I am very fond of perfumes. I think I have a sample each of most of the world's best brands and I treasure them the way I treasure my books. My morning ritual of dressing up is complete only when I finish dabbing the perfume on my pulse points. If I am going out when Rasan is home, she will insist on my picking up the landline telephone receiver and putting it near my ear so that it can catch the current fragrance on it for the day. Rasan says, "That way, Mama, I can still smell you when you are gone. Whenever I pick up the receiver and dial your number, I get the feeling that you are close by." When she kisses me bye, she inhales the smell and says, it will stay on with me. She is no poet, she has no poetic expression so to say. The expression is that of a child missing her mother and thats it. But that never fails to shake the poet inside me to wakefulness to think how she feels.
I dont remember my mother ever using any perfumes. (Now I like Davidoff Cool Water Woman on her). Never saw any in her treasured red and black rexine 'shingar box' or the painted glass square box filled with the little stuff of her memories that did not mean much to me then but which I used to love rummaging through whenever I would get an opportunity. Perhaps she did use some talcum powder occasionally. But, even now, when I hug her, when I go close to her, I get to smell the same fragrance that I used to inhale when I was lying next to her, talking. Or when she would hug me briefly as a 'shabash'. I don't know what that fragrance is. Perhaps it is the smell of her compact face powder that gets into all her personality. But it always gives out a feeling of being in a comfort zone, where God was and is in his heaven, and all was and is well with my world.
My mother-in-law emanates a different kind of fragrance. Of course fragrances cannot be explained but I associate her with a great fragrance of Nivea Deodorant spray. I recall a funny incident that took place about ten years back. My regular shopping list would include an adventurous foray into the newly arrived "phoren" body sprays in my favorite general store in Jalandhar Cantt. One day Mama ( my mother-in-law) happened to be with me when I was selecting a spray for myself. She was not into such fragrances or sprays then. She said in a low voice in my ear," Roz nahaya karo ta ehdi lod na pawey." I blinked at her naughty comment and we laughed. A few years later, I found Nivea spray in her almirah and I wanted to shout out laughing. Well, for obvious reasons !! The position now is, that she cannot live without one. If she happens to catch me encroaching upon her spray, she would reprimand me promptly and I cant help but laugh. She and I share a private joke about it everytime I see her spraying it post shower. Coming back to her fragrance, everytime I go near her, I get to smell that innocent fresh fragrance. And yet, I associate that smell with inspiration, gusto and courage.
The other day I came across an anecdote in an old issue of Reader's Digest. An airwoman would come to a store every few days and go to a particular fragrance counter, smell the tester and go back. One day the saleswoman asked her if she would like to buy that perfume. The former replied that she did not want to buy it, she merely came to smell her mother's fragrance whenever she missed her. Upon reading that piece, a smile automatically came to my mind and I thought of Rasan grown big, perhaps living far away and totally into her career, going to a store and smelling some of my pet fragrances, just to make up for my physical absence.