Go freely, where your nose will take you

Stay a moment longer. Breathe in deeper. Harder. Feel the tiny bursts of air as they force their way in. Let the molecules tingle your olfactory senses, setting off that wonderful chain reaction of memories, deep in the forgotten recesses of your mind. The place where every single forgotten memory goes to rest. Until that one day when you smell something, and it all comes rushing back.

Stay a moment longer. Let it linger, tease you. Stay. And be teased, as you breathe in short, fast gusts of perfectly-scented air and your brain rummages through the giant repository of memories you didn’t realise you have accumulated over time. Your brain, is now a vat of images, frames, a hoard of things to remember. All neatly catalogued by smell, of course. All the better to locate and retrieve them with.

Stay. And as you crunch up your eyes, trying to put a finger on it, you might feel your ears go hot. The hair on the nape of your neck stands up. You shiver. And flashes of instances return to the hot pools that are your eyes. Your heart beats a little faster, all the while jogging that distant memory back to the front again. So you can reach out, grab the teasing, tantalising image. Touch it, feel its familiarity twirl itself around your fingers. Maybe you’ll let it clasp your hand and walk down memory lane again. Or you might send it flying away, as quick as you were to grab it. Either way it will remind you once again, just how you felt so long ago.

Stay a moment longer. And soak in it.

That zesty, unnaturally citrus-y spray that hit you as soon as your teeth gripped the edge of the ice candy. Your brain froze, but your nose had captured it. And it continued to, with every little suckle on the edge of the crusty piece of orange flavoured ice, that sent chilled freshness shooting through your face, fighting away that hot summers day.

That sweet-sour milky hotness that was the nape of your sister’s neck. There, beneath the many wrinkles of her multiple necks, is where you once dived, nose-first. Because there, hidden within the damp mustiness that comes from being a baby and lying around all day, is where you could nuzzle her for a whiff of sweet-sour sibling love.

The hot flash of embarrassment that attacked you, when you were in the sandpit squishing piles of gravel around, and suddenly you smelt the pungent, sharp smell of cat poo. Its distinctly catty smell took over and you wished the earth would swallow you up quickly, before the other kids saw what you had done.

That mildly rosy aroma that puffed up in invisible clouds, the moment your grandma opened her compact, at 4 pm every evening, as she gingerly dabbed it on her face in little, perfect rounds. That sweet smell that immediately brought a warm fuzzy feeling, as you watched from a distance, wondering when you would be old enough to have a little brown box of your own.

That warm smell of baked, earth, as the first drops of rain dart at it. Splashes of fresh rain that made you want to take longer, deeper breaths, store that unrefined, raw smell in your mind. The meeting of wet and parched. The union of hot and cold. That, which is only signaled by the distinct aroma of wet earth.

That acrid, nasty smell that smacks you in whiffs, every time you pass the three-day old vase full of gorgeous flowers. The one your father painstakingly put together. And then everybody promptly forgot about, letting the water in it fester, bubble up into a noxious green, sending steamy stale vapours of neglect your way. Strong reminders of the smell you wanted to ignore, because the flowers were still so pretty you didn’t want to upset their placement.

That cosy smell of slowly ripening mangoes, nestled in piles of hay. The summery freshness of sweet mangoes, a touch of spicy green-ness that told you that there was time yet. And when that first slice found it way into your mouth, the overpowering flavour hit you aroma-first, and you washed it down quickly with a swig of silky smooth milk.

The muggy feeling of a school uniform ironed in a rush, just so you would make it to the bus in time. And you left home, in a hot cloud of mustiness, acutely aware that you were carrying with you the smell of half-dried clothes, about to get worse as the feathery drizzle comes down on you.

The leftover Issey Miyake, that clung to your body after a long, luxurious hug. It made you sniff yourself over and over, to find the spot where it was the strongest. Until you realised you couldn’t. It was all over. On your body, in your head and inside your mind.

The crisp saltiness of sea-sprayed, sun and wind dried hair. No beach holiday was complete without it. As your skin browned, your hair singed, sending waves of beachy happiness, that you gulped up by the mouthful.

