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One whiff of a remembered fragrance is all it takes for the floodgates of memories to open, pushing people, places and incidents from the past to the forefront of my thoughts. Today it was the new lavender perfumed bath soap. As soon as I opened it, I was transported back in time.

Back in the ‘good old days’….. I am kidding, for me ‘the good days’ always refer to the present. Anyways, back in the days of yore, when talcum powder was an integral part of our daily life, we had a lavender perfumed one. I saw myself as an eleven year old, dark hair parted in the middle and plaited in two, the thick plaits tied with ribbons matching in color with the outfit, a multi-colored pleated skirt and a white blouse with puff sleeves ending in a broad band. My eyes were lined with kohl, with a carefully drawn upward slanting ‘tail’ at the outer corner of each eye. A bindi, not the stick-on ones we find these days, but the liquid type, was applied to create a near round shape and patiently waited upon to dry, adorned my forehead.

That day I might have preened for a minute or two in front of the mirror when no one was looking. Those days, if the elders caught you looking in the mirror for an extra millisecond, you were chastised for your vanity. Besides, they believed that one should not (This applied to girls and women and not boys or men, so what’s new?) look in the mirror, or groom oneself, after dusk. Yup, you got it. Apparently only ‘bad’ women do that. But as time passed it became quite impractical to stick to this nonsense, especially when families had to get dressed to go out in the evenings, and gradually such notions died a natural death.

It was a balmy evening and father’s Fiat car was standing in the front yard of my grandparent’s house, waiting to take us all to the temple. I recall the excitement of it all, for after worshiping we’d be allowed to watch the dance drama that would be staged in the temple premises. It is palpable even after all these years when I breathe in the fragrance of the soap. There was a lovely moon in the sky, its light glinting off the Fiat’s shiny surface. I remember waiting near it eagerly and impatiently for everyone to get ready, my cousins and I being herded into the car and driven to the temple.

One whiff was all it took to bring back the ‘feel’ of a long forgotten day.

© Shail Mohan 2021