Sunday, April 4, 2010

What is it with the olfactory nerves?

They run to the head but touch your heart.

The smell of rain on parched land, don’t you just love it? Aroma of fresh brewed coffee, melting chocolate and wet nail polish…I agree these arouse varied reactions. Some of you find them a tad too overbearing. But count me out from that list. Though, I can’t think of anyone who does not see the word chocolate and conjure up the smell and the visual of aaah melting chocolate.

Is it only me? When I see pictures, actually the more well-taken ones, I can really smell the thing. Show me ads of a steaming cup of tea, or dollops of red tomato ketchup, or slices of lemon, or a dozen oranges tumbling one after the other and I can literally smell the thing.

Curious, huh?

At other times smells bring on images from the past. A mild fragrance from an agarbatti wafts into the street conjuring up for me images of my mother-in-laws meticulously maintained “god’s place”. Hindu temples have a characteristic aroma of burning camphor, oil wick lamps, fresh coconut and flowers. Oh! I love that.

Do emotions have smells too? Like, we perhaps smell different when we are in fear, or in pain, or in sheer happiness. They say dogs can sense fear by the smell emitted. Is that right?

There may some truth in this. Have you noticed? Schools smell different on Day One. The incidence of collective excitement and fear perhaps?

This week is catching up time for me. I am visiting Kolkata, where is spent all my schooling years. But then, I knew it as Calcutta. I associate my Calcutta with the

tung-tung of the cycle rickshaws,

permeating aroma of mustard oil,

heated arguments in chaste Bengali,

water as it gushes out of roadside hand pumps

mounds of singada consumed with fervour

red cloth that covered the large pots containing yummy puchka pani (tangy water for pani-puri)

mishti doi (dahi) that was sold in matkas (earthenware cups)

And ofcourse the prim school that I attended!

I associate it with a house I grew up in, with an aunt who cooked delicious meals for the family and for the guests who could drop in un-announced.

I conjure up at will the long corridor where we used to play hide-and-seek. I hated to be caught and be made to count.

And uncles who would pamper us, tease us and keep us enveloped in warmth of love. I am off to Kolkata for 3 days to be with my Calcutta after 35 years! Will I find what I live with in my mind?


  1. Have fun in Calcutta. Travel light. Take no baggage. Take notes. Take pictures. Take in memories.

  2. Hi Ratna, Raji sent me the link to your blog. Have a great time in Calcutta (still Calcutta to all of us)! They are all eagerly awaiting your visit. I'll bookmark this site. Would love to read what you have to say after your trip. Have a good time and give my love to all. Gouri

  3. have a great time in calcutta ,non-stop chatting and fun and joy


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