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What is Your Name

Short Story by Krishna Chaitanya Dharmana

I listened my English teacher say that a great author never starts a story straight away from the first paper used, but writes a line or two, dissatisfies for some reason, nods the head either side disappointedly, and crumples the paper and throws it to a corner crossly. My English teacher also added, "Indeed it happens to any author for the difficulty in whittling the first snippet of a tale." But I didn't understand all such a stuff--and only what I had comprehended was to tear the first page of my manuscript; if possible the second and the third pages also. So I did and rewrote.

I also learned from an old man that it takes a lot of time to carve the first few lines of a story though one have everything ready in mind. He added, "It may take some days, or weeks, or months." When I asked him that what's the reason, he said that the first snippet of an anecdote depict the method, genre, and worth of the intact manuscript. He added, "Once you finish the first paragraph of a manuscript, you can finish the remaining manuscript speedily." Again it's all a damn incomprehensible idea to my little brain for it took hardly fifteen minutes to finish the first paragraph of my manuscript. But only later I came to know that what that grey-haired man did mean, for when I finished the piece and send to a publishing agent, he said it was hilarious. I was puzzled what made him so hilarious. Because I wrote my memories pretty seriously, but it ended as a wit. A rage flared up in me, especially when he wrote in the mail, "Your life is full of comedy, which I observed right from the very first snippet."
Damn it! I cried to myself. And most importantly, I wanted to give myself a catchy penname, and would like to mention I was a grown up and wrote this piece many years later. But somehow the Editor-in-chief discovered I must be a little child of nine or ten. I wonder the publishers send a spy to the address of a selected author. I worried I must be dressed well and behave myself well-brought-up whenever I's out for the spy would think I's pretty decent person. That might score me something somehow. Whatsoever it puzzled me how they knew I's ten.

Not much to bother what I'd been named with, which you could find at the head of this book. And I'm sure you wouldn't make a mistake with a conviction. BRAMARAMBA--you read it and might've thought for a while as a queer, ugly, odd title. Inasmuch I felt so myself every morning when I woke up before the first photons stroke my windows, for been titled BRAMARAMBA. And the certainty I's talking about was who I must be. Didn't you think I's a little girl named BRAMARAMBA? Yes you did. So you were correct.
"Ah! what a ridiculous name!" exclaimed I to myself. And added turning to my friend, "I needn't have to have a separate nick name, dear."
"Why, dear?" puzzled little Sonika.
"For the reason that I have one by default."
I thought the biggest problem I had been facing was my old-fashioned countryside name. But I couldn't even guess what would be coming into my life.
I was the younger daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Naidu, while Miss Harshitha was my sister. I always cried for the bizarre name I had been named with while my sister was named with an elegant name. My father was working as a bank manager in a reputed bank while mom was working as a probationary officer in the same bank. We got a wonderful individual house surrounded by a magnificent garden, mesmerizing interior design inside the house, one car and four bikes in the parking.
"Why, ma?" cried I.
"Yes?" perplexed mom.
"Why, only me?"
"What, only you?" exclaimed she.
"For I's named with that odd, insipid name."
"What?" cried she.
"Why did you give me that name?"
"It's your granny's name."
"But Harshitha born before me. Why didn't you name her with it?"
"Because your granny said your dad to give her name to the youngest child we would get."
"What the nonsense!" cried I. "What if there was another sister after me?"
"We would have given her the great name. But we thought two was plenty."
"What if a boy had born in my place?" exclaimed I furiously as if I's going to hit mom if she didn't give an appropriate answer.
"We would have named him Bramaramba Naidu!" said she and chuckled.
"How odd?" cried I. "He would have died by now."
"Shut up!" jumped she. "What's wrong with you?"
"Not with me," said I, "nevertheless with the name."
"What's wrong with the name?" said mom. "It's a powerful goddess name."
"Might be!" cried I. "But there was a great difference."
"Difference in what?"
"People fear for that goddess by the name, but they are laughing at me for the name."
"Let them laugh," said she. "Their teeth only will be visible."
"They are commenting me by my name."
"Let them comment," cried mom. "They only will be cursed."
I knew Mrs. Naidu wasn't my own mother. But she always felt and treated me as her own. Mr. and Mrs. Naidu didn't have children. Harshitha and I had been adopted. Not much an information I had about Harshitha but mine was a queer, queer story.

Up to now what I have shared with was rather not a story at all. It's just something a little phase between two most important and high-voltage phases. This 'between them' was the only humor I had had after all. Yet don't miscomprehend me nor my manuscript, for it incepted with a humor, so all it had to have a lot of humor. But it isn't what you are expecting after you have read the first few snippets of the story. Because this isn't a tale of any genre and I don't really want to make something interesting of it by adding those mesmeric fictional scenes or catchy adjectives to press-stud the most non-chalet of editors. Despite you like or not, I have to say it. I have to share it. But I'm sure it will take you to the deep oceans of tragedy before it fly to the heavens of high-sky.

