The Girl Who Died Next Door - 3

Emotions are what make us human and inherently irrational and of all the myriad emotions we are capable of experiencing, the most illogical of all is happiness. Happiness is the sneakiest phenomenon I know of. The next time you find yourself feeling bubbly for no reason – make an attempt to pinpoint the exact moment when the feeling descended on you. I guarantee you that you will have no success. That’s just how happiness is. The end of it is as noticeable as a woman in a throng of men but the beginning? That’s a mystery as old as the origin of time. And so on that day after I told Shayan the story of Suvarna Ganguly, I found myself walking with a spring in my step and smiling so often I woke up to the fact only when I glanced in the mirror. Yes, it was a Sunday. But I’ve known so many Sundays when I woke up groggy and frustrated at 12 in the afternoon, already depressed at the fact that the weekend was coming to a close and I still had a long list of chores to complete. But this Sunday, I was done with my chores before I knew it and curled up on my verandah with a huge mug of coffee and utter contentment in my heart, I couldn’t for the life of me understand why I had ever felt otherwise! I glanced to my right and I saw him. Shayan. He stood silent and morose, his hair blowing in the light breeze. For some reason, my heart clenched. And simultaneously, that feeling of contentment dropped away from me like a cloak that didn’t quite fit perfectly.

“Shayan?” I called and watched him turn to my side. He attempted a smile but I could literally see the thousand other thoughts in his head flutter around him like ungainly companions. “Hey,” he said. He seemed to consider something and I thought I saw one of his thoughts reach out for me with menacing claws. “I just drew a portrait. You want to come and see?” he asked finally. I recalled how he wouldn’t draw mine and I didn’t want to. But I nodded, smiled and rose from my chair. I pulled on a shirt over my tank top and track pants and padded over to Shayan’s place, still in my indoor chappals. His door was wide open and the curtains in the hall shook lightly in the breeze. For an instant, the world froze. The colours were sucked out of the scene and in stark black and white, I recalled the day when I found out Suvarna was dead. The Ganguly’s door was wide open just like today when I returned from work one Wednesday night. I couldn’t hear a single sound from inside the house and my first thought was – burglars! I dialled the cops and then arming myself with a Durga statuette from the Ganguly’s mantelpiece, I tiptoed inside the house, my whole body prickling with unease. What if the burglars were still there? But what if they had left the Gangulys to die and I could save them if I found them right away? The thought emboldened me and I pushed open Suvarna’s bedroom door. The unworldly sight that met me is so deeply etched in my mind that I may even remember it in my next life. There stood Mr. and Mrs. Ganguly, absolutely still, reminding me of the statuette that hung limp from my arm. And in front of them Suvarna Ganguly dangled like a rag doll, her head nearly distended from her body as the rope around her neck seemed inclined to hang on, even when the last breath had left her being. I understood the true meaning of the word ‘shock’ then. I never knew when the Durga left my hand and fell to the ground, enlivening the air and our three frozen forms with its stupendous thud. The Gangulys turned and in their haunted eyes I saw disbelief, denial and horror. And then Mrs. Ganguly let out a heart-rending sob and the spell was broken.

***

The clean, vacant flat reminded me of the dozens of sample flats I’d seen when I was new in the city. “Not unpacked yet?” I asked Shayan as he led the way to his ‘drawing studio’. I tried imagining what the rooms would look like when Shayan had settled in completely. Purple walls, I thought for some reason. Set off by a mix of coffee and cream coloured furniture - heady yet calm and collected. “Well here we are,” Shayan said and the vision vanished. What replaced it was the bare remains of Suvarna’s room – the only decoration a hastily done portrait of her standing on an easel next to the large French windows. I simply stared at those huge, defenceless eyes and that long messy hair. “Is it that good?” Shayan asked teasingly, though it didn’t come out quite right because I could tell he was nervous. “She looks older,” I murmured. “This is what she’d look like at my age,” it struck me. “What? I don’t understand,” Shayan said, sounding confused. I snapped out of my daze and for the second time in my life, I confronted shock.

--To be continued—