Monday, 2 December 2013

A nose for romance

What are memories made of?
Ask your nose.

Our senses take us back to sights and sounds long forgotten.
And truly, there's nothing like a smell, an aroma, to bring back the past.

Every night, when I pour boiling water into our coffee filter, the heady aroma of the bubbling coffee takes me back years--to when I was a little girl in Calicut (Kerala). I used to wake up at dawn just to savour the coffee my mother made. It had that subtly sweet flavour of jaggery. And something about sipping a steaming cup at that early morning hour, made the experience more special somehow.

Another enduring memory is of my cousins and I sipping instant coffee on cold mornings in Ketti Valley, a small forested area that lies between Ooty and Wellington in the Nilgiris. My aunt used to teach at the Laidlaw Memorial Residential School and she had a cottage in the valley. During my 'study holidays' I'd go stay with her and my cousins. I always loved going there. The cottage my aunt was given (by the school) was at the outermost rim of the valley. Nights were often stormy and the wind would make a peculiar haunting sound. Windy mornings were not as deliciously creepy of course--the sun invariably blew all the mystery away, but still, it was lovely to sip hot coffee with the cold, crisp sun peeking on. Every time I sip a cup of instant coffee, my mind takes me back to those heady, happy mornings.


Memories and aromas are so strongly linked, aren't they? My growing-up years were filled with the sharply sweet tang of lime juice and plain vanilla cake. My mother baked often and every time my friends came over for joint-study sessions, she'd have tall glasses of lime juice and cake for us. And then summer holidays for me meant escaping the heat of Calicut and running away to my grandfathers' home in Wellington. My cousins and I filled our days with huge, chatty family lunches, egg--and-cheese sandwiches for breakfast, picnic hampers of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, frozen ice cream treats and long walks. That cold air magically magnifies every smell, every taste. And even plain milk used to taste extra delicious, in Wellington.

Later, during my single-and-mingling years in Bangalore, I got to know that stale beer-smokey-fried-food smell that wafts out of the city's pubs and clubs. I hated beer and still do. Yet, in a way, each time I pass by a pub, I get a little nostalgic too--those pub excursions were when I first started dating. I learnt of love and loss through them.


Now that I am a mother, I have come to enjoy the sizzle of fried onions, garlic and ginger and the wholesomeness of home-baked pizzas and cakes. The freshness of coriander and mint, the beauty of creating something that tastes good and smells good. And for me, nothing is more special than watching my little fellow have a taste of my 'cheese-pasta' or mixed-vegetable soup and pronounce it "yum".

Every day, every taste, every smell, is for me, a memory in the making.