We hadn't seen Ajay Palvayanteeswaran in several weeks and some of us were actually beginning to get worried. Some people even speculated that perhaps he was in the 'home stretch' of his Ph. D dissertation - that interminable period when grad students write their huge, fat thesis. Just then, Ajay surfaced one day, surprising the heck out of all of us.
"No, no. What's wrong with you guys. I haven't even completed my qualifying exams. I am nowhere near writing my thesis. Kyaa chance hai." he told us. "I was pursuing something very interesting and very important."
I was tremendously curious about what that could be. I lit a cigarette and offered him one as well, which he politely declined. Now, that surprised me. Since when did Ajay refuse free cigs and booze ? Why in the world was he behaving so strangely ?
"I am sorry. I can't smoke henceforth" he told us "And that's because of this." At which point, he flashed a dirty, overused, purple book at us - one of those published in India some five decades ago. It took me two minutes to even read its title. It said 'Naasi Siddha Sastra - The ancient art of harnessing nasal energy - by Swami Vijay Maharajananda'.
"Yes, folks." Ajay continued. "This is a fascinating book. Written by a Swamiji who spent twenty years in a smell-free environment in the Himalayas. Do you know that there are 'Smell Fields' and field gradients all around us ? It is just that we have lost our ability to utilize it and convert it to useful energy. For example, an animal has an acute sense of smell. But somewhere along the evolutionary chain, as our brains became larger, we humans began losing that great olfactory gift ....."
"What are you talking about ? What in the world does 'olfactory' mean ? It sounds like a tamil bad word."
"Ha ha." laughed Ajay, now feeling somewhat smug "I am talking about the tremendous power of smell and how as civilization progressed we stopped using our noses. Do you know that there is a separate branch of knowledge during the Vedic times dedicated just to this and several famous Rishis did research on such things ? They even called 'smell' the eighth dimension. You can actually read this book and develop your worn-out sensory perception of smell. Remember, a nose is a terrible thing to waste. And all we use a nose for these days is to rest our eyeglasses or to blow or if you are Sridevi, patch it up with plastic surgery. Actually there is a tremendous amount of potential you and all of us have - literally right under our noses."
It was fascinating. I was too scared to even rub my nose, lest I might lose whatever power of smell I possessed.
"Just look at ourselves." Ajay continued. "We go to eye doctors, ear doctors and dentists and periodically check our sight and hearing and so forth. Do we ever check our sense of smell ? Why would we neglect such a big part of our body ? You tell me ?"
Quite uncharacteristically, Ajay just drank a glass of water. He continued. "Remember folks, your nose is actually a power center. In fact, some people are supposed to be unusually gifted with a sense of smell and if they develop those faculties even more, they could go places. And guess what folks, I discovered that I am one of those with a god-given gift of smell. And in the past couple of weeks I have developed it even more following Swami Maharajananda's book and now it has worked wonders for me."
What ? How weird ? We just couldn't believe it.
"I know you are skeptical." Ajay continued, enjoying the attention. "Why don't we do a little test. Just go to your fridge and take out anything and bring it to me. Make sure I don't see the contents."
I quickly ran and got a container. I hadn't even brought it near Ajay and he already pronounced "This must be Moong Daal you made between seventy and seventy five hours ago."
My god ! He was right ! We blindfolded him with a towel and brought out item after item from the fridge and Ajay guessed everything accurately. He could in fact tell the exact date on which our bunch of grapes were harvested. "Actually the electromagnetic fields in the fridge are slightly confusing me. Otherwise, I could easily tell you everything even through the fridge door. By the way, you haven't had a bath in nearly forty two hours and you don't need my special powers to notice that your socks stink to high heavens. Please get rid of them..."
This was a new facet of Ajay and we wouldn't have figured it even in our wildest dreams. Just imagine, you wake up one day and discover that you are gifted with a great proboscis !
"If you are interested, you can borrow this book" he offered us "Even if you are not gifted, you can hone your smell skills and be more alert. It does call for a rigorous smell training for a few weeks though. By the way, do you know there exist even secretive Tantric societies composed of such really gifted smellers ?"
"That smells fishy." I managed to maro a phatta. But Ajay, now 'smelling' success and fame, ignored it and flashed a self-contented smile.
"Ajay, I did not label our Masala jars unfortunately. Now I can't tell which is what. Can you help ?" would be a typical request. It was child's play for Ajay.
"Oh, this one is Lala Sambhar Masala and the second jar is Pav Bhaji and the third one is Vindaloo paste, now solidified."