The little green bottle that caused so much intrigue. Not just by its size, but its bold green-ness, that you could smell, even before your mother opened it and released twirls of overpowering aroma. Cool vapours of khus filled the house every time she dabbed a tiny dot. One behind each ear, and a tiny one on her neck.

Go freely, where your nose will take you. And stay a while longer. A tantalising few moments, another whiff more. Until it all comes rushing back. Strung on a thread of aroma, dangling at the end of it, a bunch of memories all wrapped up in the fragrance of nostalgia.

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19 thoughts on “Go freely, where your nose will take you

  1. Brilliant, brilliant, beautiful! :) I’ve been meaning to ask you about the absence of such posts in recent times and then you post this one! Brought back so many memories (but of course)! My favorite though, was the musty- ironed clothes – that lack of fresh-ironed-crackle in the clothes and that slight limp-ness to the folds. Hahaha. School days :)

    • Haha, I wasnt kidding when I was cribbing about the heat making life miserable and sapping me of all the energy and inspiration I had. One fresh bout of rain and everything seems to be flowing right again.
      And how I hated those flop-show school morning, when you’d wake up late and find an unironed, damp uniform because you lost track of the laundry, unpolished shoes because you forgot to polish them, and then that mad dash to catch the bus in the rain. Ugh, much as I miss that time in my life, Im glad the helplessness of school days is gone :)

  2. Like R says this is so beautifully written. For me writing that paints pictures is the best kind and this one painted so many of them :)

    In my case, most of my memories are cataloged by music. No wait, scratch that. All of my memories are cataloged by music. I started gyming when I was 12 (don’t ask) so at that time the gym would play the songs from Khiladi on a loop, till date if I listen to that song I’m taken back to that small gym and I see myself walking on the treadmill.

    I used to listen to the radio all the time when I was in school, one of the shows ‘Friday I’m in love’ played Bryan Ferry’s slaved to love almost every Friday. In Ulhasnagar everyone around was into business so Friday’s weren’t what they are now (the beginning of the sweet sweet weekend) but that show and specially that song made Fridays the day romance ruled.

    The first boy I fell in love, the way only teenagers can (rebellious and gloriously foolish) and I used to sing couple of songs I am too embarrassed to write about, but till date play those songs and I will turn into the gullible little fool who thought that when you fall in love it can only be forever.

    R and I went nuts on our engagement, specially this one song which is now ‘our’ song not because it’s romantic, not in the least, but because it takes us back to the day we were happy, I got diamonds, he got the girl! You play that song and you’ll get to see a mad couple happily dancing, never mind the four left feet :D

    • Hahaha those are some truly happy memories! You should write a music-memory post. Actually Im ALL about music associations. Everything I listen to invokes some association and memory. Every.Song.Literally.. SO Im with you on that. But smells are a close second for me. Lots of triggers are in scents and fragrances..and sometimes odours too :) This one was triggered by geeli mitti ka smell thanks to the rain yesterday..

      • Geeli mitti ki khusbu, the strong coconut oil smell after a good tel maalish, the heavenly smell of gheeeeeeeeeeeeee poured on hot rice or parathas, the warm earthy smell of steaming hot adrak chai… so I guess smells are a close second for me too!!

        Recently R and I have started going for a walk before dinner and there are these beautiful flowers that smell divine, I pick the ones that have fallen and bring them home. I have come to love this part of the day, all day I am sitting alone, talking to people on the internets or the phone, then finally there is HUMAN company actually in the flesh, and I go all yak yak yak on these walks, guess what the smell of those flowers will remind me of?

        • Haha, so you get just what I mean :P

          And ditto on the being alone all day working, communicating with idiots over the internet, and then when the human company/house mate/cohabit-er comes home I yakyakyakyak away till he cannot take it no more..

  3. Beautifully written, smell of mangoes left to ripen in a stack of hay. Oh my!
    And just going off topic, I dreamt about your blog yesterday. I swear, not kidding.

      • It had something to do with someone copying your ideas, and you were very annoyed, and like a teacher you were checking everyone’s blog. Then it was my turn, I assured you that I have not copied your ideas. You said, but I still must check. You proceed to check, while I wait like a student who is afraid of the teacher, but confident that teacher will realise that its someone else….hahah something weird like that :P

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