The label said jasmine sambac or Arabian jasmine, but this gardener knew what she had found. The bel phool that grew on the roof terrace in her ‘baaper bari’ or father’s home. Nothing can smell sweeter! As the proverb goes, even the crows sound better at the ‘baaper bari’. Two plants were promptly loaded on to the trolley and wheeled away, paid for and brought home.
For a thrifty person, the price was a bit of a sticking point but I turned the inner voice off. I imagined the perfume, flooding in through windows left open on summer nights. I imagined gajras a la the most florid Bollywood mummy role, although I am the last person to do anything that adventurous with my hair. I even sighed over the romance of wilted jasmine petals, forgotten on the pillow once night is gone. A Sastra (Indian scripture) endorsed sign of spent passion or unrequited love (depending on who you are) if there ever was one!
Well, I am happy to say no gajras have been inflicted on anyone yet. A few buds, picked as they turned fat and white from pale jade green, have found their way to various tiny vases, offerings to the many Buddha and Ganesh figurines around the house. Pick them any earlier and they will never open. Wait till the next day and you are greeted with dead flowers, dry and purple. The perfume is yet to flood through any windows, but only because my parents close their window at night all year long. I should probably place one outside the front window which is left open in all but the most freezing weather.
But the two bushes have doubled in size, filled out in every direction and blossomed their hearts out. They have filled my heart and made me sing snatches of songs. They have not needed much more than a splash of water every other day and a feed every fortnight. But they have repaid me a hundredfold.
Bel, Mallika, Kundumalligai or Sambac – whatever you want to call it – this is how happiness smells.