“Memories triggered by scent have some of the strongest emotional connections and appear more intense than other memory triggers.” This scent doesn’t come so easily; it needs a mixture of right ingredients to invoke that same feeling to take you down memory lane. And when the right time comes, it makes you reminiscent and nostalgic. You are transported to your carefree days which always give you a handful of threshed grains..
Today, my sister and I were talking about those certain scents and those certain memories! We were always together in the corridors of childhood, never been parted, one being the shadow of the other (I was always the shadow while my sister led the pathway!). Hence one of us can easily associate the smell the other attempts to describe, when she starts to dust off the pages…We were talking more about scents that bring in memories of places. Those memories, indeed, make those dusty pictures shinier and brighter. Can we exactly describe the smell? No, it is often associated with other senses too.
One of our much-awaited trips was a trip with family to Madras to visit Achan’s brother, our uncle. Lot of attractions came along with the planned trip. Of course, a trip with family had all its charm with our loving parents and ‘sibling time’. Another attraction was an overnight journey in a train with a bonus of spending time with our dear Radhamama, Saralammayi and fun-loving cousins. Madras definitely was a La La Land for us. It was then, for the first time, we saw a black and white TV. I used to wait for the popular show ‘I Love Lucy’ aired at that time, even if I had not understood a single dialogue by the characters sprinkled with strong American accent! This was way back in 1981, I guess. I was mesmerized by the idea of sitting and watching moving figures at the comfort of home while eating dinner! They had a courtyard with a heavily-laden mango tree at the back of the house. This had its own peculiar smell – a sense of perception stimulated and garnished by all these ingredients -mangoes, a majestic iron swing, Tamil songs from a transistor and the typical ‘chennai air’ with its scent of jasmine gliding in!
The monsoon days have its own smell and its own collection of memories. The wet earth with its different shades of green, glossy leaves has its own smell. Along with it comes the fresh smell of books. It takes me to the living room in our house where three of us sit together with Achan and Amma to do an exciting activity – covering our books and sticking name labels on them. Monsoon was the harbinger of a new school year. We had limited collection of name-slips; so, we used to equally distribute ‘the name slips with good pictures’ and ‘bad pictures’ amongst us. (I don’t remember us having fights to grab better things for ourselves which was quite a common activity among most of the siblings! In spite of being the youngest and ‘a boy’, our brother was also always ready to give in! ) Our parents used to neatly cover the books for us, tucking in the paper on four sides to keep the jacket tight and neat. We used to place something heavy on the books to give the books a neatly ironed coat. We used to take extra care to make it last for one whole year. It was easy with the textbooks; but not so easy with note books. A scent mixed with wet earth and its lush greenery on a cloudy day accompanied by pitter-patter rain, definitely brings in memories of a special time at a special place!
Sometimes, the feeling can also be something unwanted, something which barges in to mess up with the carefully built equipoise in your life… and you feel stuffiness entrapping you with memories that you love to forget. The smell of a particular ‘masala’ and oil mixed with a humid air that seems so oppressive reminds me of my Mumbai life which I hate even to think of! It stifles me, makes me feel ensnared! I make sure my kitchen should never smell like that! I realise a scent can be appealing or appalling because it is conditioned by the memory you recall…
As Oliver Wendell Holmes says, “Memories, imagination, old sentiments and associations are more readily reached through the sense of smell than through any other channel.”