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Monday 28 December 2020

Happy Smells

Smells. I find them to be one of the most powerful senses that can trigger distant memories like nothing else. The association of smells are pretty random at times and seem unrelated but they have somehow managed to register a lingering imprint on my mind. Writing this has been cathartic for me. Reliving fond old times through the trail of smells and aromas. 

It also reminds me, I seem to have some peculiar fascination for the olfactory sense. You've got to read this to believe me. 👇 


The blast of mint, carbolic soap and urine - strangely redolent of cherished holiday train travel. There is obviously not much one loves about this combination of odours but this was exactly how a second-class compartment smelled! After a two-day train journey, you could throw in a sooty, metallic twang to the lot.

The fragrance of damp earth stirs a number of lovely images for me. Besides the obvious - of glorious rains hitting the parched earth, the smell reminds me of this scene viewed through sleep-drenched childhood eyes at the brink of dawn. Our maid in the village for over three generations, Lecchmi (who sadly passed away just recently) splashing the front threshold of our village home and then proceeding to deftly weave intricate kolam that fascinated me to no end.

The scent of burning wood and smoke makes me salivate...strange? You see, my mind always associates this smell with the heady aroma of bakshanams that ensued once paati got the fire burning steadily in the outdoor stove that used firewood and cattle dung. The massive quantities of sweets and savouries churned out from this smoke-spewing stove is unimaginable!

The heady bouquet of jasmine and rose flowers - specifically the gundu malli and paneer roja give me a thrill as I remember the grand melee of three-day weddings and various functions from yore. 

The divine fragrance of camphor, parijat flowers and sandalwood ushers in memories of thatha then and now appa performing the daily poojai. A fragrance that makes me involuntarily bow my head in reverence and devotion.

The amalgamation of sesame oil and firecrackers - "The Diwali smell" will always bring to mind the unforgettable thrill of waking before dawn, having an oil bath, hurriedly wearing new clothes and rushing out to be the first to burst crackers on Diwali mornings. 

The elusive fragrance of saffron always reminds me of my amma's sweets! You see amma has this weakness for this ingredient. She diligently advocates adding a few strands of the coveted saffron to every sweet treat to elevate it to the next level.

The delicate whiff of baby powder or even dettol brings on a wistful smile, reminding me of cuddly babies wrapped in freshly washed nappies. Makes me wonder, were my babies really that small? How time flies!

The acrid smell of snuffed out candles leads me onto the sweet aroma of baking which then tantalizingly brings to mind happy smiles, loads of food and fun from the children's parties I held.

The overwhelming hit of strong filter kaapi brewing anywhere is such one heady aroma that sings of home, home, home! From mom's milky coffee for youngsters only, surreptitiously downing unlimited tumblers of the piping hot yet entirely too sweet caterer's coffee at functions, to my better-half's strong brew every morning, kaapi is that distinctive beverage that spells home sweet home for me!

Moving on years ahead, 

The cloying smell of sanitizers, the sharp hit of bleach that assail the senses, will remind me eternally of the battle with the unknown enemy.

Oh, those dear old happy smells, they just don't make 'em like that anymore!


On another note, this post gives me another reason to smile...I can smell everything perfectly well - I am corona-free with my sniffing-tasting skills intact!

Are you obsessed with smells, the way I am? Do share your favourite olfactory memory.


paati -  grandmother

bakshanams - sweets and savouries

malli - a variety of jasmine

paneer roja - damask rose

thatha - grandfather

appa - father

poojai - daily prayer and worship

kaapi - South-Indian filter coffee

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