Jayalakshmi isn’t very used to buying perfumes. Going from counter to counter, saleswomen wave little white wands of perfumed paper under their noses. She finds these smells overwhelming. Her grandmother thought that perfumes were sluttish. Well, sluttish or not, the smells invade her through the nose and numb her brain for a while. Her friend expertly inhales a small pot of coffee beans to kill the previous perfume, and confidently walks to the next counter to attack her olfactory senses again.
Her friend squeals with delight suddenly. Apparently she’s found just the right perfume. She keeps sniffing at the perfume strip. Her eyes light up. She turns around and tells Jayalakshmi, “This perfume reminds of my mom.”. Jayalakshmi inhales the perfume, feels giddy and doesn’t spot anything maternal in it. Her friend tells her that throughout her childhood her mother would spray something quite similar in the evenings. That it reminds her of the times when she helped her mother dress up for an occasion. Of taking matching earrings out the jewelery box. Or of sitting on her haunches to adjust her mother’s pleats, so they covered her petticoat, ankles and sandals.
Jayalakshmi sighs, and says that the smells she associates with her mother are very different. Her friend asks if they are kitchen smells. Like turmeric, mild tamarind, fresh coriander seeds being roasted. No, not quite that. She struggles to remember.
Later that night, her legs aching from all the walking, she squeezes out a pain relieving balm. It stings her skin, killing some of the soreness. She smells her hand. Remembers something. Yes, this is the smell she associates her mother. Pain balms, sprays and eucalyptus oil for headaches. She wonders if there’s a perfume like that in the store.