She cannot escape the smell of Joseph. They are not married but she spends every night in his room, sleeps on his bed. There is no sex between them though. It is only an arrangement to save money.
Joseph is the night watchman at the wedding center where she works. He does not need his room at night. She models expensive saris and fabulous jewelry till the shop closes - dressed up all day, continuously smiling at potential customers, turning and twisting all the time to show off the wares from different angles.
She needs a place to sleep. Joseph and she come to an arrangement of convenience. He would be on duty before she wraps up for the day. She would be out of the room and on her way to work before he returns in the morning. She pays Joseph an amount which is much less than what she would have had to pay for separate accommodation. And the man gains some extra cash.
But she cannot escape the smell of Joseph that hangs heavily in the room.
This is the theme of the well-written short story ‘The smell of Joseph’ by a first year engineering student, Ashwati Sashikumar. It was chosen for the first prize in the recent Sree – Malayala Manorama Short Story Competition by an eminent jury consisting of T. Padmanabhan, P. Valsala and CV Balakrishnan.
I am highly impressed and at the same time somewhat disturbed by this nicely crafted piece of fiction. As the jury mentions in its citation, it is different, and contemporary. To me, it brings to light certain realities of life, which, in the normal course, most people would not have been aware of.
Why does the heroine of the story go in for this highly susceptible but nevertheless basically honorable arrangement? Back home in a remote village there is an aging and sickly mother who needs medicines, younger siblings who have to be educated. That may sound mundane, but truth is sometimes so. It is a value system that is still found in Kerala and perhaps in other parts of
That is something noble – a silent sacrifice unknown to the world.
Next time I see a pleasant sales girl in a shop attending to the customers, I would wonder whether she too suffers from the smell of Joseph.
Thank you, Ashwati and Malayala Manorama for bringing us this story.
Also see: Short Stories By Abraham Tharakan