Reminiscences of ‘Scents’ by G Shenoy

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Of late, the members living in the flat exactly above mine have had a brand new addition to their family...their bundle of joy. My mornings are very hectic and I have a hard time trying to remember things. But I never fail to think about this little baby residing in the flat above mine. Early morning I have these scents of Uddis, Dhoops, Coals, Baby oil wafting through my kitchen window and bathroom panes. In India, little babies are given oil massage and steam from coals every morning before a bath. And Uddis and Dhoops a particular form of inscense sticks available here are burnt to keep the Evil spirits at bay. These scents inform me about the presence of the baby. In today's dismal existence the knowledge of the tiny bud adds joy to my life.

I had been to a local maternity home to see this very baby. At that time I was surrounded by this spirit-dettol-anesthesia-phenyl kind of antiseptic smell. I did not even feel like going near the infant at that time. I felt like I had been to a garden full of sweet smelling flowers and been given a dose of smells like that of compost, manure and urea. Instead of taking the baby near me like usual, I had made a very diplomatic comment to the mother "He is an exact carbon copy of you!" to please her. And " Like father, like son" to make the new Daddy happy. In return I received an extra Kesar (Saffron) Peda (Sweet) from the Happy Parents.

A baby who has just been bathed and kept in the cradle, smelling of sweet baby powder, will have cheeks smelling as sweet as a Kesar Peda, or even more. I haven't had the good fortune to become a mother as yet, but whenever the sound of the baby crying or gurgling reach me in my flat I feel my mind thinking about the baby. The baby smells waft towards my imagination.

But how long can we really spare for such nostalgia in the hectic mornings? Soon the smell of rice being cooked in the pressure cooker, the smell of spice and oil to be added to the vegetables, that of the egg being fried on the pan, the Jasmine flowers and Bel leaves adorning the little temple in the prayer room and several such scents take over my apartment. They remind me of each step I take while accomplishing my tasks each day.As a matter of fact, I have always felt that each phase of the day has different smells associated with it. It's just that it gets difficult to describe it and try to recollect its origins. The blazing sun during the noon, the noon during the winter, evenings during the monsoons, the creeping night, the stillness of midnight...all of them leave an impression around your senses.

I have always had an affectionate almost tender relation with scents and smells. If not the sight, sound of a particular person/thing/place, the scent always leaves behind an indelible impression. I have this inquisitive Tamil lady in my building who likes to taunt, "She may not have a pretty nose, but she is pretty good at catching scents" But then what on earth can I do, if the afore mentioned lady makes use of her nose only to pry in others private matters or look down on others.

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