‘I was seeking him on orders from ammi, and saw he was searching for something. Searching vehemently, throwing books from his bookcase upon his bed. He was seldom that impatient with books, always treating them tenderly, making a fuss over them. I knew something was wrong then. So I went and asked him what was the matter.

I have lost a word, he said.

Lost a word?

Yes I am looking for this word. She’s somewhere stuck in here, he said tapping his throat, but she won’t come out. I have to find her, winkle her out. Where’s the blasted thesaurus?

Is it that urgent? Ammi is asking for you.

It is. Haven’t you ever lost a word? Don’t you know what it is like?

No, I said confused. I had certainly lost words often, but I was alright with it. Why was he being so impatient?

Then he told me how it was with him when he had lost a word.

It’s almost a physical pain you know, not being able to remember the word, the word that was living on the tip of your tongue. It was like making love to her in a dream. You were almost there but you never did it. The word slipped away.

You couldn’t find her then, didn’t matter where you were looking for her. She wasn’t sleeping in any dictionary; no thesaurus framed her sitting with her pals. Friends feigned they couldn’t understand you when you asked them about her, as if voicing her would be a sacrilege, and you wondered if this was a plot to keep her hidden from you – the word you had loved so, nurturing her, hoarding her carefully in your mind. It seemed as if the whole earth was colluding against you, shielding her from your senses, your thoughts.

Then resisting them all you resolved to remember her, closed your eyes clenched your teeth strained your mind when out of the blue, while the fingers of memory were caressing your eyes, you had this. A pair of twinkles. You felt there was surely an m in her, and maybe maybe an r too…. And then a void. Momentary blackness, the fingers groping hard inside it to claw out something.

An exercise in futility. It was all you got, two flighty drops of rain from a clear sky. Every other letter still kept away, distant, like those paper stars hanging from the roof on festive nights, tempting you to continually stretch for them but then gliding away at the slightest brush with the tip of your fingers, glittering, mocking wherever you looked, never giving you a moment’s rest, but never letting you hold them possess them either. Yes, the letters were like those paper stars. The word was like her.

That’s what he said. And when he had found his word, he was almost ecstatic. Got it, it’s marmoreal, he shouted from his room. Then looking for us he walked in the drawing room where we were sitting, waving a dictionary. It’s marmoreal he repeated, beaming at us.

What does it mean, I asked.

Like marble, he replied. Beautifully white and polished, but at the same time cold and hard. Marmoreal, he pronounced it slowly, stressing the middle syllable and the r, relishing the sound he made. Beautiful word, isn’t it? Gives you a gratifying sensation.’

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