EXISTED

Ding! Dong! “Dia, open the door!” her mother screamed from the kitchen, but she won’t open the door. Dia says that she fears opening the door and she will never do it. In fact, she wouldn’t even step outside the house.

“Ever since we moved back to Hyderabad, I haven’t seen Dia smile even once. She would just sit in a corner and start humming the rhymes that I taught her when she was 4. She would never talk to anybody except me; not even to her dad,” Monica Verma, my new neighbor started telling me about her 7-year-old daughter, when her family moved into our next flat, just a couple of months ago. Monica missed those days when Dia waited for it to rain in Bangalore and she missed how they loved getting drenched in those summer rains. Ding! Dong! This time, Monica had to go and open the door because Dia was still reluctant to do it for her. “How long does it take for you to open the door? This is why I ask you to take the phone with you inside the bathroom but you won’t listen to me,” Arjun said, as he sat on the sofa, taking his shoes off. “I was in the kitchen making dinner. I asked Dia to open the door but she won’t,” Monica said, “And don’t go to the balcony because I don’t want you scare Dia.” Arjun didn’t seem like he actually heard what she said. That’s the thing with him, he did the same thing every time Monica spoke about Dia. “He would never even make eye contact when I take her name. I guess, his eyes turn wet then. The gap that grew between them overtime makes me sad too. But I just cannot figure what to do about them,” Monica would tell me the same thing every day and I would still listen to her because letting things out might help her. Although I had never talked to him, I knew that Arjun was a very sad person and that he barely talked to anyone in the community. But his wife continued to be a good friend of mine.

It was at around 10pm that I heard something very heavy being dropped on the corridor floor. When I opened the door to check what it was, I noticed a carton box full of books lying next to the garbage bag. Those books belonged to the Vermas. There was a diary on the top of those books and my curiosity pushed me to check it out. Although a part of me said that it was a very bad idea, I couldn’t stop myself from taking look at it because, another part of me has always wanted to know what happened to Monica’s family, why the father and daughter never confronted each other, despite living inside the same house. Hence, I sneaked the diary inside before someone thought I was stealing books. As I went through it, I realized that it was not a diary but a journal. It was the journal that Monica had maintained since the day Dia was born. It had almost every single photo of Dia’s- her first day, her first bath, her first dress, her first day of school and so on. It was the first time I saw Dia’s face because the Vermas never hung any photo on the wall, not in their living room at least. I found Dia very cute; she looked like the kid described in the nursery rhyme “Chubby Cheeks.” It was only after a few pages later that I found this thing that horrified me to the greatest possible extent. It was the photo of a little kid lying in the hospital bed. The kid’s body was full of bandages and some weird pipes passing through the body. It was DIA. Of course, the entire journal was about her! But what happened to her? Did she die? If she is dead, who drew those kiddy sketches on the walls in their house? She can’t be dead. But that’s the last photo.

I couldn’t wait to meet Monica and talk to her about the photo but it was 1am already. Hence, I had to wait till morning. I didn’t know when I fell asleep and by the time I woke up, it was 9 in the morning. I quickly finished my routine and went to her flat with the journal in my hand. That was probably the last time I had ever visited their flat.  Ding! Dong! Monica opened the door and she seemed very happy. She dragged me inside to show me something. It was a red colour hand print on the wall. “Look what Dia did! She started playing with paints,” her eyes gleamed as she spoke. It certainly did not look like the hand of a 7-year-old. But I did realize something else… it was the red paint on Monica’s hand.

Now I know why Arjun is a sad man. Now I know why they’ve never had any photo of Diya’s hung on their wall. Now I know who drew those kiddy sketches on their wall.

That was the last time I had ever visited Monica.

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