Thursday, August 22, 2013

Smelly to Smiley

A Journey through the breadth to the heart

“It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.”

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Márquez

It is funny how scent or smell takes us places, places where we long to go, places where we come from. Anything that culminates at the sensory level, stays quite long in our hearts and invokes such emotions that only the heart can comprehend. Such is the power of a good scent. For we can close our eyes to things that we do not want to encounter but no one can escape scent. We take it in every moment as we breathe and we cannot escape it not if we want to live. 

(Google images)

Once I asked my grandmother why is ice so cold, to this my grandmother replied, ''Because it does not smell anything it is cold.'' She knew more about the power of a good scent.

Now, coming back to my nostalgic memories associated with smell, I would take you to my childhood days when I started to relate things to a distinct smell. I’ll take you to my home in Lucknow, the city of nawabs and Kababs, where I learnt a lot about the smell of  ‘home’.

(Pic from Google Images)

I love the smell of home, my home in Lucknow smells of incense stick, wood and has this peculiar 1950s brick smell. The ‘Puja room’ smells of chandan and sweets very peculiar to the  ‘Kaali Badhi’. That whole aroma that wafts out of the Puja room reminds me of human faith; of man’s search for God and meaning; and the amount of confidence we attach to God. I feel so much at peace then. So strong is this smell that even on the streets if I come across such a familiar fragrance; I look around for a temple or a prayer place. For me this is the scent of heaven or a place where God is-- God's abode.

(Kaali badhi- Timesof India)

Coming from a Bengali household, for me kitchen smells of nothing but mustard oil , turmeric and fishes. The smell of fish reminds me of my roots and how much I love it. I kind of take pride and enjoy the fact that we as this clan are religiously passing down our love for this limbless cold-blooded vertebrate animal with gills and fins generations after generations. You just cannot get the Bengali out of me!

(Pic courtesy:

Adding to that have you ever smelt turmeric in hot mustard oil? I’d say do smell it it is because it is just divine! And for me this is how a gourmand’s kitchen should smell. This peculiar smell is the smell of a inviting kitchen.

My childhood was mostly spent in the kitchen or searching for my mother all around the house. Love, then smelt of my mom’s cotton saree and her skin that smelt of ‘Pears’. For me affection meant nothing more than that. 

Safety was just a hug away! I, now tend to search that very same smell, the smell of love and security, in my husbands T-shirts but sadly it has the elite French perfume written all over it. Ah! there were so many memories brewing out of my childhood home. Like the smell of tea which reminded me of guests at home and people, coffee reminded me of examinations; now it reminds me of concentration time time to self-introspect, time to write.

Security smelt nothing but dad who smelt of ‘Lifebuoy’ soap.

(Pic courtesy:

Sisterhood meant the smell of freshly baked cakes. We are three siblings, who,back then, were always trying new things in the kitchen but what stays close to my heart are the memories associated with freshly baked cakes along with the aroma of it.  We used to bake so many cakes together. It was a combined effort, starting from the beating the eggs to adding chocolate essence to the cake batter to stirring, finally waiting and constantly looking inside the electric oven. And the joy the joint effort used to bring to our faces. Whenever I bake cakes the instant aroma that gushes out of the oven takes me backs to the years when life was very simple and love was nothing unattainable.

(Google Images)

I miss those days! We have shared so much, from Camlin paints to sandals to candies and our secrets.

All in all, this is how I feel a home should smell. It should smell warm and welcoming. A place where your faith is made strong and your heart is made happy. And where memories are created each and every moment. In my case each strong memory has a good perfume or aroma attached to it. Things that please our olfactory sense, somehow trigger such nostalgic emotions in us and yet the science is hard to explain or comprehend and it’s power is yet so overwhelming.

I want to thank IndiBlogger and Ambi Pur for this contest. It brought back so many memories. For others, do check: