A very long time ago, the entire world spoke the same language and its people lived together on one land. Their village was called Babel and was managed by powerful magicians who instructed the people to build huge towers in veneration of Osis, ‘the one who does not manifest’.
Jejube was a woman of immense beauty, and she was married to a man by the name of Talo. After many years of marriage, the two did not have any children, so they requested the help of a magician, who appealed to Osis on their behalf.
Many days passed, which the magician spent in his tall redbrick tower, cloaked in smoke, meditating. On the ninth day, he emerged after communicating with Osis, who entrusted him with a revelation.
Osis kept Jejube and Talo from having children because their child, a girl, would be born with a curse. The curse, revealed the magician, was that the daughter would have an unmatched ability to remember, but that she would never be able to memorize her own name.
Jejube, a determined woman, asked the magician to appeal to Osis again, but this time asking him to restore her fertility. Against his own judgment, the magician did as she asked, and emerged again nine days later declaring that Osis had consented, but that the magician will not be responsible for the consequences.
On the day of her birth, the people gathered from near and far to look at Jejube’s daughter. They did not assemble to admire her splendor, but to see how a cursed child differed from a blessed one.
She was a normal baby girl, whose great beauty was only natural for the daughter of the marvelous Jejube. What shocked the people of Babel was that they fell in love with her instantly upon glimpsing her, and they talked only of her as they journeyed home.
As she grew up, the curse began revealing itself; Jejube’s daughter would not answer when her name was called. At first, her parents thought that she was deaf, but later, when she started speaking, it was obvious that she heard everything.
Her supreme memory helped her master the language early, and by the age of seven she was using words that children much older than her did not even know.
Her parents were stunned by her ability to recollect memories from as long ago as the first day of her birth. She remembered the day her first tooth came out, and what her mother was wearing then. She remembered her first birthday, and the wooden river-buffalo her father carved for her.
She remembered everything but her name, and everyday since she began speaking, she would ask her mother, who would sadly say: Naramidia.
The people of Babel were a loving nation, and their love encompassed Naramidia. She was a very enchanting young woman, and the people wanted nothing more than to make her happy.
The old women took her along to the riverbed and spent the entire morning having conversations with her as they washed their clothing. Naramidia would remind them of the chores they intended to do on that day. She repeated to the women parts of previous conversations, which they had forgotten, and helped them in counting their children in the evening.
The old merchants always filled her sacks with more fruit than she paid for. In return, she would remind them of what others owed them, how much money they had made in the preceding weeks, and what their wives expected them to do very soon.
The younger women of Babel gathered around her when she went for a walk in the sun, asking her to tell them, again and again, how the men killed the elephant.
The young men would compete among each other in conjuring up poetry to appraise her, and she would memorize their entire poems. She called each man by his name, and each one thought she knew his name, and none other’s.
But at the end of the day, Naramidia could not be comforted; she would walk away, preoccupied in remembering her own name.
The magician who had helped Jejube conceive was now a very old man, and had grown fond of Naramidia; in a way, he felt responsible for her.
He used to find her kneeling beside the tall towers, looking up at the clouds where the towers disappeared to meet Osis. Coming closer to her, he heard her repeating the names of her friends, and the names of all the people she knew in Babel. Like a prayer, she would finish her recitation by saying her mother’s name, her father’s, and then she would go silent where her name should have been said. Embarrassed by her shortcoming, she would look around nervously, notice the magician and run away.
The magician persistently thought of helping her, but could not anger Osis in asking him to remove the curse. One day, he called Jejube and told her of a plan he devised to help her daughter.
Before anyone speaks to Naramidia, he said, let them begin their conversation by saying her name; this way, she will know that the first word she hears is her name. If she hears it long enough, she might memorize it.
While Naramidia was busy at the towers the following day, Jejube was sharing the magician’s plan with the women at the riverbed. They agreed that the idea was worth putting into practice because it may make a difference. The old women each went home to share the plan with her family, and by sunset, the whole of Babel knew what to do.
The next morning, while at the market place, Naramidia heard a strange word in the merchant’s welcomes and gave it no special notice. But when she heard it again from the man who sold ox-meat, she asked him what the word he had uttered meant. He replied that the word was Naramidia, and that it was her name. After he had said it again, she tried to remember it and failed.
On her path home, some children were making drawings in the fine sand. When they saw her, they all ran to her and danced around her, shouting Naramidia, Naramidia. She had not heard a song such as this one before, and she asked them about it. They explained to her that the word they were shouting was her name. She tried singing it on the way home, but couldn’t remember it.
When she reached her hut, Jejube ran towards her to help her with the sacks. Jejube spoke a strange word and Naramidia only smiled because she knew that the word her mother had just pronounced was a name she would never memorize.
It became obvious to Talo and Jejube that it would take a more substantial effort to help their daughter. They continued saying her name, but not only in the beginnings of their dialogues; they also ended any conversation by repeating the name, hoping that this repetition would have a more enduring effect.
The villagers joined the distressed parents in ending their conversations with Naramidia’s name. She still could not memorize it, and even when she tried to mimic the sounds they made, she went mute. She could not imitate the sounds that composed her name.
No one knows when and how it happened, but one day it was discovered that the people of Babel included in their conversations the word Naramidia, even when they were not addressing Naramidia herself. Their conversations with each other began with her name and ended with it.
In the market place, people’s exchanges were begun and concluded with a Naramidia. Old women would announce their arrival at the riverbed by calling out Naramidia! At the playground, the children greeted each other with her name, and when they were called home, they would say Naramidia as they waved their hands.
Without knowing when and how it happened, the word Naramidia was found to be the greeting and farewell in Babel. It became a common word. And although everyone uttered her name several times a day, no one could remember what Jejube’s daughter was called.