Smell – That Triggers Memories

By Jyoti Kerkar

The first thing I did was to find the Oxford Dictionary meaning of the word. “Smell” and this what I found, “Smell implies solely the sensation without suggestion of quality or character” . So there is no good or bad about using the word smell. The other synonyms are odor, fragrance and Aroma.

As the title suggest I have high memories associated with smell in general, and here I am speaking about the good part, waft of a smell conjures for me a forgotten memory , and there are lot that I can pen down. 

Today staying in a city life there is no way you can get waft of coals and wood burning for cooking sometimes travelling you get the smell of wood fire and it immediately transports me to my Aaji/Grandmothers Kitchen where a pot or pan used to sing with delectable food , the bathing water used to be warmed with woodfire in huge bronze or copper pots , the bathing experience used to be unique. There was another ritual when I was a child my aaji or aai used to wash my hair with Ritha or Shikakai , that used burn my eyes and I used cry and scream, but that lovely smell, I still can recollect it., and now I buy them just to recollect those times. 

We all love the first rains and the earthy smell of the mud rising called Petrichor, when we used to go to Karwar, the rains used to be early and we used to experience the belting and incessant rain and that heavenly fragrance of the wet earth and the singing trees. 

After food my Aaji used to clear the plates we had eaten in and clean the space with cow dung and some other ingredients , yes some of you may cringe away, but that used to make me feel good at that time. Her cooking too had a rhythm, her tempering for everything had a unique smell ,the ones she used to temper her Dals or vegetables had a different combo and different smell, and the one she used to temper her non vegetarian dishes like kismur , a dried shrimp chutney was amazing she used to smoke the kismur with a burning coal and pour coconut oil on it and close the pot , that used to be divine to eat. 

My Aai’s  uncle my grandfather had Beetlenut  grove and I used to  love trailing behind him , the quietness and the tweets of birds and the fresh smell of the beetlenut used to be amazing. It used to be a ritual of going with my Baba to the bakers and getting the freshest and softest bread loaf of different types when in Goa, and the heavenly smell of freshly baked bread used to tickle my nose, I can still smell that experience. 

We have vivid experiences , The Puja place at my home use to be redolent with all the lovely fragrances from the flowers, the chandan, the kumkum, the agarbattis, on Sunday’s me and my borther used to wake up to this lovely fragrance. Sunday dinner invariably used to be a  non-vegetarian affair either fish or mutton curry, the various spices and the curry flavors ,the aromas used to make us hungry to devour it . 

During festivities like Ganapati Chaturthi  , the puja fragrances used to be different to all the pujas we used to do at home ,till today I have never understood why the humble Prasad/bhog of food, during festive taste so so good,and using the same food items , the rishi chi bhaji (the dish cooked with seven specific vegetables ) during Ganapati Puja and the Durga puja Khichuri and the Faral prepared during Diwali , fragrant and so flavorsome, you prepare any other day they don’t taste that good. 

There are many other smells, fragrance and aromas one can talk about, but I would like to leave you with this thought of the sensory of smell.