Urmi: by Ramanath Roy

– Hello…
– May I speak to Urmi please!
– Urmi! Wrong number.
 
There was a click as the receiver was put down. I put the receiver down too. I dialled another number at random.
 
– Hello…
– Is Urmi in?
– Urmi doesn’t live here.
– Do you have her number?
– No.
 
Putting the receiver down, I dialled another number at random.
 
– Hello…
– Is Urmi in?
– No.
– Where has she gone?
– To meet Shyamal.
– When will she be back?
– I don’t know. Is there a message?
– No.
 
I put the receiver down. Who was this man? What was his relationship with Urmi? All I could make out was that they knew someone named Shyamal quite well. But why was Urmi visiting Shyamal? How old was this Urmi? What did she look like?
 
Once again I dialled a random number. Engaged.
 
Once again I dialled another random number. Engaged.
 
Yet again I dialled another random number. This time it began to ring. This time, perhaps…
 
– Hello…
– May I speak to Urmi.
– Wrong number.
 
Disconnecting, I dialled another number.
 
– Hello…
– Is Urmi in?
– Hold on please.
 
A few moments later, a woman’s voice:
 
– Hello…
– Recognise me?
– Chhotomama?
– Wrong.
– Shiben-da?
– No.
– Meshomoshai?
– No. Annoyed, I put the receiver down. I couldn’t talk to Urmi as her uncle.
 
I dialled another number. No, it wasn’t engaged. I could hear the phone ring. But no one answered. No one at home. I put the receiver down.
 
A little later I dialled a different number at random. I needed Urmi. I had to have Urmi.
 
– Hello…
– May I speak to Urmi please!
– Wrong number.
 
I put the receiver down. What was wrong? Had the name become very old-fashioned after twenty years? Weren’t women named Urmi any more? What kind of names did women have nowadays in that case? But whatever her name, I had to have Urmi. I dialled another number at random.
 
– Hello…
– May I speak to Urmi please!
– This is Urmi. Who’s speaking?
– You don’t recognise me, do you?
– Amiya?
– Yes.
– I guessed right. But your voice sounds different. So, why didn’t you come yesterday?
– I was stuck somewhere.
– The children kept asking about you.
 
I didn’t want to hear any more. I wanted a virginal Urmi, not Urmi the mother. Putting the receiver down, I dialled another number at random.
 
– Hello…
– Urmi?
– Yes.
– Recognise me?
– Of course I do. You’re very naughty.
– Why? What’ve I done?
– Shut up! As if you don’t know.
– Honestly, I don’t.
– Then you needn’t know.
– Why?
– I don’t know. Ring me later, Urmi added. My father and brother are both at home now. They’ll come to know.
– When should I ring?
– In the afternoon. No one will be home. Urmi put the receiver down. I heard the sound.
 
I put the receiver down too. But what number had I dialled? What use was the number anyway? This Urmi had nothing in common with the one twenty years ago. Her voice was different. She used to speak differently. Her language was different. What was it like? I didn’t remember. But I’d know it if I heard it. That was the Urmi I wanted.
 
I began dialling at random again.

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