ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Jilbi was sweet on her new name. Kurr-ona. Jilbi was fond of her old name too—Jilbi. But this name was an antique now. She was more than used to changing names. Jilbi needed a new one. Normally, Aai–Baap named their child. Since Jilbi didn’t have any Aai–Baap, she’d named herself in-charge of naming herself. Every time her name felt stenchy, she’d fling it. Last time, the Thirty Firsht had happened in the colony. People had decided to celebrate with jalebis for dinner. There were piles of leftovers. Little Jilbi trudged home with a bucketful of jalebis, for the first time. As and when she felt hungry, Jilbi popped a jalebi. Morning: get up and stuff a jalebi in your mouth. Afternoon: shove a plate of jalebis into your mouth. Teatime. Night-time. Jilbi ate jalebis round and round the clock. Jilbi gave some to Sharook also. Now, even though Sharook is Jilbi’s dog, he doesn’t necessarily listen to her. If there’s no flesh on it, Sharook doesn’t even glance at it. But he guzzled up the jalebi. That was when Jilbi made up her mind—“this is our new name.”

Before this, her name was Khari. Gunjabai worked in the building where Khari worked too. Gunjabai was talented at intense squabbling with the building women; about the garbage, about the paise, about the broken broom, about the slime on the stairs. The watchman on duty used to pointlessly squawk right from the bottom of his bottom, asking Gunjabai to not bother coming back to work from the next month. Gunjabai then used to yell the choicest “Aay–Maay,” digging up his mother, his sister. Khari giggled with delight every time Gunjabai cursed. “I work this much, I work that much…”—Gunjabai’s laments were loud and frequent. But truth be told, she never could manage to lift even the smallest bucket. Khari would help her. She would drag the buckets. She would scrub with her kharata, the hard bristled broom, where Gunjabai told her to. She would throw out the garbage Gunjabai pointed at. She would climb into the gutter. Khari enjoyed her work. Impressed with her dedication, Gunjabai erected a tarpaulin room for her in the alley between two buildings. Every time the bhadkhau watchman said, “Society complaint karega,” about Khari’s house, warning them that the building society would complain, Gunjabai made rude gestures in his direction. Gunjabai gave Khari ten rupees every day after they were done sweeping the building. Sitting next to the gutter beside the colony gate, they used to have chai and khari. Khari had never tasted khari, this crunchy golden jeera biscuit, ever before in her life. The accumulated dredges of the sunken khari at the bottom of the teacup would turn creamy. She’d scoop the slush with her finger and place it on her tongue. It melted slowly, leaving Khari delighted. That’s why she named herself … Khari. Gunjabai had warned Khari in her ear, “Down there or on the chest, don’t let any bhadwa touch you. If someone does, thrash the shit out of him with your zaadu.” That’s probably why Khari never let go of the broom, nor of Sharook.

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Updated On : 9th Jul, 2021
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