My father was born and brought up in a small nondescript village in Punjab. I say nondescript because compared to the fancy houses and Scorpio/Bolero/Tata Safari flaunting villages of today, Punjabi villages around 60 years back (I have been told) were more about the seemingly endless expanse of farmlands with clusters of houses doting them. Most of the houses had cattle-sheds for the cows and buffaloes they reared and all sorts of smells wafted from those kucha-pucca houses – smoke billowing from the open chulhaas, the smell of tandoori rotis, corn being roasted somewhere, all these mixed with the pungent smell of cow dung and drying cow dung cakes.
Father spent first sixteen years of his life in one such village, before moving out to the city to pursue higher studies. Today, after all these years of living in small, big and metropolitan cities, every time he smells a tandoor being set up, or smells the powdery smell of freshly ground atta (wheat flour) or the smell from a cow-shed, he says that it reminds him of his home, his village. I cannot agree more. Research says smells have an almost mystical ability to bring back memories even with their slightest whiff. Nothing elicits memories with the same emotional punch as odor, opine experts.
Rasna, Roof Afza and SpidermanNow as I sit and reminiscence about all the smells that instantly take me home, so many smells are suddenly wafting all around me…creating a haze of smells if something like that is possible. I can smell Rasna’s orange flavour, take in the sweet aroma of Roofafza, the heavy smell of ripe guavas….the halwa poori on Durga Ashtami…the smell of kerosene oil…Ah! Like father has the smells of village to transport him back to his childhood, I have all these smells to take me back to the times when I was growing up. And now the big and small whiffs of these smells are taking me along them..to a ride down memory lane, each smell bringing back fond recollections of the time went by.
Every time I see a kid sipping on Rasna, especially the orange flavour Rasna, it’s tangy smell takes me back to my school days and the strictly regimented routine at home. School or no school, vacation or no vacation, summer months schedule strictly included an afternoon siesta. No protest or excuse could have let me and my brother escape the punishment/compulsion that this siesta was. Sleeping in the afternoon, something that I am sure can rightly be called a luxury in today’s hectic schedule was nothing less than a pointless waste of time for us. Why waste time sleeping, when you can go out and catch dragonflies, climb up the guava tree, chase crows and other birds off the branches, call on the neighbour’s door and plan revenge against that neighbourhood bully…but no, all these adventures were sacrificed at the altar of the afternoon siesta. And the sacrifices were later rewarded with glasses of Rasna in the evening! More often than not, it was the orange flavor, for mother believed that orange flavoured one had all the vitamins necessary for growing school kids.
Occasionally, the Rasna was replaced by the more mature but interesting looking Roof Afza! The dark pink liquid in big transparent glasses! It looked so grown up! And this was enjoyed with the recorded adventures of either Tom & Jerry or Spiderman playing on the VCR! What bliss it was, to relish cool and colourful drinks while watching your favourite superhero thrash the villains! Maybe it’s the hangover of the days of yore, but even today every time I drink Roof Afza, it’s exotic taste and the sophisticated dark pink colour brings alive the memories of childhood summers.
Maggie Noodles and Baloo, the Papa Bear
I believe every one of us (well almost) has a Maggie story to share. This 2-minute noodle has been such a big part of our growing up years. The smell of maggie brings back memories of Sundays at home! For Sunday breakfast for us kids was special, a Sunday treat – maggie topped with loads of peas, onion, and tomatoes. The slurping sound it made as we tried sucking the noodle in through the fork never failed to thrill me and my brother.And this memory also brings Baloo ‘the Papa Bear’ along. Glued to the TV sets we would eat bowl full of maggie as the bush pilot Baloo, also referred to as Papa Bear, from the Disney series Talespin, would go about his adventures!
And this memory also brings Baloo ‘the Papa Bear’ along. Glued to the TV sets we would eat bowl full of maggie as the bush pilot Baloo, also referred to as Papa Bear, from the Disney series Talespin, would go on his adventures!
New Books and freshly sharpened pencils
Experts so rightly say that smell can call up memories. Every time I smell a new book, it takes me back to the start of new sessions at school, when everything would be new – new books, new notebooks, new bag, new tiffin box, covering sheets, name tags..and this, in turn, brings in more smells and memories – chart papers, smell of freshly sharpened pencils, ink-pots, perfumed erasers.
Another smell that reminds me of home and childhood is the smell of kerosene oil and the soot that blackens the lanterns! Electricity would be a whimsical thing in those days, and as the sun went down, lanterns would be handy in every room – one constantly lit on our study table as we went about playing pranks under its flickering flame. And more often than not, the pranks centred around ghosts and spirits!
Oh, what an incredible sniff down memory lane this has turned into! Our noses really have a way of sniffing out nostalgia. And this beautiful ride has now sparked a flurry of emotional memories! So more on smells later!