Quest for a smeller


He walks euphorically on “Veer nariman road” amid the ocean of crowd. Most of the corporates’ slaves serve in the greater Mumbai and this road reflects a piece of urban India. His senses tell him that it’s 5 minutes past five in the evening and people are leaving their work places like particles escape from an aerosol can with little press of the knob.They all make a beeline to ‘Churchgate station’ to get in train to spend their residual energy at their homes. He always waits for this glorified moment every day. He loves to smell their thoughts through their sweats , footsteps, breathing and sound of dangling articles like purse, lunch box, tote bag , ear rings etc these people carry with themselves. Being blind since birth, he has to rely upon his other senses to compensate for his loss of vision. In the process, he has fine-tuned his sense of smell to such an extent that he can smell a thought and give it a shape with his own perception. His perception was moulded in one of the primary school for blinds ran by the same orphanage where he was raised. He had to leave orphanage at an early age owing to his ability to sense negative thoughts in the orphanage which screamed at him incessantly every moment and petrified him to the hilt. An escape from the orphanage was the only solace he had.

He trots slowly….allowing people to brush against him. With every brush, people’s thoughts get pinned on his white dirty shirt like medals. Everyday he writes a book with people’s hopes, broken dreams, hardship on his mind. He reads it in the night and erases it in the morning with the first ray of sunshine. That’s the only source of entertainment he has to brighten his darkness.

“Horrible perfume….almond mixed with jasmine flower’s pollen…bad taste”, he winces while a beautiful woman passes him by. “probably either fragrance of rose or sandal will be more compatible with her sweat”.

“Third day of menstruation……”, he sniffed like wolf on the plump lady who slowly brushes on his right side, while coming from the opposite direction.

“Too much of cinnamon and curry leaves….”, he flares his nostrils, when a well built man crossed the road just in front of him.

“wow…..these ‘gajra’ (garland) of jasmine smells good. It might have been picked up before the sunrise. Her intentions are wild too…..”, he smiles after sniffing a passerby.

Tired sun begins to hide beneath the horizon. He legs start to hurt from walking up and down on ‘Veer nariman point’ for umpteenth time. He smells the fragrance of pollution-smitten leaves and walks towards the public park. He smells his cold concrete bench and feels the softness of grass in this concrete jungle. He puts his hand in his dirty tote bag which hangs from his sore left shoulder and pulls out a half-eaten ‘vada Pav’ (loaf with veg pattis). After eating his dinner, he lies down on his concrete bed with tote bag under his head. He smells the flickering stars and the vastness of sky.

“It will not rain tonight…..tomorrow will be a good day for begging.”, he thinks aloud. No one loves rain in this city.

He starts to accumulate all the sensations he felt through his olfactory nerves. The story starts building slowly on his mind about the emptiness , insecurity , promiscuity , pain and loss of all the passers by he has encountered today. The characters do not have any faces…just the feelings.

Slowly he drifts into sleep with his story hung in abeyance.


Somewhere in the vicinity….on the 5th floor of a skyscraper…

“That will be all……we are seeing some more candidates and we will get back to you, if you get selected”, he tells in one breath to beautifully dressed young woman who has come for an interview for the post of ‘perfume tester’.

She leaves hurriedly out of the room sensing the frustration of the interviewer.

He punches the number of HR manager,”Ajay, what’s happening? That’s the 23rd candidate in last 48 hours and none of them can differentiate between the fragrance of narcissus and patchouli. I’m disappointed.”, he was boiling.

“Sir, these candidates were shortlisted across the country……I have screened the profile of another four candidates….”, Ajay heard the click of hanging up of phone at the other side.

Ravi puts the corks on open vials as his office was reeking of various smells. He gets up from his chair and walks towards the big window of his office. He sees his own distorted reflection in the window-pane and rued the day he left his job as Research analyst(Fragrance) in YSL in Paris. He took the licensing of distilling fragrance from natural as well as synthetic sources.The idea was to exploit the nascent market of India but much to his chagrin, he couldn’t find a single reliable ‘fragrance smeller’ to start the first phase of his business. He dimmed the light in his office and his reflection replaced by an intoxicating view of the park in the moonlight. He begins to feel relaxed and feels his stress dissolving slowly. Just when he begins to enjoy the view of park from his office, his eyes rest on a dirty figure lying on a bench with tote bag under his head. The frown dances again on his face.

“What a waste…..this country can never develop……”, he mutters under his breath and moves away from the window.

———— Binzy

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