That smell

I met Daljit Singh yesterday. After all these years, nearly 15 years. The more surprising thing was that even after staying in the same city, we had never once bumped into one another before.

He hadn’t changed much. Same style of turban, moustache and beard. He hadn’t aged much or might be that facial hair hid well all his wrinkles. He had the same lean physique. What did he do to maintain his body so well? I was dreadfully conscious of my flab poking out of everywhere after childbirth. But nothing had changed about him. I was just about to convey that to him when that old familiar smell hit my nostrils. My instant reaction was to hold my breath. But till how long? I was already feeling dizzy, so I let out the breath in a giant whoosh.

Really nothing had changed. I remembered those old college days when we studied together. Daljit was my classmate. He wasn’t handsome nor was he intelligent. But what he lacked in the departments of looks and brain, he more than made up in sincerity and spendthriftness. He was loaded and he didn’t waste an opportunity to show that. No wonder he was always swarmed with friends. Everybody is looking for a cash daddy in college. Well, Daljit was our cash daddy. He was a nice guy too. He talked politely and was courteous. I would have certainly fallen for him had I not been bothered so much by his smell. Boy, was he smelly and how! I could barely stand before him without choking. So I made it a point to stand at least 2 metres away and talk. It was so potent that I could even tell that he had just passed through the corridors. The smell floated and lingered on the walls and clothes, in the air and in your memory.

In a fit of anger and helplessness, once I even remarked, “Daljit, did you forget to take a bath today?” I wanted to say everyday but I refrained. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.

I doubt to this day whether he took the hint. He would spray loads of deodorant to hide the smell which made the matter worse. The mindboggling body odour combined with the deodorant was a lethal potion. Somehow I have a feeling that he was the reason behind my regular asthma attacks. But I was the only in the class who had a problem with his smell. The other girls in the class clung to him shamelessly. Weren’t they bothered by his smell? Were their olfactory nerves permanently damaged?

A faint breeze touched me. It carried the long lost smell with it. The smell of the person standing before me, talking to me. I was instantly transported to the present.

“So how many kids do you have?” He asked me.

“Just one,” I replied.

“I have three,” He said. I could detect pride in his voice. “Here are they” and the very next moment, as if he was a magician who pulled rabbits out of thin air, three kids appeared beside him staring at me. They were triplets. Three boys in identical clothes though they were not look-alikes.

Three miniature replicas of Daljit were too much for me to handle. I was about to say something and excuse myself when, “Say hello to aunty,” Daljit encouraged his kids.

Then one boy stepped forward and extended a puny hand forward. I took the hand in mine and shook it. Then the other two too shook their hands. I remembered I had a few candies in my purse. I quickly took them out and offered to them. The kids grabbed them without a moment’s hesitation. Next the boys asked me to stoop. I didn’t get them but did just the same. Then one boy planted a kiss on my cheek, the other two followed suit. Oh boy! The next moment, Daljit said goodbye and left the scene with his three sons. But it took me some time to get up. I was still reeling under the after-effect of mini-Daljits and their smell. The smell. That same smell. Just more potent. Somehow the smell was passed on like the proverbial bad gene.

About Anshu Bhojnagarwala

Fiction Addict. Agatha Christie Fan.
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