One day, standing in a street corner he said he could smell a horse and in two minutes we saw a van carrying a horse. Another time he said he could smell a bone and in ten minutes a dog came and dug up the ground and unearthed a bone ! By the fourth day there were no skeptics, at least not in the Desi community. He even gave a lecture-demo in the university (organized of course, by the Indian Association) and he was subjected to a variety of blind smell tests and he passed them all effortlessly. In just a matter of days, he was featured in newspapers, television, home pages and even on Oprah Winfrey show. He reached his pinnacle when the local police took him along on a drug raid and he sniffed and smelled the stashed away drugs. In fact, the police drug dogs felt quite ashamed of themselves and were immensely jealous of Ajay.
Throughout all this, Ajay was a picture of modesty, giving lavish credit to the ancient, forgotten art of 'Naasi Sastra' and the Lord for his own gifted nose. But we could tell he was secretly enjoying his fame. Even his Ph. D advisor, Prof. Ringo Rangopadhyay, was scared that Ajay might unleash some Tantric tricks and sabotage his NSF projects and so, never once harassed him about his thesis.
"Come on Ajay. I have never seen you so low. Do you need some 'smelling salt'. I am sorry if I am sounding nosy.. Ha haa haa" I tried to cheer him up.
"Do you have a cigarette with you ?" he asked me. What ? The Smell Wonder actually smoking ? "Hey, what's wrong with you ? Isn't it going to screw up your extra-sensory smell perception ?"
He looked quite sad. "Hey, its gone. My powers have all gone. I have lost it. It is a long story." He lit up a cigarette and proceeded to tell me the story.
"Then everything came to an end one day." he said rather ruefully "I remember that day. I was in a grocery store. You know, if you are a gifted smeller and you go to a grocery store, you will really be grossed out. I could smell rotten meat, rotten fruits and moldy cakes. I bet even the Guru of Smell Science, Maharajananda himself would have gone nuts in there. Then all of a sudden it happened. I suddenly felt a very strong smell !"
Ajay inhaled and exhaled a volley of smoke.
"Yes, the smell was so overpowering." he continued. "At once I knew what it was - it was a woman in heat ! I know I know. It sounds gross. But these are the very fundamental smells in nature. We as animals always produce them, but these days we are unable to respond to them because of centuries of evolution. How do you think the animals find their mates ? By smell, of course ! And a few minutes after I experienced this smell, I saw this beautiful woman walk in - and guess what, she was an Indian woman too !"
I just couldn't believe it. Imagine, being able to find out if women were in heat, purely by sensing the Smell Fields they produce ! It sounded kinky. Ajay continued.
"I couldn't take it any longer. I slowly walked toward the woman and gave her an IIT smile. She too smiled - rather wickedly - remember she was in heat. One thing led to another and pretty soon I found myself in her car going to her house - I thought I was in a dream. I never knew I could use my powers to such devious purposes and exploit people."
Ajay kept talking. "She had a really nice apartment. She must be a yuppie, because she had a fundu sound system and a huge TV. But I was going quite crazy just smelling the fields generated by her. She asked me if I wanted coffee or tea. And I said 'Bring me anything. But don't tell me what you are bringing, because I am a 'Smell-gifted' individual'"
"Oh, who can't distinguish coffee or tea" she laughed at me mockingly. So at this point, I really had to demonstrate my powers to her. So even though she had her kitchen cabinet closed, I told her exactly what was lying inside purely by smell. She was maha impressed. And I was slowly losing my sanity, overwhelmed by sexual feelings and her smell-aura. I just couldn't handle it any more. I still somehow controlled myself and we discussed silly things and talked about each other's background, childhood days in India and so forth. She is probably the same age as myself, although she looked a little older. I don't know how it all happened, but the next time I opened my eyes, we were in each other's arms. It was such a passionate hug. I was looking straight into her eyes. She looked very beautiful. She asked me if I was a virgin. I said 'yes' almost whisperingly. And then the whole thing started....."
Here Ajay paused to light up one more cigarette. And then continued.
"No, no. It is not what you think. Nothing sexual happened. Instead, I found the woman all of a sudden grappling me into a vice-hold. Although I was sexually excited, I didn't think sex could be this rough. Then, before I could respond, she had me pinned on the bed, put her mouth on my nose and in one vacuum sound she sucked away all my smelling powers. All I remember was her telling me 'Ajay, I am no ordinary woman. I am Ma Santoshi Devi of the Secret Tantric Society of Naasi Sastra with a singular mission in life to develop the most powerful sense of smell in this world and beat out all my rivals. Oh, I have been just waiting for virgin boys like you and steal your gifted smell-concentrators from your nose. Oh, yes. I was looking to nab you right from the time I saw you on TV and newspaper...."
In fact, Ajay's nose indeed looked a little bruised and bulbous.
"Yes, I think I not only lost my Concentrators, but also half my sinus cavity. I have no idea how I even came home that day. I swear if I see her ever again, I will rip her heart out. By the way, do you have regular cigarettes ? These light cigs don't smell strong enough."