The Boy Without a Name

By Marzia Rahman

Here, at the road side café, tea is served by an eight-year-old boy. He is a refugee.

He is known around as the tea boy, a fond term mostly used by customers.

Among his friends, he’s earned the tiltle of lattu master for his mastery over spinning a top at one go. It’s his master whose approach is somewhat different. Every now and then he comes up with a new name. Maybe it’s due to his old age memory loss. Or maybe he feels it redundant to sustain the acquaintance for long.

The real name that the boy can’t recall. It doesn’t pester him much forgetting it. It’s his village name that he regrets not remembering. He’d return there one day. That’s the plan! His heart yearns for his home by the river, flecked by bamboo groves. In that home, in that village, lived his father, mother, two sisters, a toddler brother, and a very old grandmother. He had a red truck toy with a police man inside, that he misses the most.

Now, wearing faded undershirt and grubby trouser, he runs from one table to another--reeking of cigarettes, cheap scents, and sentiments and serves hot steaming tea with toast and snacks. It’s his job to serve and later collect the trays of discarded food and drink.

The later part he favors more. As there’d always be tiny tidbits of snacks, crusts of bread or crumbles of biscuits left for him to relish. He’d polish off the food fast and lick the tea cups clean. Once in a while, if he’s in real luck, there’d be much left, the customer leaving hastily for reasons unknown.

When he doesn’t have work, he sits on a high tool beside the counter and snoozes. Sometimes he goes to his village, in his dream. The army people would distribute chocolates and happiness around. They are fine people whom the villagers are not scared of. In his dream, he waves at them, holding his little brother in one hand and the red truck in the other, standing in front of his home by the river, flecked by bamboo groves.

Sometimes, he goes to his house where his very old grandmother grins with toothless mouth, his mother cooks beef curry with potatoes and eggplants on a big stove. The aroma wafts over his senses in waves. He waits for someone to call him. He needs to know his name, and the name of the village, too.

He’d return there one day. That’s the plan.

The plan seems flawed. And his returning to his old life a long way off.

Nine hundred nine dreams away. Meanwhile, he serves tea and toast, swings a top and snoozes sitting on a high tool. Waiting for a perfected dream.

Waiting for the name to float.

But as it happens—with most people most of the time in most of the dreams—it shatters. And always, he’d wake up before he gets to the point of knowing it.


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