Smell

While discussing something on GM‘s blog, she mentioned the movie Aiyaa and then Gandha. That got me thinking about the sense of smell in general. I also thought about the movie Perfume, which I had liked a lot and have watched multiple times. It’s about a guy whose body has so odor at all. That’s pretty much like not having any identity, because all of us have our own individual scent. I can’t imagine what the world would be like without the sense of smell.

I’m very intrigued by the particular smells of anything and everything. I sometimes find myself inhaling deeply to get a better sense of a hint of a smell. It’s not even always a great smell. But I do tend to associate people with smells. Sometimes it’s the perfume they use, mixed with their own scent which creates a unique combination. Like my mum always carries this fresh, powdery, and flowery scent; dad always has a hint of brylcreem; the sis is generally a mix of fruity perfume with body lotion; I can identify my sister if I smell her used clothes. When I smell my used clothes, it’s kind of like a fruit going stale. I like perfumes form the fresh and fruity family.

I don’t think there’s any food that I don’t smell before eating. It’s an intrinsic part of the culinary experience for me. I love smelling leaves on trees. I smell my mint and basil plants every now and then, or nip a bit off the lemongrass plant to release the oils that carry that lovely scent. Or the smell of freshly ground masalas, which is so heady.

I am very interested in perfumes and how they smell different on different people. Like I had an ex-boss who used an amazing perfume. You could tell of it;s good quality such by the smell. It had a great sillage and left a trail for a good 2-3 minutes after he’d pass by. I could tell he has arrived by just that smell. I asked him what perfume he used out of curiosity. He was generous enough to tell, mainly because I gave a very academic explanation about what I wanted to know. I then made the husband buy it. The same perfume would bring out the mango fragrance on the boss, and brings out the patchouli on the husband. I’m sure it’s got to do something with the body temperature. I gifted some other perfume to dad, and am often surprised by how it smells like the perfume the boss used to wear, even though it’s a different brand.

Smells really are such an interesting topic. Sometime a vague waft of a random smell brings out so many old memories from the deepest and oldest memory-closets. It takes you by surprise that you still even remember something so old. You might not have even associated that event ot place with a certain smell at the point when the memory was taking shape.Like the heady and almost alcohol like but cloying sweet smell of dried bakuli (not sure what it is in English) reminds me of when I was about 16-17. That’s all I remember. No particular event, just me, when I was that age. I invariably picture that period in a certain kind of light as well.

I might have written about the smells I like before, I don’t quite remember, and am too lazy to check. But here’s some of the smells I like a lot.

  1. Bread baking and fresh bread
  2. Hot Waran Bhaat with green (smells of home, warmth, and safety)
  3. All citruses and mints
  4. Original dettol liquid mixed with water
  5. All kinds of soups
  6. Smell of rain
  7. Flowers going stale after falling off on the ground
  8. All kinds of fresh flowers
  9. Strawberries
  10. Fruity fresh perfumes
  11. Polo Black on husband, Olay cream on mum, Escada Sexy Graffiti on self
  12. The smell you get when you add a splash of water while roasting garlic
  13. Fresh basil on tomato sauce
  14. The smell of mountains, and valleys
  15. Old winter clothes stored in suitcases with naphthalene balls
  16.  Wood being cut while making furniture
  17. Old books the pages of which have gone yellow
  18. Khus in water
  19. Buttermilk with kaala namak and mint
  20. The mild smell while cutting fresh cucumbers
  21. Cinnamon in porridge
  22. the smell when you open a new marker or highlighter
  23. wet mud
  24. When you crush kaffir lime leaves in your hand
  25. Homemade “aamti” simmering
  26. The smell of hot chapatis (mum, home)

Does smell do that to you? Drive you crazy with some extreme emotion?

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10 comments

  1. Oh, this is so well crafted and nice to read. I also learned a new word – sillage.

    I tend to associate songs with different periods of my life, but when I was in Austin, I used to particularly crave smells of home. It used to be hard to step outside the Indian store after getting groceries because it would be so fragrant with spices and open sacks of rice. I would want to stay on forever. In fact, I used to cook according to what smell I wanted to pervade the house that day. I know a lot of people hate it, but I love the smell of fish frying. Another is the smell of camphor. And whole garam masala, of course. Do visit Gandhi Bazaar in Basavanagudi if you haven’t. The market there smells very nice with all the flowers and spices.

    I am not a perfume person and would at the most use deo. Now I don’t even use deo frequently because Fa Citrus which is what I used to like is not easily available anymore. I love sharp citrus notes so my talcum powder and my soaps are all lemony.

    The movie sounds very interesting. Somebody having no body odour at all. Hmmm. You might like the premise of the second short in Gandha too. It is about a man who loses his sense of smell.

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    1. Thank you! 🙂 Yeah…I learnt the word sillage when I was deeply into the perfume phase and read up tons about the composition of various brands. I am even planning to make a perfume myself. It’s apparently doable. All you need is essential oils and food-grade alcohol. I’m going to give it a try. Have a composition in mind, but need to get 1-2 more essential oils. I went through this phase of making body butters, deodorants and lip balms at home. That’s when I read up about perfumes.

