Fiction Fragment: Perfumes and Mothers

Bottle of Perfume

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.

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20 Comments

Filed under Photographs, Poetry and Fiction

20 Responses to Fiction Fragment: Perfumes and Mothers

  1. Sneha

    My kaaki smells of slight dampness due to all the washing and cleaning in the kitchen. The only word that comes close to describing the smell is ‘slightly rotten’.

    And is that cool water in the picture? I lurrrrrvvvveee it.

  2. avalukku mattum epdi thummale varathu?

  3. Crazyfinger

    Neha,

    This is a poignant fragment. And…very vivid…I almost smelled my own palm while reading this fragment, involuntary reflex.

    It is amazing how many times your fragments remind me of Pushkin. I am not comparing styles or anything, but saying how clear and how brilliant your fragments are in ways that can only bring to fore something else, some other entirely different thing, but still like themselves, that I’ve read in the past.

    In world literature, people measure literature by universality, emotional content, realism etc.,etc. And somehow only “classics” measure up high on these parameters. But I often wonder, if we look at such good classical stories (in any language) for themselves, through the lens of their own time, they would really be no different from your fragments, in terms of the effect they have on their readers. No one is arguing this point, so perhaps there is an implicit agreement with it, which is that your stories will stand the onslaughts of “universality” measuring whips. I already want to compile them and give them as gifts to my grandchildren. Thank you.

    P.S. That is why you ought to start thinking seriously about putting your works in book form. Hey, you’ve already written them, made your readers read them, so they are no longer yours…! So now it is your duty…! (applying pressure).

    Regards,
    Crazyfinger

  4. dipali

    Lovely. Listen to Crazyfinger- now it is your duty…!

  5. Pri

    so many perfumes nowadays have a jasmine fragrance. im sure they remind people of their mothers. for example: issey miyaki that tall bottle, este lauder pleasures, nina ricci that weird pink bottle, escada en fleur, they’re pretty much the same thing. inspite of knowing this i still own all of them. there’s just something about perfumes.

  6. This is the smell of my aunt and uncle. I have tagged you with a thinking blogger award. You may have got one already.

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  8. Good one! Amrutanjan and Ashwini Hair oil come to mind for me after reading this post.

  9. I

    enna hawkeye, ashwini hair oil pathi umakkum enna oye theriyum?

  10. A kind of melancholic feeling runs through the fragment, that is very touchy.

  11. since its very effective in stopping hair fall, I carried it for many kazha bolts in the US.

    just out of curiosity i used it in my first year BE. its amazing. i required a hair cut every 30 days.

    dislaimer: my hair is not falling. i have good adarthiyaana hair.

  12. oh! to answer your kostin; my grandma, ma, all ladies in my extended family, all old men whose hair is falling, use it

  13. I and Hawkeye: Inge enne nadakkarthu?

  14. Neha,

    I praamise I am not an Ashwini Hair Oil salesman :-)

    I was reminded of it in context of this post (Its smell is so strong that you will know why I connected with this post after you smell it) and I also believe it is the best hair oil of rapid hair growth.

  15. Vi

    My mother’s name. :)

  16. I

    hawkeye: apdiye color jaasti arathukku edhadhu vaidhyam sollum.

    neha: hawkeye sounded like ashwini hair oil sales man, adhan keten. combined aroma of amurtanjanAM and filter kaapi can cure even AIDS illayo.

  17. You never disappoint.

  18. Besh, besh! Romba nalla errukku…

  19. Lovely blog! Will be back often :)