddess Athena herself.

Very rarely it happens that an ornament is ornamented by the wearer. It is the wearer that renders the sparkle to that thing that is worn. And here lies the irony. For no one realizes this fact — for there is no way to confirm it. But here if one looked closely, for it was an extraordinary such case, one could see it’s definitely the aura of wearer that had ordained such beauty to that dress.

The dress was, in fact, old and cheap and not beautiful at all. This became clear as a gust of wind parted the curtains and allowed the evening light to illuminate the girl and that dress. That beautiful face, that slender body had turned the ordinary dress in a work of art. But the light also revealed something else, that the girl was sitting awkwardly. In a grave manner.

She was sitting hunched in the corner. Her head thrown back, arms lying still beside her. The dark luscious hair flowed down the shoulder like waves of the Ganges down a hill. Her eyes were puffy and cheek stained. She had been crying for hours.

If one looked at her like this at this moment one would have easily assumed for her to be dead. For nothing could explain the reason for her to be sitting like that. Everything about her screamed life. The radiant face that glowed like the morning sun. The full lips that were poised to break into a smile like a daisy. Her lithe body that was sculpted to dance.

No, it was a sin for the owner of such features to lay still. It was impossible. So the only plausible reason for her to be in this situation was that she must be dead.

But she wasn’t.

For there was, still, a faint movement that confirmed the sign of life in her. The rising and falling of her body, that harmonized with her breath, with the beat of her heart. So technically, she was alive, breathing and all.

But breathing is not living. It can be a sign of life, but not the sign of ‘living.’ There is a difference. “Living” is being free from the pains of the past, unwary of the cruelty of the coming future. “Living” is being in present, in now, and making the best of that moment. In those moments, Rhea, as she had been known for twenty-three years of her life, was alive. But not living.

She had been happy all her life. Given the limits of nature, nurture also plays a role in the growth of our features. And doesn’t matter how much beauty one is blessed with on account of their genes, without a nurture of unbridled happiness you can’t get that real beauty that makes onlookers heart jump with bated breath. She had that beauty.

But even the sun sets, the mightiest of trees fall and so the happiness that she once felt eternal, had faded away.

Sadness is very much like water. It finds its way to the hearts that are sunk to the bottom, tethered to the demons of the past, and attached to the ghouls of the future. And unless fought back hard, pushed out with a force, they stay there, making home in the darkened souls of those people. She was buried under the sadness. And she had stopped trying to fight it a long time back.

When Rhea finally got up it was pitch dark outside. She walked towards the balcony and stepped outside into the balcony. A cool breeze was flowing. Se closed her eyes and let the breeze caress her face. She had stopped feeling a long time back. But she still did things out of habit. She looked up and saw a half eaten moon hanging low in the night sky. The hint of lemon in the air.

“Ahh,” a faint whisper escaped her mouth.

All these things used to raise her spirits once. Nature and the poetry it inspired. The sun spreading summer colors in the evening sky. The distant chirp of the bird, the innocuous laugh of the child.

But the only thing she felt on seeing the moon was a vacant feeling — of a void inside her in place of a feeling that she once used to have. Like a maimed person still feels the sensation of his ghost hand, her ability to feel had vanished but the longing to feel, its sensation, was still there.

She looked down and wondered would she feel anything if she dropped on the ground from this height? Would the impact break, along with her bones, the hardened void that had stopped her from feeling anything else? Would it penetrate her heart, her soul, and as she falls fill a fear strong enough to make her feel again, even though that feeling would be her last feeling, of fear?

The thoughts were tempting. It could end everything. The past and the present. Immediately transfer her to some another world. The soul can’t be destroyed, she believed that, so would she have a life again, in a different form, but in a better world?

Then as if in a trance she climbed up the parapet and stood barely able to balance her. She looked down. In the greyish darkness of the evening, the people and the road and few cars appeared to be part of some old forgotten memory. She’ll also become a memory, she thought.

Spurred by a divine voice, she closed her eyes and leaned forward and let herself fall down. Let the air rush against her, let the gravity clasp her fingers around her body and pull her down and down towards the hard ground. The last thought that she had was not of fear but of regret that had she got even one sign, one reason, she would have lived.

She would have struggled and fought back and lived.

Only if she had one reason.

The next day when the dawn broke and the sky lightened up, a wary looking man got out of his flat and picked up a newspaper. As he entered his room and heard the sound of the door closing behind him his eyes caught a small item of news at the bottom of the newspaper.

A girl survives after falling from the eleventh floor.

“This is a sign,” he said as he resolved to fight his battles.

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Nitin Dangwal

Nitin Dangwal


Writing stories, poems and a little bit of everything about life