Gauri was certain that the salesgirl dived across the desk, to catch hold of her. It had been embarrassing, even more for the salesgirl when a 40 something woman almost stumbled backward, sending bottles of perfume samples flying all around.
Somehow, Gauri managed to find a corner table at the Starbucks across the store. Still feeling flushed, she discreetly hit herself on the back of her head, thinking how silly it had been of her to react like THAT over a perfume sample.
You see, nostalgia is a bitch! It hits you when you least expect and it hits you where it hurts the most. ‘Ma’am, do you want to try out some of our perfumes? They are on a 50% discount’ was all it took for Gauri to be sent reeling into memories of a concert, in an open windy field. It’s funny how certain smells remain intact in our memory, even without having experienced them often. It’s almost like you are teleported back into time when you first experienced that scent in its entirety.
It had been a regular day for Gauri, wife of one of the leading chartered accountants in the city. Almost touching 40, she looked not a day older than 25. Dressed in a crisp Fab India Kurti and smart culottes, she was all set for a 12:30 lunch at the new mall with her best friend for since school, Reshma. Gauri had reached the mall early and to kill time (and her husband’s money, she thought), she decided to window shop. Her favorite store had opened up a lavish 3 floor set up and she just couldn’t ignore it beckoning her inside, with all its lights and mirror-like polished floors. She drifted from the men’s section (mentally marking shirts that she knew Gautam would love) to the ladies’ section. As she skimmed through the display, she found nothing that caught her fancy. ‘Almost time’ she thought to herself as she checked her watch and the hands slowly tick-tocked to 12:15. Gauri had this track record of being on time. It was something both husband and wife had maintained for years. Just as Gauri was about to leave the store, a young but nervous voice called out to her. ‘Ma’am, do you want to try out some of our perfumes? They are on a 50% discount’ was all it took for Gauri to be sent reeling into memories of a concert, in an open windy field. It’s funny how certain smells remain intact in our memory, even without having experienced them often. It’s almost like you are teleported back into time when you first experienced that scent in its entirety.
What happened next brought the entire store to a standstill. Gauri had taken the sample strip from the salesgirl and it had barely reached her nose that she stumbled back, as though hit by something, sending a whole rack of sample bottles flying. She felt ashamed the very next second. It was like the veil had suddenly dropped, revealing a parallel universe that she had hidden for 23 years. Apologizing and trying to help the already shocked salesgirl, Gauri literally clambered out of the store. Quickly tying her hair into a bun, she pulled out her sunglasses and dashed into Starbucks on the next floor. Tears stung her eyes, as she ordered two espressos. With shivering hands, she signed the slip and found a corner table. Sitting her, Gauri felt silly for having reacted so much. Biting her lips to fight back her tears, she texted Reshma. ‘At Starbucks.Last table.’ She knew Resh would understand. As she quickly gulped the hot cup of espresso, Gauri’s mind found its way back to the night at that concert, when to protect her from the chilly night wind, a warm and musky smelling denim jacket landed on her shoulders.
‘What the’ said a 16 year old G, as she turned to see what had fallen on her. At concerts like these, A LOT gets tossed around and she really didn’t want anything nasty spoiling her white sequin top. The band had taken a five minute break and some college bunch was up on stage, playing covers. G hadn’t realized that she was standing all by herself, swaying a bit and vigorously rubbing her arms to keep her warm. That’s when the jacket landed on her. She swung in reflex, only to blush instantly. The guy who stood in front of her was wearing a black t-shirt with the band’s name on it and was awkwardly mouthing ‘it’s okay’. The guy, came close to G’s ears and said ‘babe, you will freeze by the time they are back on stage. Keep it’ and gave her a quick pat on the back. He turned and walked away to his friends who were waiting to split a cigarette or two. G’s friends came back and literally no one noticed the jacket. After the concert, when she got back home, G’s head was full of that musky scent. She had no memory of what the 2nd half of the concert was like or why her throat was totally out of tune. She carefully placed the jacket on her chair, changed and got into bed. Absent mindedly, G turned to smell her hands, and the scent had stuck on. ‘The hell! Am I supposed to return it??’ she asked herself before falling asleep.
‘Are you alright? The lift guy was talking about some woman who knocked down the entire perfume range at the store! That was you??’ barged in Resh looking shocked. She sat next to Gauri, catching hold of her breath and Gauri’s hands. They were icy cold, despite the espresso. ‘What happened?’ she asked and as Gauri narrated the incident (half ashamed); Resh bit her lips harder and harder. There was more expression on Reshma’s face than on Gauri’s, who looked pale white. ‘You silly girl! Where did all this come up from after all these years?’ Reshma asked Gauri on the way back home. She had offered to (more than politely) to drop Gauri home and ensure she was okay. They were stuck in peak traffic and Gauri was still getting out of the day’s events. Finally, when Reshma left at around 6pm, Gauri went to her room and sat eyes closed. She had a good 3 hours before Gautam came home and the kids were at her mom’s. She had enough time, she thought to herself as she brought down a small trunk from the shelf above.
It was time to return that Jacket.
(..To be continued).