Included in the UGC-CARE list (Group B Sr. No 172)
Short Story
Lost Names
Daxa B Sanghavi

Three women holding bags to buy vegetables are standing before a lorry at a vegetable market. As their eyes met, all the three together in rapture spoke: O you here? How’s it possible? Their voices overlap, then they merge in the air, and then forms into a golden smoke. The smoke then curls around them. These women inside the smoke knew not now the market crowd, aroma of fresh coriander leaves, and droplets over the cabbages. Once again the eyes of these three women met and in rapture spoke: O you here? How’s it possible? How many years passed by? You…? Your name…? I think you are… Couldn’t recognise me? Me… eh… What’s my name? My name? Say, what are our names…?

Second Woman: I think we have lost our names. It may be possible we don’t have our names at all.

Third Woman: No, no, can it be possible? All have got names so we must have, no?

First Woman: Yeah, we have. Damayanti, Reena, Deepa or something like that. But they call us that way. People refer us that way. Bet how can we say that a particular one is our own? We must have our own name. If not it’s death.

Second Woman: Let’s go to find out our names. We must. Find our names. Name lost self lost.

All the three women: (together) Yes, it’s right. We must find our names. Definitely we must.

First Woman: But where shall we? As smoke curls disappear into air, so are our names.

Second Woman: Whatever it may be, but we must find our names. How it’s insulting! A girl’s having her name and yet it’s no more!

Third Woman: But are we girls? We are women.

Second Woman: But they were girls who lost names.

First Woman: Yeah, they were the girls. With pebbles they played, water they fetched, took bicycles for school, and laughed on every trifle, and shook playful eyes. Names lost and with them lost all such things.

Second Woman: How terrible? Can it be granted? Come what may, we must find our names.

Third Woman: Yes, we must. Come on now. Let’s find. If we try, we find God too and here we have our names only. Won’t we find our names? Hey come on now, let’s go.

After the ‘Test’ as Mother Sita prayed to the Mother Earth and she split and gave way to her, the smoke ball right from the middle split into two and they began to walk through high smoke walls. Beyond these smoke walls may there be forests, trees, nests on the trees, eggs in nests, and birds hatching those eggs but these three women were quite unaware of those things. May there also be sun and shine and rain but nothing touches to them. Light or darkness of that world loses its strength at these walls and hence can’t enter. The world within the smoke ball is theirs. On a smoke wall something’s written – what’s your name? But as they read it these women run restlessly as if to escape from it. The smoke bedims their eyes. Even though ribbon pieces, colourful bangle pieces, some folded letter pieces, couplet written letters swim before their eyes but their names not seen.

There, where the smoke road ends, at the far end, is a village or something like a village. These three are running breathlessly. Rather than curiosity, doubt sits on their faces: will they get names? Who to ask? There’s no one’s to remove the doubt. O there’s woman at the drinking water place. But she’s a woman of mood. If we ask she’s damn sure to be irritated. She’d say, ‘O foolish women, seeking names? You too get lost with your names. Your troubles over.’ But that way leaving the efforts means death. And even if we die, the matter’s about the names. Anybody would ask ‘who died?’ What answer be there? How strange without a name to say ‘this’ or ‘that’ died! Does anyone prefer one’s name be swept away with smoke? As you put finger on a paper and show someone it should be read easily. A name like that. If a woman’s name’s lost it means her womanhood lost. It’s like flowing river. If you take away its flowing nothing left behind.’

The village was near now. These three women were impatient to find their names. The smoke of the smoke walls made them more impatient. They sat down as they arrived at a bridge on a small river. This bridge, this river, and this village still bear the same names. Unchanged ones. What to do now? If a golden nose ring’s lost, we can strain sand and find out it but here’s a name. A name that one can have.

Third Woman: Let’s do this. We go to the blind old man who sits at the Ramji Mandir.

Second Woman: Eh, Don’t show such a stupidity. If you go there his stick would fall on your back. Will break down all bones.

First Woman: Eh, as you referred ‘stupidity’ I am reminded ‘that’ lanky typist. He’d slid a golden ring into your finger in the garden. Remember it?

Second Woman: Me too was a foolish. Accepted it. Didn’t think that parents would ask. And when I went home mother asked about it. Immediately I said I found on way.

