Memories are a funny concept; it requires a tiny tangible object, or even an abstract thought to trigger a wave of recollections associated with the said moment. Our five senses are highly attuned to remembrances; some of them dug deep down, that when they resurface, they tend to put us in an anxious or confused state of mind. For instance, in the movie Ratatouille (2007), the food critic Anton Ego is ‘forced’ to go back to his childhood; making us all question as to how cruel one’s memory can be at times. While Ego’s taste-buds acted as the medium to his repressed memories, my olfactory sense tends to do the same for me. The fragrances of incense and rosewater remind me of the years spent at Muscat, while the whiff of newly rained-on soil is purely magical; it transports me to a luxurious in-between space, wherein I can relive all the good and bad instances, and hope for much better moments associated with the rain. The smell of musty vinyl and caramelised popcorn remind me of watching Bollywood movies as old as DDLJ (1995); at a time when I had just begun to understand the Hindi language. Conversely the odours of expensive perfume and cheesy nachos, combined with the sound of clicking heels muffled by thick carpets, take me back to those few frivolous moments when I was able to watch a full-fledged Hollywood flick. The whiff of ealichi chai (cardamom-infused tea) immediately induces within me, the comfortable feeling of being ‘home’. The sweet scents of warm vanilla, lemon wafers, and caramel share their place with the aforementioned ‘fragrance of coziness’, for the other three just scream ‘BIRTHDAY!’ to me. During my middle-school days, I had wanted to be married to a baker, since the smell of freshly-made bread used to make my head spin. When I had set foot into the torturous four years of high-school, the stench of cheap cosmetics and store-bought strawberry perfume used to reek throughout; this is the cluster of scent-inspired memories I wish to forget, although it still pings within my senses even after the passage of several years. While studying for our Masters, my bestie and I used to frequent bookhouses, wherein we would sit at a quiet corner and spend at least five minutes smelling the fresh pages of newly-bound novels; we thought that they felt quite different compared to our University textbooks at the library. One’s olfactory sense also tends to reinforce them to their cultural set-up; something which has the power to remain constant, simply due to the credibility of the smells connected to the occasion. During my teenage years, I had wanted my wedding to be reminiscent of white roses and lily-of-the-valley. Today as a grown adult, I am aware that the fragrances associated with my special day, will be those of fresh marigolds, jasmine, and mehendi, alongside the aromas of filter kaapi and chai. There will be bold reds and golds and heavy music; no whites and lilacs and violins. In this manner the scents we are surrounded by, are likely to assist in our upbringing.
There you go! You never can take anything for granted anymore, right?
FYI- Please do read the novel Perfume (1985) by Patrick Suskind. You will be induced to think twice about certain scents after reading this.