Scents & Memories


There is a face wash that sits in my shower area. I bought it in 2008 when I was visiting my family for a few months in Karachi1. That trip of mine was the last time all five of us were together as a family (the only time after that was when my dad was sick and in the hospital). This face wash, by Johnson’s has a pretty typical light-powdery smell. And I just have to close my eyes as I lather it on my face, to be transported to that time all those years ago. I inhale the scent and I remember it all. Standing under the cold water in that small bathroom I shared with my sister on those typically Karachi hot summer days… The comfort of my parent’s house knowing Mama and Papa were just around somewhere.. Going for walks with Mama in the evenings through the dusty Malir2 roads and sitting outside on the road with Papa at night when the lights went out.. So many random memories go through my head as I close my eyes and let the scent carry me away.

There is a perfume, a men’s perfume by Junaid Jamshaid that my mom got for Papa. During that time in the hospital, my dad always smelled of that, his things that all came back from the hospital after him, the clothes, his rumaal or handkerchiefs, my mom’s pink and blue flower pillow that he used to lay his head on, his chaddar or long scarf that he used to wrap around himself, everything had that perfume and his scent in them. My parents gifted Bilal the same perfume a few years earlier and I’m glad that he never got round to using it much. Now it lies safe in a drawer under my bed. I can never smell that fragrance again without being reminded of my father, but also cancer, that hospital, the fear, the despair, and just a wrenching feeling in the heart, but yet also my father. So whenever I miss him, and want to feel his presence, I take this perfume out, and as my heart tugs at my soul, I slowly open it, close my eyes, and surround myself with him, his fragrance and the memories of the days when he was there.

Memory is a strange thing, how these precious moments are just a thought/ a whiff of a scent/a familiar song/ away, but yet, however much we want to relive them, too far beyond our grasp.

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Please say a little prayer for my father and my family as you read this. Some days it is still hard, the realization that he’s not there.

Thanks for reading.


1Karachi, a coastal city located in the south, is the largest city of Pakistan.

2Malir, is a neighborhood of Karachi, where my parent’s lived.