Scented Worlds

Sharmila sat still in a corner seat on the subway. She was on her way home from downtown. The officials in their shining towers had summoned her for a hearing after she had missed two citizenship tests in a row. She had expected to find herself before a judge. Instead, she was led to a large testing area and handed a citizenship test. It was their way of having one take the test. Silly official people! The whole thing was sooo easy. It disappointed her, as had many other things since she first arrived. What had she really expected of this land?

At the hearing, there was a desi Canadian government officer who tried to impress everyone with his brisk, efficient manner. He smelled a little of her father’s Old Spice cologne. At first Sharmila thought that he was one of the assistants. But he turned out to be one of the commissioners. The judge appeared after the test and spoke to her rather kindly. There was no hint of a scent about him. The night before, her husband had urged her to study for a surprise test. He lectured her for ten minutes about the perils of failing the citizenship test. Her eight-year-old son warned her in sombre tones to pass so he could get his citizenship too. “It’s not fair, Mum,” he said. “If you fail, I get to fail too!” She had smiled at him and wondered how right he was.

Published in TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 3. Purchase the book to read the full piece.

Toronto locations referenced in this piece

“The train stopped at Victoria Park. Sharmila wondered if her husband was going to be late again tonight . . . ” —Victoria Park

“Sharmila’s station appeared at the end of the dark tunnel. Warden Station. She stepped off the subway, through the turnstiles and down the wet, slippery stairs . . . ” —Warden Ave.

“She had gone to the desi shop on the corner of Markham and Eglinton yesterday. The sign proclaimed proudly: HALAL BANGLADESHI, PAKISTANI, INDIAN MEEAT SOLD HERE . . . ” —Markham Rd. & Eglinton Ave.