The Scent of a Woman

After the Second World War, there was a shortage of food stuffs in the Island. In those years, Mauritius was a colony under the British rule.

Nonetheless, our family did not feel the immediate pangs or the aftermath of the war as we were quite well off. My mother, I fondly remember, splashed herself with Yardley Eau de Cologne every morning after her tub bath. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and I could follow her around the whale of a house that we had, sniffing her perfume like a little dog.

My father was a whole sale merchant and he was bringing home our share of ration rice. It was our basic food and also the basic food of the whole population of some 500,000 heads.

A hard, little, yellowish pearl, unpolished and unrefined, my mother told me that this grain of rice came in its husk during the war. In those days called ‘le temps margoze’ (the sour gourd days) by the local people, the women folk had to pound the rice in a mortar to separate the husk from the rice. They used to call it ‘du riz pousse femme’ (the rice that drive women away) because it was a real nightmare for women to pound the rice.

We were fortunate, I gather, because we did not have to pound the rice. But once in a week, in a ceremonial manner my mother sat a small wooden bench and surrounded by the maid servants, they would busy themselves at cleaning the rice. The rice was placed on large aluminum trays in small heaps. It was winnowed and then the grit was separated from the grain. In a small tin, my mother kept the small black stones to throw away and in her lap, the broken rice to feed the birds.

Close to her, on a smaller bench, I sat down to be with her. I felt like a big girl because I could pick out the stones and the broken rice from her heap.

After she had finished and filled a big iron container with the clean rice, I had the liberty to bury my head in the warm and loving lap of my mother. I breathed in the intimate scent of a woman interlaced with the perfume of eau de cologne and the smell of ration rice.

Years after, this scent still filled my whole being with the sweet memory of my mother.

Anita Bacha

Marrons Glacés 🌰

The woody scent of roast chestnuts fills my whole being again, after decades and so far away from Europe; I am at One Utama shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur; memories of my student days flashed in front of my open eyes like a collage of eventful occurrences.

It was my first winter in London.

In those times,the days were extremely short and dark.Snow piled up in heaps on both sides of the roads as my friend,Baba, and I struggled to pave our way to Holborn tube station.
Curbed into two,shivering under my winter coat, a whiff of browning nuts made me jerk. I turned to my friend and asked –
” What’s the scent?’
“Roasting chestnuts” he replied, as he gestured with his chin at a black silhouette in the corner of the street.
I could vaguely make out,in the distance,a man or a woman, shabbily dressed, occupied in front of a stove of burning charcoals.A light smoke raised as a cloudy mist around the stove, danced playfully in the icy air.
We crossed the road.
The alluring scent of roast chestnuts swelled my nostrils.
Baba bought a small paper bag of piping hot chestnuts and ceremoniously offered it to me.
I tasted the first roast chestnut of my life and I spontaneously became fond of this soft and delightful delicacy.

Baba took up a job at Knightsbridge for end of term and Christmas vacation.
Among other lovely Christmas gifts, which he offered to me,I found a luxuriously wrapped box of ‘marrons glacés’ from Harrods.

After our law studies, we parted. We did not keep in touch but I still love chestnuts,roasted,candied or steamed.

It’s amazing how the sound of music or the whiff of a scent can bring to our mind souvenirs of cherished instances that we carry inside us and which,possibly none of us actually knows is there.

Anita Bacha

Marrons Glacés

The Socks

The Socks
In coils like two cotton balls
Coated with dust
From under my bed
A brush stroke brought out the socks!
Forgotten
Abandoned
Consciously or unconsciously
The socks you left behind
Sad, blue
Filled with bitterness
The stare blank
The socks
I caught in my trembling hands
Gave me a lump in my throat
The socks recalled your being there
Curled against me in my bed
It was not a dream!
The socks made me a little scared
Fear the idea that you will never come back
To warm my bed
To cover me with delicious cuddles
The socks made me chuckle too
Giggle at the idea that I had never seen such large feet
Such big toes, teasingly tickling my feet
The socks revived in me the great happiness
These senseless moments
When we both laughed like kids
Happy to be together
Pleased that we had met
Pleased that we were in love!

Anita Bacha

The socks

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day!
Sharing a poem dedicated to my mother who left this world at the age of 42 after a long illness of innumerable years.