      “I used to cook according to what smell I wanted to pervade the house that day”…I loved loved loved this thought. I never thought about cooking that way. I love the smell of camphor too. It’s so clean and fresh. I recently tried a payasam that had camphor. I had no idea it’s also used it cooking. I liked the taste so much. I love the smell of fish frying too. 😀 Makes me instantly hungry. I like smelly fish. Never puts me off it. I’ve never been to Gandhi Bazaar. Sounds wonderful. Will definitely go.

      oooo ya…I remember Fa. It used to be such a rage. i used to have the yellow, blue, and green deos at different times. Have you tried Khadi lemon soap? It’s lovely and also has a beautiful color.

      Yes! I liked the movie Gandha. Very nice. Milind Soman’s story was soooo sad. 😦

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  2. It’s so nice that you use your time to create and grow things. That’s creativity of a kind, I simply don’t have. Plus making these things at home means you can avoid harmful chemicals too. Will try Khadi lemon.

    I usually go to Gandhi Bazaar to eat benne dosa at Vidyarthi Bhavan and a few kms away there is Grameen Angadi which has some great handloom clothes and other decor stuff and then after that I feel hungry again so end up at Ranga Shankara’s cafe. Will let you know next time I go on this circuit, but check out all of these if you venture towards Basavanagudi/JP Nagar anytime.

    Yes, camphor is used in south indian cooking though my mother doesn’t. I used to like a family friend’s Pongal dish for this exact reason. Lovely dash of camphor to it.

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    1. Oh but you’re a wizard with words. You write soooo well.

      I started making all these mainly for the purpose of avoiding chemicals. I go through these phases ALL the time where I have a new fad, and then I research, make something…and then I have a new fad. I wish I was more consistent. 😦 It was fun though. I even sold a few pots of lip balm. And it’s so nice to know that there are zero chemicals. Same with body butter.

      Have never been to that area. I need a friend who is interested in just walking around areas aimlessly. And that sounds like such a lovely weekend…benne dosa, walk around looking at handloom stuff, and food again. Ideal! Yes please, do let me know if you’re going there. I heard of some huge market near Majestic where you get good old furniture, but you need to hunt around. I imagine it to be a much bigger verison of Pune’s chor bazaar, which I used to frequent for old cassettes. Have you been there?

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      1. Well, it is nice to be able to add such nice things and the know how to your fad portfolio 🙂

        The part around Majestic is Avenue Road. Haven’t been there, but have heard about it too. We can plan to visit that sometime.

        You collect cassettes?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. True that! 🙂

        Not anymore. 😦 The bazaar used to have great albums, so had bought a lot of Dire Straits from there. Don’t even have a cassette player anymore.

        Yes!! Let’s go there sometime. 🙂

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  3. Great list.. I have a few more to add:
    1. Lime stone smell *ahh divine**
    2. Petrol Smell ( I am seriously not weird )
    3. Freshly brewed coffee
    4. Crackling of Cumin
    5. Vanilla
    6. Chocolate Orange cake .. ( Chocolate and Orange are meant to be together..)

    Maybe I should do a post on this..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Loved the post. Thoroughly enjoyed thinking of all these smells. 🙂 I would like to add a few important ones that I enjoy other than the ones that you mentioned.
    I love the smell of a tomato plant specially when you water it or mist it and the smell is in the air.
    I love how my cat smells. I dig my face in his chest and sleep. Specially after he grooms himself that smell is stronger. I think its his saliva. Any cat lover would tell you there is this distinct cat smell just like baby smell.
    I love my the smell of my husband’s sweat. Sometimes when we are lying down together, him facing up, me on my side, my head on his arm and my nose near his armpit I take a deep breath. And now this smell feels like home.
    I love the smell of pine needles, pine cones, pine trees, walking through a pine forest. Reminds me of my school days.
    I love the smell of clean air. Its not actually a smell. But just the cool fresh oxygen rich air at a high altitude, when it passes through your nostrils, isn’t it amazing! You are tired having driven a long journey to reach a beautiful mountain location, and on the way or finally at the destination, you get out of the car, stretch your legs, look around and take in a deep breath. Ahhh!
    Old books. The smell in itself is earthy and beautiful but on top of that it reminds me of my school library. Our own books are comparatively new and don’t have that smell. Library books always do. The older the better. Soulful, simple novels. Teen novels. Sweet Valley, Enid Blyton… The amazing classics. Black Beauty. Wuthering Heights, The Three Musketeers.

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    1. Thank you! 🙂

      Oooh…I know the cat smell. I like it. It’s very comforting.

      I like the smell of the husband’s sweat too, He finds it gross that I nuzzle in his armpits. He feels embarrassed. But I love it.

      Oh yes! the clean air. It’s a very different feeling and one of the few times you automatically breath deeply. feels like every bit of your lungs is being filtered.

      And of course old books with yellowed pages, each stain having some story, and the tattered corners. It’s a very comforting feeling.

      Like

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