Thursday, August 29, 2013

Take me back to those good ol' days

David Leavitt once said "Childhood smells of perfumes and brownies".

Nostalgic smells are the one which trigger intense happy memories. It happens to us all. Even a mere whiff of a familiar aroma finds one walking down the memory lane. Surprisingly, each aroma unlocks a particular chamber of unique memories, forgotten over time, and yet amazingly fresh and clear at every recollection.

The prominent smells I relate to my childhood are :-

My Mom  :-  The natural fragrance of my mom. It was a unique and engaging fragrance that also exuded absolute love, warmth and immeasurable comfort. Mom would tuck us in every night and lie beside us reading “Panchatantra” stories. My special memories of her fragrance were of me hugging her tighter and snuggling closer, knowing I was in the safest place on earth. I often sense this fragrance and her memories. Maybe, here, the memory triggers the fragrance.

Freshly made Paranthas (pancakes) with dollops of butter/ghee   :-  My daily “Good Morning” aroma. Mom would start cooking early to prepare breakfast and lunch boxes for the household (four schoolgoing girls). I always woke up to the most appetizing and mouthwatering mornings – the sweet and heady aroma of wheat flour Paranthas being cooked with ghee and laden with homemade white butter. The lunchboxes prepared by mom never felt weighed down by the calories she packed in them. Sadly, Paranthas don’t taste or smell that yummy anymore.

“Old Spice” after shave   :-  The fragrance of my Dad’s room every morning. I was totally enamored with the masculine fragrance of the after shave and, at times, would use it on myself. One day a good looking neighbor asked if I was wearing a men’s perfume and ended my hush-hush affair with “Old Spice”. But the fragrance stays on in me.

New Study Books   :-  The smell that heralded start of the new academic year. New session at School/College started with us receiving dozens of new books. Each fresh book had a peculiar sweet smell. I would love to smell the book before getting down to studying it. Even today the similar smell in any book transports me back to those years of books, books and books.

First Rain of the Monsoons   :-  The buoyant scent of first showers on parched hot earth. We have a word for it - “Petrichor”. I guess everyone loves this smell and the moments which indicate the departure of oppressive summers and arrival of refreshing monsoons. I had a special reason to love this smell. It meant that, at last,  I had the long awaited license to play in the rains unmindful of dirt and filth.

Maggi Noodles :-  The liberating sense of Freedom. “Maggi” could only be cooked at home when my parents were not around, which meant that the fort was ruled by the princesses of the kingdom.  The other freedoms that came with “Maggi” were jumping/dancing on the beds, using mom’s makeup and all sorts of fun/uproarious laughter.

Pears Soap   :-  The mild and refreshing scent of Dad’s bath. He uses the same soap to this day. A mere hint of that smell is enough to take me back to those childhood days at our house in Kolkata and my Dad’s bath.

Napthelene Balls   :-  The wistful smell of clothes and almirahs. The smell has a special place in my childhood memories, though I equally disliked the times associated with it. It would be the tiring annual “Diwali” ritual of cleaning. I loved the memories of us sisters getting to see all of my mom’s old sarees and lehengas. The more wonderful memory is of us sneakily trying on those dresses and dancing around in them till discovery by a screaming Mom. I remember her being very possessive about the wedding lehenga. No I know why.

“Parle Orange” Toffees   :-  The tangy orange smell of Mom’s locker. She always kept these candies in her locker. The smell would spread to the house everytime she opened the locker. My sisters and I would immediately run to her for our share of those delights. None of the present day lavish delights can ever match those simple toffees, with their priceless memories.

Garlic    :-  The aroma of my Dadisa’s (Grandmother) yummy “chutney”. This was one delicacy that she would send specially for me. And I never fell short of doing it the adequate justice. To everyone’s amazement I would finish the huge box within a week. Not surprisingly, my son is a huge fan of garlic chutney too.

Parachute Coconut Oil   :-  The aroma of weekly head massage. Weekly once, Mom would get comfortable on the couch with us sisters lined up ahead sitting on the floor. And then would start 30 minutes of non-stop head massage with warm coconut oil. The entire house, its occupants and its contents would smell of coconut oil. Or was that just me? For, I smelled coconut oil everywhere.

Similar occurrences of these moments today will seem mundane and ordinary now. They surely were just that during those childhood days. But they are priceless and special for they are the memories of those times which are long gone to never return. The present and its demands does relegate these cherished memories to some corner of the brain. And then, during the course of the day, some fragrance or smell brings forth the specific memory from its exact corner in the brain. And they are always found fresh and intense.

It is amazing how our brains can store so much information from so long ago, regardless of its significance, and even more amazing how we can replay these moments by merely capturing molecules into our nose.

I love the smell of...
Parathas fresh from the pan
even the smell of "Old spice" man
Orange toffees makes me a kid again
Smell of books is like oxygen to my brain

Smell of fresh rains
make me wanna jump with joy
Smell of Maggi noodles reminds me
my mom's make-up was my favorite toy

The scent of soap 
from my dad's bath
The smell of old clothes
Pushes me into the nostalgic path

But the smell I miss most
the one that make me feel calm
It's non of the above
It's the amazing smell of my MOM

The above post is written for the Ambi Pur's Smelly to Smiley contest powered by Ambi Pur and Indiblogger


  1. Loved the post. All the best Renu :)

  2. Anything deep fried in coconut oil and the tantalizing aroma of strong black coffee :D.

  3. coincidence that we both share some common entities in our entries :o ! Anyway nice read and all the best :)

  4. lovely post di...:) of luck for the contest...

  5. Old spice ,
    My dad wore that too n I absolutely loved it ,

    Sweet narrative ,
    All the best

    Thats me :

  6. Parantha and Garlic chutney is my fav too. Beautifully written Renu.

  7. Well said, for me " I don't reminiscence my childhood , I still live in it."

  8. Lovely piece of writing. It brings back countless memories from the golden age.



It has been more than a year, since I have written a thing on my blog. A blog that once upon a time I used to consider my hide-out, jahan ...