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I live faraway from Arabia,

In a small village near a small town in the southern tip of India. 

Yet, my town smells like Shawarma in the evenings. 

This is where the Arabs came in the 3rd BCE,

searching for spices, pepper, cardamom and the like. 

Babylonians, Assyrians and the Egyptians had arrived

on the Malabar coast. 

Then centuries later, the Malabaris with their mixed ancestries 

returned to Arabia, in search of dirhams, dinars and riyals,

minted from the oil money.

There is a homeopathy clinic on the way to my town.

It’s right next to an Ayurveda pharmacy. 

An allopathy doctor also consults right opposite that road. 

“It is India after all”. I tell myself, fishing for coins 

to pay the bus conductor in my soft grey vanity bag.

It is a branded bag. 

I had gifted it to my mother. 

But she doesn’t use it; she is unused to such.

School kids who reek of the day are

sucking on cheap lollipops and icicles.

They argue about BTS and Blackpink in the bus. 

The grumpy conductor shushes them.

The aloof driver switches the stereo on. 

An old Malayalam song lulls us all into silence.

The old lady next to me smiles, reliving her secret nostalgias. 

Suddenly I realize it is my stop.

I get down, ignoring the angry conductor scolding me

for being so forgetful and delaying their trip.

I walk down the street which smells like Shawarma. 

One can never be lost at home.

Nose Job

They say button noses are cute and trendy.

Mine looks more like a door knob. 

Broad, protruding with white heads. 

It sneezes often but catches smells so well. 

My husband calls me a hound when I tell him,

to change our baby’s diaper from half a mile away. 

“Why don’t you get a nose job?” My sister asks, poking 

her long, pretty nose on, as I check myself in the mirror. 

“Maybe,” I chuckle. 

I gave it a thought, and then many. 

At the door of the cosmetic clinic, I sniff a cosmic whiff. 

A perfume store is on the opposite street. 

I walk in, widening my plump nostrils. 

“Is that mitti attar with a scent of sandalwood?” 

The perfumer nods. “You have such a good nose!” 

“I know!” I beam. 

Now I am back home, 

with a bunch of bottles 

which smell like dreams of love 

through my good old nose.

Marva M. is a Malayali living in Bangalore. She writes short fiction and scripts mostly. Occasionally, she writes poetry and illustrates too. After finishing her post-graduation in English Studies from IIT Madras, she worked as a story teller and an educator. She won the Mavelinadu Collective’s short fiction grant in 2023. Memes and music fuel her.

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