Perfume Magic . . .
I returned from Paris last week. I waited in line for 42 minutes in front of the flagship Louis Vuitton store on the famed Champs-Elysees before they would let me go inside.
The young German salesgirl chatters gaily to me in heavily accented English. She's been at the store for only a month, she confides. At first, I'm distant, taciturn, holding myself aloof. I have no money. Not enough to buy the Limited-Edition Neverfull tote I admire in the window display, but maybe she's heard of the new breed of Indian tech millionaires, so she continues to chat me up.
After 20, 30 minutes of cajoling me to buy the logo-embossed fine-gossamer golden shawl or the python-skin Petite Malle handbag she thrusts in my hand a tiny bottle of the Louis Vuitton fragrance just launched. "You'll love this. It has Oudh in it."
I fumble for my phone because my husband's calling me, annoyed. "Where are you?" he asks tersely. "You were just here and now you aren't."
"Uh, uh. I'm coming." I sprint out of the store, and I realize I'm still holding the sample perfume bottle in my tightly curled fist. Too late to turn around, I flip my wrist upwards and spray it on my skin. When I lift my forearm and bring it to my nose to smell, the scent assaults my senses. It takes me to places I will never go—red carpets in Bollywood films' award shows I will never attend; plush interiors of private jets I will never be ensconced in; the Queen's bedroom in Buckingham Palace. The experience is as heady as being inside a cello.
I cap the crystal gem-encrusted bottle and tuck it inside my cotton Maidenform bra. My husband has a very sensitive nose, and he does not like perfume. I was gifted a L'oreal bottle of 'Fresh Lilac' once and he threw it out in the garbage.
"Oudh is addictive," I read in Vogue magazine while waiting at Terminal 4 at Charles de Gaulle airport next afternoon. A glamorously dressed woman in a rose-pink dress and matching wide-brimmed hat offered the magazine to me when they started pre-boarding the First-Class passengers. "Would you like it? I'm done with it," she asked. With tremulous fingers, I took it from her, feeling a sudden burst of joy bloom like a flower in my untethered heart.
"She noticed me!" my soul sings. It must be the Louis Vuitton Matiere Noire fragrance I sprayed on this morning. Thank goodness Ravi flew out earlier this morning to attend the computer programmers' conference in Geneva. "I'll wear it sparingly so I don't waste it. Oooh, if the other girls at Ganga Saraswati Charitable School for Young Girls could smell me now," I think and hug myself a little tighter.
Oudh, I read further comes from a very rich, intense oil taken from the heart of the Aquiver tree that grows in India. "And I had to come to Paris to learn that!"
I waft on a cloud of peonies, pink candy and perfect happiness as the boarding for Economy class is announced.