Friday, March 09, 2007


Yesterday I was video-chatting with my parents. Sriram, my 4 year old, was sitting next to me. I asked my father if he could small Sriram’s hair.
“Yes” – he said.
“No, Achachan!” my boy said “You can’t smell me”
Then he explained to us that Achachan is sitting in India and he can only see and hear ‘mon’ but not smell him.

Later he came up to me and asked if Achachan could INFACT smell his hair. I said ‘may be’.
“Can daddy smell me?”
“Yes” I said
“Can you smell me when I go to school?”
“Yes I could just close my eyes and still smell you as if you were here”

That IS true. I can smell him even when if he is not around. Ramu bears the scent of almond baby oil and pears soap. He smells of dirt and water color, played with enthusiastically. His hair smells like sweat, full of innocence and pure of caffeine or cholesterol. To me he smells of nothing but pure love I have ever known.

Of all the five senses, I think olfactory is the one that is directly wired to the brain. The presence of some scents can snap you right back to a time and place in your life where memories are alive and vivid.

Strong smell of wild trees takes me back to a trip we made to Kudajadri from college. I smell sour curd and my grand father comes to mind. I can SEE him feeding me rice mixed with curd. Thick buttery curd dripped from his hand. There are certain smells that I associate with my Amma. The smell of petrol reminds me of my friends Sujith and Jacob. And so does the smell of beer. Certain cells in my olfactory are plugged directly into my memory.

For me, memories of home is triggered by the smell of cattle and hay and goats and chicken manure. Scent of ripe mangos and guava and tamarind and jackfruit and rotten coconut leafs and the smell of dust that rises when my aunt sweeps the front porch with a broomstick. I can't say all of those were pleasant, but it is firmly lodged in my memory. Once upon a time, that was how my home smelled like, and I can still smell it.


Blogger Pradeep said...

Not just smell, I guess, even one can hear subtly; and visualise the same way, is it not?

11:42 PM  
Blogger Ajith Nair said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:22 AM  
Blogger Ajith Nair said...

Yes, of course... To me, those memories brought back by smells are often the strongest and the ones I'll always miss for the rest of my life... Memories I cherish... Those moments I lost forever... The smell of Mangoes, my childhood... The smell of Cashew Apples... ASPEN body talc... And the acid smell of early Rotomac ink... And many more... Thank you VKN, for making me for the first time realise how quickly our olfactory senses take us to our most precious moments...

5:24 AM  
Anonymous Roshen said...

@Byju: Nice post, thank you.

@pradeep: was reminded of your comment when I read this blog post "Voices to remember" on Talk of the Nation just now on old radio announcers evoking memories of an earlier time.

8:01 PM  
Anonymous dhanya said...

This is so true...Since childhood i was at different places..Smell do give me nostalgia of all these places. You know i used to travel in mumbai locals..smell used to be my alarm waking me up at the exact station(esp at bandra)...same as Salim kumar in his sound sleep screaming Cochi vannne!!!

12:09 PM  
Blogger Anooja said...

yes, smell, is perhaps something most of us accept as one of our primary senses. the smell of the of the soil after the first rain - the smell of the earth, the smell of rotting leaves.. all of it, is a part of us. altleast for prople like me who are away from Kerala, these smells hit us.. remind us of our roots. Nice post :-)

3:09 AM  
Blogger Ajith Nair said...

"shmm... shmm... Kochi ethi Kochi ethee..."

2:03 AM  
Blogger viswanathan said...

I live in Kerala. Being near Thiruvilwamala, I had known VKN somewhat closely for a few years.I came to your place accidentally, while searching for photos of VKN in net.I liked many of your writings.Especially those candid comments on AOL, and the quite VKNish irreverent observation on your inflamed nose.
a comment on this post:
Olfactory sense is one of the oldest sensations evolutionarily, I understand. See how some very basic functions-food and sex- are smell-linked!

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