Has it ever happened to you that a particular aroma transported you right back into your childhood, back to being a little girl? I believe nostalgia has its own unique fragrance redolent of beautiful times! And there is something beautifully Indian about our childhood memories and the aromas we associate with them. I have some very distinct and pleasant memories of flowers from my grandparents’ lawn. They had a stretch of lovely roses, some of them exotic for those days including a variety of black rose. I also remember the huge patch of jasmine flowers that we kids loved. The aroma was heady to say the least. I remember sitting many evenings in the patch plucking the pretty white buds that were later woven into small gajras for our mothers. The rest of the buds were left to float in a large bowl of water perfuming the air around it. I have always loved jasmine flowers and their scent since then. These days, we are growing them in our own small garden.
Then there were the pretty parijat flowers – these small white flowers with an orange band in the center are delightfully fragrant. Pick a few in your hands and inhale deeply. They will transport you to a happy space immediately. Another fragrance I remember fondly is that of raat ki rani or Night queen. This one flowers only at night. And its aroma is something to be experienced! If you have this plant growing somewhere in the vicinity, you can sense its smell from a few houses away. Its sweet smell has always mesmerized me. I remember my mother asking me not to go near the plant in the dark of the night as snakes are believed to dwell somewhere near. But I remember lingering, not wanting to go away just yet despite my real fear of snakes. Raat ki rani transports me back to the small sleepy town of Sitapur where we had this flowering in the lawn of our house. I must have been 5 or 6 years old back then but I remember distinctly. And then there is the fragrance of incense sticks that we burn during poojas. I remember my mother would burn a bunch of them together perfuming the house, leaving a smell lingering for hours that I associate to this day with piety. Yes, they came in several fragrances and sandalwood was my favorite. No wonder I am such a stickler for deodorants, perfumes, scented candles, air sprays and car perfumes. I love to be surrounded by nature’s aromas! Fragrance is a part of me.
There are several others smells of nostalgia for me. When I walked into the home from school, I would inhale deeply and know exactly what mom had cooked. And that held an element of pleasant surprise for me. I especially remember halwa with the inviting smell of rava frying in desi ghee. It was sheer delight! Another smell that has stayed with me is that of new books or text books. Unlike today’s children, I used to await getting new books at the start of the school year. While covering them, I would pick them up and inhale deeply and savor the fresh smell. Bliss! Even today, I have the habit of sniffing any new book I buy. Old habits die hard :).
I can go on and on about the amazing smell of ripe mango, piquant smell of star fruit, heady aroma of bel fruit, the invigorating perfume of first rain on sun-baked earth, the piquant smell of marigold flowers that were strung in rows during Diwali or poojas in our house, the strong smell of phenyl used for cleaning, the inviting smell of petrol, the luscious aroma of fresh herbs, the deep smell of henna on the hands, of eucalyptus oil put in water to steam when we had nasal congestion…
These scents have made a lasting impression on my whole being. A whiff and warm memories are rekindled. And, don’t you agree that they are so inherently Indian and amazingly satisfying to the soul?
What are the unique smells of childhood that you crave for?
All images are courtesy Wikimedia Commons. I own no copyright for them.
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