First Woman: But he turned out a bastard. Didn’t say anything. Went to Surat and got engaged. And then came to take it back. What a bloody bastard!

Second Woman: I became so furious that I removed the ring, crushed it with my teeth and threw in his face.

Third Woman: And after this, our stupid woman began to sing mournful songs. ‘False was the love lure… Wept over it… O o broke down sweet dreams…

The love story brought laughter. They laughed a lot. Like crazy ones. But one who laughs like this isn’t serious. He avoids attention and hence careless to a work. When one has lost a name and laughs like a mad, is it proper? Does it suit? Oh, this finding out name’s not very easy! Well, then we should ask someone? But who to ask? No one here.

Second Woman: O there’s one. That Panwala. Your ‘man’ of beetle nut shop-keeper. Let’s ask him.

Third Woman: Yeah, that’s right. No sooner he sees you he’ll prepare a sweet beetle leaf. A Kolkatti leaf.

Second Woman: Still drawing your image on the leaves while preparing and praying to the God. May still be lamenting!

First Woman: Here we have lost names and you are cracking jokes? Leave such things aside and think of finding names.

Third Woman: O dear one, tell us what parting gift had he given to you secretly?

First Woman: Oye, a Kokatti leaf. What else you expect? And me love-bitten, kept its sweet fragrance in my mouth full night.

Second Woman: O silly one. Tell us if he turns out before you right now, will you like him? Don’t say a lie, mind well.

Second Woman: Oh no! What had he to win me? His trouser with catechu spots disguised me. When he painted eyes with collyrium he looked like a joker. Only needed a trumpet to blow his buffs.

They laughed candidly. Such laughter came after so many years. But the problem of finding the names stood there unsolved. Smoke too remained. Confusion is growing.

Second Woman: Do you remember that Madrasi taxi driver who had a taxi with names of Jesus and Rama written on it? Jesus was his and Rama was yours, no? I still remember his taxi number GJHYJ 1869. Suppose he meets you right now, will you…

Third Woman: I say would you spare that Dark man? Looked scary at night. Only his teeth could be seen.

First Woman: But then you were mad after him.

Third Woman: Had we any sense at that time? The village had none to speak Hindi but he did. Not proper but spoke. Hence he became my hero. Wished to listen to him forever.

First Woman: And now?

Third Woman: Now who’s free for such a prattling?

Second Woman: These are all trifling. Do something to find our names.

Third Woman: There’s a way. Let’s go to our school. The record book will have them.

Far in the distance…. Trees in the school ground are seen. As they saw them, wings grew on them and flew speedily. Reached to the school. As they sat near the bicycle parking slot, so suddenly, yes so suddenly something strange began to happen at the smoke walls. In their dark grey colour many new colours started mixing. From all sides came hilarious cries, ringing bicycle bells, sharp laughter noise of some naughty girl. These sounds bearing lights penetrated colourful smoke curls and went up in the sky.

These three women watch this play of smoke and sounds. The problem of finding out their names is forgotten. And then comes, a peon of the school. He rings the bell and with that a crowd of girls all having their names (Can any crowd have a name?) rushes outside. But then all the colours begin to disappear and those smoke walls too disappear. These three women are startled.

Second Woman: O my God! How late I got! It’s time for my husband’s meal.

First Woman: Oh me! My son must have reached. The auto taking him comes this time.

Third Woman: Ohho. But you look here. The market misses good vegetables though its winter. For picking up nice lady fingers, how much time did I take? And our servant’s on leave.

The women who walked on the road between those two smoke walls to find out their names have themselves been lost now. Perhaps that road is too lost now. The women having their names as Damayanti, Reena, Deepa or like now are in a hurry to be lost on three different roads. No doubt they got late. Had to hurry up. They may not meet again. Such space they won’t get again. But a possibility cannot be ruled out of meeting once again. It is necessary to meet again before they forget the problem of their lost names. But is it possible to meet beyond the force of gravitational force of a planet called home? Suppose, even though this happens, will they be able to get their lost names?

Harish Mahuvakar, ‘Ame’, 3/A, 1929, Near Nandalay Haveli, Sardarnagar, Bhavnagar 364 002 Gujarat India.Cell: +91 9426 2235 22 Email: