Smell-o-Philia

Roses in Schonnbrunn Palace, Vienna

I think I may be developing something I never knew I was at risk for: smell-o-philia. I cannot stop smelling certain things and allowing myself to indulge in the repercussions. Now, before you misconstrue me, I should make it clear exactly what it is that I smell.

Biscuits fresh from the bakery.

A new packet of Haldiram Namkeen.

Roses by the wayside.

Lemons.

Old books and notebooks.

Freshly mown grass.

“You know you shouldn’t smell the roses like that.” R gave me a look the other day, as I proceeded to sniff away in Schonnbrunn Garden. “What if there’s a bee?”

He has a point, I admit, but how could I explain to him the rationale behind my sniffing? It wasn’t just the sweetness of the roses that made me do it, it was what they stood for. They transported me back to the ceiling in my Delhi home, when Grandpa lovingly tended to the flowers and Mom helped him water the saplings. They stood for the chilled glasses of Rooh-Afza that I would always smirk at for being too sweet but sip nevertheless. They also stood for that time when I did indeed ‘smell the roses’, without worrying about bees, insects, chores or deadlines.

Ditto for the food smells. Don’t they have an uncanny way of making you time travel? I could swear that when I munched on namkeen last weekend, while sitting on my couch here in Vienna, was when I was munching namkeen on a sultry summer afternoon in Delhi, right in the middle of summer vacations. My eyes pored into the laptop now, and they pored into an Enid Blyton book then. Not much to tell the two times apart.

These days, I ensure I make full use of my new, pronounced sense of smell. I sniff at my morning coffee when I beat it, allowing it to wake me up. I sniff at the chicken soup R sometimes makes for me, letting it fill me with goodness and warmth. I smell old clothes that I bought from Lajpat Nagar, and take a quick memory-ride to its hustle and bustle, rows of vendors, and panipuri stands. I have changed with time and hence the pang to un-change a lot is very brutal at times. But it is a comforting thought: my nose hasn’t changed much. It is still a bit podgy, and it still loves the same old things.

Who knows, perhaps smell-o-philia is going to be the breakthrough that finally lets us time travel.

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