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The Girl Next Door
The Girl Next Door

© Sayantan Das


4 Minutes   447    68

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You don’t know me. I am Ashwin Ghosh, another nerdy guy who has barely touched his twenties. I live very near to you. Take a right turn from the park, walk a mile and you’ll find my house. You’d have to take those dusty isolated lanes. I am talking about those lanes that witnessed the horror? What horror? Yes, yes, the human mind is so ignorant. Nobody cares unless they themselves are the victim.

12th September 2017. Just another sunny afternoon for most households in the street. Just another sunny afternoon for Ruby, the girl who lives two houses right to mine. She was going to her friend’s house and in broad daylight, two miscreants threw acid on her face. They ran away leaving the girl crying out in pain. People helped her. They took her to the hospital. I remember coming home to hear that the girl from the neighbourhood was attacked. Like every other person who reads such news in the newspaper and speaks loudly how he condemns such injustice but does absolutely nothing to help the victims, I too paid no attention to it. After all, I wasn’t the one attacked!

The summer heat gave way to the frosty bites of winter and eventually came the time for the leaves to fall off. One fine evening, I was walking through the lane, aimlessly. The cold hadn’t departed altogether. I saw Ruby standing in the balcony. She had been nursed back to health, but obviously, her face bore the impression of the acid clearly enough. And the warmth that usually ornaments a person’s visage was not there. She was expressionless. No…no, not because of the unfortunate wrinkles that fate had gifted her. Her fixed gaze was a mirror to her hollow soul. I don’t know what clicked in me but I decided to go and talk to her.

The Bollywood song that played when I rang the doorbell seemed funny. I could’ve chuckled, if not her blank stare had pierced my heart. Her mother opened the door and greeted me inside. She was happy to know that I was there to meet Ruby. It killed me to know that all her friends had abandoned her after the incident and I was the first person who came to meet her in months. We weren’t exactly what you call friends but we knew each other, by names.

She was still staring blankly when her mother escorted me to her room. She gave a faint smile to my greetings. Even her smile lacked the fervour that smiles usually convey. It was more of a forced and customary kind of a smile. Couldn’t blame her either. She was fighting her own battle, all alone with no one by her side. We talked about a lot of things that day. And for the first time, I felt a friendship being born that isn’t materialistic.

We began talking regularly and I started to somewhat understand the pain she was in. It wasn’t just her face that they had destroyed, it was her soul that they had burnt. It was her zeal that they had smothered. It was her will to live that they had murdered. Their heinous act did more damage than what was seen on the surface. She was then just flesh and muscles glued to the bones, breathing only because her death would hurt the ones she cared about.

In the course of time, I discovered someone who was good at heart. Someone who placed other’s happiness before her own. I found someone who saw through you, deep into your soul, unlike most of this generation who value shallow friendships. Someone who despite being broken inside didn’t let others know because she abhorred pity. I found a warrior struck down by the strongest blow and yet she rose knowing that she had to fight, if not for herself for people who loved her. She was a knight with the sword of truth in her hand, ready to be wielded. The world, unfortunately, isn’t the fairest of all places. Here seldom wins the strongest, the cunning takes the prize. Despite several attempts, the miscreants couldn’t be punished. They remained free, maybe with a tinge of guilt in their hearts, or maybe, without even that.

She is still empty inside. Her smile is still lifeless, but now, it is infused with a subtle serenity. Like she has made peace with herself. She no longer punishes herself for what’s not her fault. She is most imperfectly perfect.

Life, you know, is an unpredictable yearn of happiness cuddled with emptiness. It’s also thunderstorm amidst the calm. I would never know why those men threw acid on her face but I know that we need to stop just reading the news or sharing them online. We need to raise our voice. We need to stand by these victims if a beautiful world is what we want.

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