When I was nine, one day I thought of recollecting my memories till then. Many reminiscences stroked randomly. But I wanted to unearth the oldest memory I could remember. Then I did memorize an incident of my life that had happened when I was four. It's hard to believe how could I remember a memory of that small age. But I did. Then, my parents were different and original.

I was four years and few days old little girl. It was raining heavily. Papa and mamma were home. I was playing amid the living room with the only toy I owned. Mamma was in the kitchen and she might be cooking. Papa walked into the kitchen throwing a glance at me. He might wanted to aid mama in cooking.

After a moment or two, he came into the living room hastily and grabbed me. He removed my red frock and lifted me in air with his tough hands. I was puzzled what he had been doing. All of a sudden he strolled into the kitchen with myself clutched in his hands. Mama was standing erect in front of  an empty pan on the burning stove. She gave a half smile at us. The smile was somewhat cunning. I perplexed, what's going on?

Out of the blue, Papa walked towards the stove. Steam flying over the empty pan. Papa peeked at mamma. She sighed something positively. And he placed me on the sizzling pan. I screamed like hell as my buttocks burned. I yelled and yelled and yelled. But none from outside could listen to me, as it was raining and thundering heavily. After a fry at my buttocks, I was forced to lay on my back. Papa held my legs tightly and mamma clutched my hands spread either side. I screamed and screamed like a thunderstorm.
"Why the hell?" I thought. But soon I realized that they wanted to kill me or get rid of me. "Oh god!" I cried. As if he listened to me, someone knocked at the door suddenly. Papa lifted me hastily from the burning pan and tossed aside. I kept on yelling. Mamma slapped on my cheek and ordered to shut my mouth else she would fry me more. I tried to stop yelling but I couldn't.

Papa opened the door. And the visitor was our Christian neighbor Mrs. Catherine Sugar. She came for mamma. But Papa said mamma wasn't home. She turned and almost left, then I yelled indicating my soreness. Mrs. Sugar turned back and peeked into to house. One more yell and she ran into the kitchen. She astonished looking at me and my buttocks and my back. She slapped on her mouth with her hand and cried, "What the--"
"She was burned badly," mumbled my mamma. "I'm soothing her."
"Accidentally," fumbled Papa.
"And you said your wife isn't home?"
Papa was silent. And so was mamma. I's admitted in a hospital.
Some days later, the burns had been healed up but not those wounds in the heart. The whole village was talking about Papa and mamma that they had burned me intentionally and ruthlessly. I heard some of them say I wasn't their own child. Whatsoever I was. But I might have born to their libido. Not by any kind of love.

And if I relate a little bad story of them before I had born--you may take worst of it. Papa and mamma loved each other when they were in college. But they didn't marry each other. Papa married another lady and had two children. Mamma married another man and had a child. Five years later, both of them left their life partners and started living together in this remote village. Then I was born as a victim. Now they were vexed of me and wanted to get rid of me.
After Fried My Buttocks incident we left the village and I'd been given to an orphanage. It was just like almost all those orphanages where the treatment to the children would be discourteous. Though the life was hard, it was better than frying at the buttocks. Few years passed.

When I was seven, one morning an appalling thing happened. I felt a fluffy pillow underneath my head and remaining parts were resting on the softest bed I had ever slept on. Initially I thought I were amid a dream. But soon I realized it was real.
I am adopted by some rich people, I thought. A glass of milk must be in its way. Most hygienic breakfast might be ready on the dining table. A wonderful frock might be hanging on the wall, and a hundred varieties of clothes should've been arranged in the wardrobe. The school bus will come in an hour. I must get ready to school. No, no. I will be dropped by a car. I am rich. My new Papa and new mamma are rich. How rich they are? Very, very rich they are.

Conversely, when I opened my eyes, an ugly truth I confronted. There were a lot of women seemed to be alike in their costume and behavior. Some of them were half naked, while most of them were almost bared. And I was in a brothel house. And it was located in a different city. I came to know that the other night I had been stolen from the orphanage by a gang. I's too small to grasp what it was all about, though, I got to know something wrong was happening all through my childhood.
I had lived with those ugly women for three months. Later I was sold to a couple.

