The doorbell of my house rang at 12 pm. I opened the door, the dhobi smiled, flashed his milky white teeth and asked me,
” Bhaiya kese ho?”
With my usually calm demeanor, I replied,
“Bas bhai sab thik.”
He began unfolding the sack of our clothes; as he was cross-checking the actual count of clothes with the entry made by him in his book, I asked him,
” Hero, tujhe 1-2 pen chahiye hisaab likhne ke liye?”
His face brightened up. With satisfying looks he said,
“Haan bhaiya, bahut kaam aayegi pen. Hain to dedo.”
I felt happy that I could hit the right area for helping someone. Suddenly I realized, he is coming to my place for more than 2 years now and I don’t remember his name.
Oh God, not again! I am terrible at remembering names and it haunts me every single day. I love talking to people. If I see someone from a distance whom I have interacted with before, I make it a point to exchange pleasantries. However no sooner the other person calls me by my name that I start panicking, “What on earth is this person’s name? How long can I speak without calling him by his name?” I feel dejected. Same thing happened today. I couldn’t recollect my dhobi’s name. I asked him in a charming but callous way,
“Arey hero wese log tujhe kis naam se bulaate he ghar pe?”
He stared at me, grinned, offended by my question. His smile suddenly turned into a frown. He replied trying to hide the offense he felt,
“Jeetendra! Kya bhaiya itne saal se aa raha hu aur naam bhi bhul gaye?”
I wanted to kill myself for being such a jerk. But, somehow I tried to cheer him up,
” Arey, bhula kaun he. Mujhe to sirf puchna thaa log pyaar se kya bulaate he re pagle. Aur wese bhi, naam me kya rakha he!”
His 180 degree smile flashed once again illuminated by his spotless white teeth.
He continued, “Jeetu bulate he bhaiya pyaar se. Mere bhai ka naam Jeet laal he.”
I asked him cajolingly, “Lagta he tumhaare pitaji ko jitendra bahut pasand he”.
He laughed out loud and began narrating like an over excited kid:
“Nai bhaiya. Hua yu ke mere pitaji ka gaav ke court me case chal raha tha apne bhai ke saath. Jis din court case mere pitaji jeet gaye ussi din amma ne mere bade bhai ko janam diya. Pitaji ne court case jeetne ki khushi me mere bhai ka naam Jeet-laal rakh diya. Aur kuch saal baad jab me aaya, to mere naam jitendra.”
His eyes sparkled more than his teeth. With a non-fading, joyful expression, he left, thanking me without literally saying anything. Someone listened to his story after a long time I felt. He won my heart (and my memory).
Sometimes a mere name makes you a winner!