Hey hey! How are you? It’s been a while since I posted here. But, I have been around reading all your posts. So, I cannot say that I missed WP. However, it sure feels great to get back with writing.
Yesterday a post on Instagram caught my eye.
‘If you remember a scent, you forget nothing.’
The post by Freddy Birdy comprised some of the warmest short stories I have read recently. When I shared it there, a dear friend responded, and we ended up sharing a bunch of nostalgic stories on how we relate various scents to memories of people and places we love. The conversation brought back a lot of beautiful moments and memories, and I thought, why not write a post about them.
And, here it goes 🙂
The Dubai Smell
My Achan(Dad) was an ex-pat in Dubai, and he visited us every year during holidays with a suitcase full of gifts. The moment Achan entered our home, there was this peculiar yet delightful scent all over the place. We called it ‘the Dubai smell’.
Opening the suitcase and fighting over who got what in itself was an extravaganza for us kids, and each and everything in that suitcase had that smell. Amma(mom) used to keep some of the stuff away safely for future use, and whenever she took them out later, we sniffed it and said, ‘Mmmmm, Dubai scent! Smells like Achan!’. It’s weird how I can remember that smell right now as I write this; the smell of Achan and his suitcase full of love.
Kerosene Lamps, and Arabian Jasmine
Call me crazy, but I am a sucker for the smell of kerosene. In fact, I even drank kerosene once when I was a kid. My brothers had mixed oil with kerosene to clean their bicycle’s chain, and I drank it like a yum-yum Pepsi-cola. I was just a baby then, and I am sure I was just mesmerized by the color and not the smell.
The smell of kerosene reminds me of grandma’s stories. Remember the old power cut days? When the power’s gone, grandma came out with a kerosene lamp and sat on a chair next to the stairs outside our home. And we all found a place next to her, or on the stairs. Then she told us stories; real stories about grandpa, her childhood, her kids’ childhood, and a lot more. And while we sat there, we could smell the scent of Arabian jasmine flowers planted next to the stairs slowly blooming at night, as if they were also keen to hear her stories.
Bru, or Nescafe?
I love coffee so much that even the aroma of it can perk me up in the morning. According to science, the reason is that coffee contains molecules for almost every attractive scent. But for me, coffee smells like love.
My Amma also loves coffee. She prepares it with full-fat milk using the ‘Bru’ coffee powder, and with the perfect measure of sugar. But, she never makes it for her alone. As all others in the house are tea lovers, when she wants one, she checks with me. And I tell her, “I will have one if you are planning to make it for you.”. She would reply, “I will make it only if you want one.”. And we would both be drinking a cup soon after.
When Achan came home with his suitcase, there was always a fancy glass jar of Nescafe in there for Amma. And, for these reasons, A sip of Bru reminds me of Amma’s coffee, and Nescafe about Achan.
Petrichor, Pakodas, and Coffee
I have traveled across countries and continents in the past few years. But, the way it rains anywhere else has never seemed as beautiful as I watch it from the verandah of my home. It may be because the petrichor smells like home, or perhaps it’s amma’s plants and bougainvilleas that make the view more beautiful, or maybe it’s the hot cup of coffee and pakodas that amma prepares that makes it worth the watch. Wherever I am, if it rains, I miss home and make me want to sit there in the verandah and scream, “Ammmmaaa, Coffee.”.
Overused Phenol, and Death
Not all smells bring back good memories. Some make me feel miserable and anxious. The smell of hospitals does that to me. It scares me; the sickening scent of patients, the strong smell of medicines, and the stench of overused phenol. It smells like death to me; reminds me of the lasts days of Achan in the hospital.
Vada Pav, and Agarbhathis
I disliked Bombay the first time I visited there with Scorpy. Don’t take me wrong. I feel the same with every crowded and so-called happening city, including Kochi. When Scorpy asked me the first day about how I liked Bombay, all I said was “You have pigeons for crows here.”.
But when the sun was about to set, things started to look a bit better. Crimson sky! Pigeons perching and pecking each other on the balcony rails! And there was this divine aroma lingering in the air; the scent of agarbhathis(scented diffusers) and delicious street food. I immediately asked Scorpy to take me out to have street food. We found a shop right next to the building and had vada pav and pani puri. And It felt like I won a lottery when the chaatwala gave me those two extra and free sev puris. Bombay instantly became a lot better for me at that moment.
Puppies and Babies
I am sure some of you are wondering why have I written puppies and babies together. It is because in our home they both smell the same; like milk and baby food.
Achan adored dogs, and we always had at least one at home. Whenever he brought a new pup home, he bought a can of baby food and a feeding bottle too. I was given the duty of feeding the pup because he always said I know how to handle them better than my brothers (secretly feeling remarkably proud here). I still remember this one pup named Mickey who was one hell of a foodie and wouldn’t stop sucking the bottle till the very last drop in there. His tummy would grow so big that he could not stand on his four legs. He would then immediately sleep lying on his back and snoring, showing off his full-blown tummy.
Cut to 2016. As a newborn, my son initially had some trouble with feeding. To compensate for that, the doctor suggested a formula for him. The first time I gave him that, he drank it all up on a whim and slid into a deep sleep. He looked so adorable! I hugged him tight and gave a peck on his cheek. And guess what, he smelled like Mickey.
Maybe I should just get a puppy instead of planning for another baby. That way, I don’t have to sniff any more poopy diapers, and also won’t have to deal with an additional demanding kid in the future, screaming for pakodas when it rains.
These are just a few of my favorites from an extremely long list which includes everything from the smell of new books to an aromatic biryani. I can go on and on. But, I will leave it to you now, to share some of your favorite scents and the memories associated with it; be it the smell of something that takes you right back to your childhood, a place, or that one person you’ll never forget 🙂