THE APPLE OF MY EYE

She was walking on the beach
A long skirt hiding her knees
Dotted with tiny blue florets
A white linen blouse flattened her bosom
Prude,
She never wore a bathing suit

Immaculate as the sunset
Pretty as a picture
Mysterious as the sea
Smiling to herself
Poetic, in love, sweet,
A dreamer
She fell in love only once
People said
The blessed day was her wedding day

A long trail of foot steps
She left
Printed in the moist sand
In joyous innocence
Behind her I walked
Placing my steps
One by one in her wake
She was the apple of my eye!
She was my mother!
Anita Bacha

Excerpt from my poetry book SOUL POETRY

The Expired Thongs


I embarked on a spiritual journey last spring and headed towards an ashram in search of self enquiry. My destination was India, a country known for its vast spiritual heritage. I carried in my luggage the minimal personal effects including a pair of old thongs. This search for the Truth of Oneself will, in my mind, be restrictive on personal wants and needs.


Two days after I had rambled around in my old thongs, I noticed that part of the right sole was coming off; I brought it closer to my eyes to have a microscopic view of the damage; I then perceived that there was another problem; the strap which run from between the big toe and the second toe to the right side of the sandal was threading off and thinning. I sadly told myself that the thongs had expired due to old age, wear and tear. It was essential for me to look for new thongs before the expired ones left me half-way. Opportunity knocked when the next morning I walked into a store to buy fruit juice. An array of attractive and colorful thongs was displayed on a self. I tried a few pairs until I fell on one which fitted perfectly.


I settled my bill, removed the new thongs from the box, glided my feet into them and placed the expired ones into the carton to throw away. Strangely, I could not find a dustbin and the expired thongs slept in the box under my bed almost forgotten.
Time passed by. For the festival of Mahashivratri, innumerable pilgrims arrived in the ashram from all over the world. One night, I misplaced my new thongs. I immediately run for the rescue of the expired ones. I had been advised by a physician to walk barefoot which was supposedly a good exercise for different types of inflammation and beneficial for my sore knees, but accustomed to the western way of life, I found it hard to hop around like a grasshopper without footwear.


Eventually, the expired thongs silently resumed their job of transporting me. Every time I came out of a hall or canteen where footwear was not allowed, my eyes fell on them waiting for me, tattered yet so warm. They were serving submissively and devotedly like old wives. I left them here and there, under the nose of everyone but nobody touched them. They were too old to draw attention or to be stolen. Expired they were, in the eyes of all except in mine. What a startling spiritual lesson to learn! Respect and hold on to the old; in times of need, they are the most helpful.


Further, nothing ever happens accidently or mysteriously, spiritual life shows us. For every happening, there is a proper reason. Moreover we are taught that inanimate objects too have feelings and emotions. For instance, it is told in the sacred Hindu book ‘The Ramayana’ that when Lord Rama went to rescue his wife Sita from the demon King Ravana, an army of monkeys came to his help. They built a bridge by plucking mountains from the Himalayas and throwing them into the seas to allow Rama to walk from his land to the realm of Ravana. When the bridge was done, one mountain cried because it was plucked from its original place but not used. Lord Rama then promised the mountain that in his next Avatara, it will receive his blessings.

This very mountain was the Govardhana Peak which Rama as the Avatar Krishna lifted on his finger and held aloft for seven days in order to save the inhabitants of Gokul from the devastation of torrential rain.
To cut a long story short, I returned home with the expired thongs, having learnt that self enquiry leads one to detach from people, mundane life and affairs by opening one’s eyes to the deficiencies in them.

Anita Bacha

How to tell you (3)


How to tell you,
What is softer than the skin of a baby,
Softer than the feel of snow,
Softer than the petals of a rose,
How to tell you,
Nothing is softer than your hand,
Lying under my cheek,
When I sleep;
How to tell you,
What is a hand without warmth,
Or warmth without a hand,
Or a 🌹without petals,
Or petals without a 🌹,
Or me without you,or you without me.

Anita Bacha

Photo credit: Anita Bacha.

This is the third poem entitled ‘How to tell you’ that I have penned down. I thought my readers would be confused to read (3) in the title. Enjoy! The picture was shot by me at the wedding of my friend, the groom,in Rajasthan. His hand decorated with henna in the picture. I am using the picture to illustrate my poem. There is no connection between the poem and the picture.