They didn't have children for ages, so they adopted me for they love children, I thought. And I would get a very good parenting.
But it wasn't the case. They had a baby boy who must be about a year old. As both the husband and wife working at some place, they wanted me to take care of the child from morning to evening. I saw them always busy talking over phones. Hardly they cared about the baby. I lived with them about a quarter of a year. But the baby was died with some disease. I strongly believed that the baby was deceased lack of proper parenting. After the disaster, I was again sold back to the same brothel company at a far less amount.
Anon another party was ready to buy me. I became a lucky child for the manager. I was sold to the couple who appeared to be married only for a couple of years. They treated me like their own child. Finally I was at the right nest, I thought. But only in a week everything had changed. My new Papa had an affair with some other lady and my new mamma couldn't bear it. Although she was aware about herself that she could never give birth to a child, she seemed happy with me, who was the present to her husband on her birthday the other week. She loved him so much that she couldn't bear him sleeping with some other lady. So she committed suicide. Thus I was sent back to the brothel house once again. The manager was too happy that I was returned at no cost this time.

For a few days I hadn't been sold until another couple, Mr. And Mrs. Naidu adopted me. And this was the best couple ever I had witnessed. Especially, for their richness and the comfort they provided to me. Along with me, they bought another girl too, who was elder to me. And that was where I began this tale.

Not too long ago, in the new village of mine, otherwise the new village I belonged to, there was a poor, poor little family living on the fringes of the village along with some other akin families, isolated from the other people who lived in close proximity to the nucleus of the parish. In such a family among the families of isolation, there lived a little girl of ten, Bharathi, with a lot of curls in her hair, but not so many curves at the ends of her lips. Of course she looked pretty either way. And it's superfluous to describe what her parents used to do for their both ends to meet, for they have nothing to do or relate with this little wonderful tale.
My family was far richer than Bharathi's family. But we were not isolated as we were living in a big house among those topsy-turvy families in the vicinity of the nub of the village.
"Wake up, Bramaramba!" cried my mom every morning. "You'll be late for the school."

Bharathi and I were in the same class of fifth grade in a government school (my dad believed govt. schools are better than corporate schools). We were best friends too. But there was one thing I didn't comprehend of her that she always refused to take anything from me, especially food. And she also refused to share her things with me. Still we were great friends, heartily. I enquired of her many a time why did she refuse my offerings. But every time she wagged her head censoriously as if there was nothing of importance. But one day I got to know what it's all about.

On a coldest day of that winter, an uncle of mine (my mom's brother) visited our home. As a part of casual discussion with me, after inquiring about my health and education, he asked who was my best friend. For his informal question, my instantaneous answer was Bharathi. He continued asking all the stuff about her and I answered speedily before he finished every question. He smiled each time. But for my answer to his last question, he jumped abruptly as if someone squeezed his skull and I didn't have a handle on what's wrong. Out of the blue, his smile vanished.
"Is she from suburbs?" screamed my uncle. He would have shouted less if he had seen most hideous alien landed on the earth.
"Yes, she is from!" exclaimed I with bewilderment. "What's wrong with that?"
"What's wrong?" he cried and came towards me. "You are asking me, what's wrong?" I became as pale as a fallen leaf from a tree before spring. What the hell he was crying? I puzzled.
He continued, "How ludicrous are you to make friendship with an untouchable child from those  untouchable families from that untouchable suburb?"
"What untouchable?" I cried within myself but muttered tenderly, "Untouchables?"
"Of course, untouchables!" exclaimed he and shouted on me like a dirty female superintendent in an orphanage, who always shout on those poor, poor little orphans. He went on, biting his teeth and shuddering with increase in blood pressure, "Tomorrow I will come to your school and warn that untouchable friend of you not to talk to you, sit beside you, play with you and eat with you. And even after that if you do such things with that untouchable, you can't imagine how I will punish you."

I was profoundly disturbed for the usage of that horrible word 'untouchable' again and again. My uncle was fighting with his life for the very basic needs such as food, cloth and shelter. Through this life of utter poverty, where did he get scope to think about it? I perplexed. I thought he wouldn't come to school next day. But he came and warned my little innocent friend not to continue friendship with me. Since then Bharathi didn't talk to me for a week. But I dared to disturb her now and then. At last, she returned her friendship.

What this hell of bigotry even after all these ages of revolutions? I wondered.

A month or two later, my uncle was asked by my parents to take me to the famous Brahmin in another village to know the predictions of my future. What kind of guesses he would make I didn't know but I's pretty sure my uncle would get a good lesson and realization from the scene I predicted to happen.

We reached the Brahmin street in that village and asked someone about Mr. Sharma, the prophet. The stranger pointed towards a opulently constructed three-storied building.
"Mr. Sharma, the predictor might not predicted ever he would have such a house," I thought and giggled.
"What makes you so much happy?" inquired my uncle. "Act civilized. You know where we are going? We are going to a greatest prophet."
"Greatest prophet. Greatest prophet," I repeated his last words and laughed to myself. "Act civilized. Act civilized."

The short story continues here..