Sunday, September 1, 2013

The smell of...

Last evening on my way back home, as I crossed Janbazar, the strong pungent smell of freshly ground spices hit my nose first and then my head.  The spicy aroma of turmeric, asafoetida, cinnamon, cloves and cardamoms numbed my brain for a moment leaving me with a sensation so euphoric.
 
Spices, they really bind our country together, don’t they? It was this familiar aroma of spices that embraced me and made me feel warm when I left my hometown for good to make this city my home. When I first hugged my mother-in-law, she did smell of the same spices like my mother. The smell of familiarity.

As I then crossed Park Street and later Park Circus my mind ran affectionately to a statement made by my cousin when he had visited me in Kolkata. He had lived all his life out of India. This was his first time ever to Kolkata. When he was asked by SSM (my husband) about his views on Mumbai versus Kolkata, he replied – In Mumbai, everywhere you go you smell sewage; in Kolkata, wherever you go you smell food.
Biryani

I realised how true a statement that was. All through the route I salivated at the aroma of the sizzling rolls stuffed with solid chunks of meat – Ah, the memory of the first time when I had bitten into this mouthful of heaven. The intoxicating fragrance of the biryanis – I can vividly remember the first time I had inhaled the goodness six years ago - the sight of the yellow and white rice hiding the lone potato and the chunky portion of tenderly cooked flaky mutton – and finally the taste. An ecstatic experience. The smell of contentment.

While my mind was feasting on the aroma I noticed a whiff of cigarette smoke escape from the window of the taxi right in front of mine. I smiled. I love the smell of cigarettes. No, I do not smoke. I have never smoked but yet it’s something about the smell that hypnotizes me. Just the way, the smell of coffee drives me crazy.

I have always had this visualisation of me walking on college street with a cigarette in my hand the smell of smoke mingling with the spell bound smell of old and new books. I couldn't and I never will get over the habit of smelling a book when I get one, old or new.

And when I think of the smell of books, I remember my summer vacation visits with my cousin to Strand Book Stall in Mumbai - books books everywhere; no place to stand. Strand Book Stall was one place which was paradise on earth. We would spend hours and hours standing in a place surrounded by books almost falling on us – touching them, feeling them, loving them and smelling them. The smell of wisdom

Sindur Khela
And then another smell found its way up my nostril as I reached Jadavpur- The smell of chatim flowers. The smell that announces that pujo is not too far. Pujo has its own aroma, doesn't it? - That of freshness; of happiness; of celebration; of love. Pujo also means the crisp smell of new sarees; the heady smell of the dhunuchi, the delicious aroma of the bhog.
 
It brought back the memory of wild love-making back home after the sindoor khela on dashami (the last day of the pujas) – the giddy blend of various fragrances as we nuzzle up - of perfume merged with the sweat and the smudged lipstick and vermillion adding its own fragrance - the fragrance accompanied with the rhythm of the dhaak in the background. The smell of passion
 
My passionate thoughts were disturbed by another smell, again a food smell - the smell of frying telebhaja. I had reached my para (mohalla). I asked the driver to stop the taxi and got off. I had to buy the phulluris; the begunis; the alu-chops. Yes, they all mocked my diet, but today; I just had to buy them. I picked up some and walked back home.

Back home as I opened the door a naked, about to be washed, Ri (my son) came and leaped up on me to smother me with kisses. He smelled of baby powder, and the fish and rice he had just eaten. I smelled of the city. His smell blended with my smell. And then SSM came and hugged us. It suddenly became our smell. The smell of our family. The smell of our home.

PS: I am an adopted child of Kolkata, but she has loved me like her own. She smells like home, like a mother.

***

This post is for a contest hosted by Ambi Pur India and Indiblogger.



31 comments:

  1. Beautiful. I would like to see how many 'authentic' Kolkatans can come up with a post this close to heart.

    Picturesque, touching, and eye-moistening. Do not waste your gift.

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  2. Oh the biriyani made me salivate :). WOndeful post diptee :) Am yet to come up with the one for the contest :(

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    Replies
    1. I was salivating while writing it too. :D Thanks. Do write yours soon and send me the link. :)

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  3. I'd agree with the 'do not waste your gift' part. This is an awesome piece.

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  4. I live in the hills and it always smells fresh here :7)
    Here ,lady,i smell a winner.

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    Replies
    1. I envy you for being a part of the hills. Thank you. :)

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  5. why is your friend ovishake not writing?

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    Replies
    1. He is busy writing petitions nowadays.He has a greater cause in mind.
      It's ovshake by the way.
      Ovshake has the goodness of humanity in mind,with the milk of human kindness in his..err chest?
      But if you badger him with pleas,he just might,noble as he is :~|

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    2. Nice to know you,anonymous2 shall we say?

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    3. Abhishek, please ask your admirers to stop spamming my blog.

      Delete
  6. Babu your friend Diptee is shooing me off your blog.

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    Replies
    1. I am just shooing you off MY blog, sweetheart.

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  7. I like smell of camphor,jossticks and frankincense.
    What you've described here is a paean to the city and its smells.
    Now I wonder if Calcutta is that interesting.Does it have the same 'spirit' as one usually finds in Bombay?
    And that love-making reminded me of wildstone perfume ad.Have you seen that ad with dhakis and pujo in the background?
    Art imitated life or life drew from art?

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    Replies
    1. I like the smell of camphor and dhup too.

      Thank you. :)

      Calcutta IS very interesting. And the ghosts of Calcutta are smart enough to keep the spirit of Bombay away. :P

      Yes, I have seen the ad. But you can't really help feeling all romantic/erotic when there is pujas in the air, can you? :D

      Art and life compliment each other. :)

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  8. Brilliant and just brilliant! Your writing smells of your presence, the fragrance of 'comfort' and what beautiful flow! Envy!

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  9. It's time you activate the comment-moderation option.

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  10. you humble humble lady, so happy for u D, so humbled by u

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  11. Visited your blog for the first time.fresh it is lovely piece of writing

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Tinker Bells. And thanks for visiting. Hope to see more of you around on my blog. :)

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  12. Duronto! Duronto! Duronto!
    I think I can! I think I can!
    I thought I could! I thought I could!

    I am hungryyyyyyy now!!!

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    Replies
    1. You can! You can!
      Just come this Pujas. JUST COME.

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  13. I am not a Bengali and have never been to Kolkata but, this post of yours reflects pure awesomeness. I am sure the natives must have enjoyed it more.
    Smell and me have a strong relationship. I always prefer smell over any other belonging for memories.

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    Replies
    1. Oh, Dhara, you should come to Kolkata. Would love to play the host. :) Thanks.

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  14. Diptee, I am so happy I re-discovered your blog! Having a wonderful time going through your writing.

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