Little things have a way of triggering long lost memories. It could be a look, or a smile, or the way someone talks. It could be a picture shared by someone on Facebook, or someone's post in this blogosphere. It could be an object in someone's house, or a random book we come across. It could be anything really... even a smell.
Indiblogger has teamed up this time with Ambi Pur, to give us bloggers a brand new contest - "Smelly To Smiley!" In this contest, we are required to share the nostalgic memories we associate with different smells and fragrances in our home.
I still haven't recovered completely from my illness, but tomorrow was the last date for posting our entry for the contest. Also, today happened to be a Tuesday, which made me want to do a Ten-On-Tuesday on this topic. I figured it would make a good journal entry for my personal blog... a post that even I would probably enjoy reading later. So I decided to take help from my blog buddy, OB. Since I didn't have the stamina to type out such a long post by myself, I dictated the post to him on phone, while he typed it out and then emailed it back to me. (Thanks dude! I owe you a big pot of Aloo Jhol for this! In fact, forget Aloo Jhol, I will make one of my special treats for you next time you're in town! :D)
Coming back to the post now... here's a list of ten smells, from my home, that I grew up with. If I ever happen to come across any of them even now, after so SO many years, they take me right back down the memory lane... transporting me back to the 1980s and 90s!
1. Mom's perfume.
Intimate-Musk by Jean Philippe. This was my mom's most favorite perfume. She used it whenever we had to go out for parties. Since my sister and I were not old enough to have our own perfume bottles back then, we would stand in front of mom, with our arms raised, our faces glowing with excitement and anticipation, while she obliged us with tiny sprays of Intimate-Musk on our armpits and clothes. Oh, but this was a "special treat", reserved for the absolutely rare occasions... i.e. the BIG parties! Incidentally, those were the occasions when we also got to apply lipstick, blush-on and various other stuff from her make-up kit. In short, the really BIG days for us little girls! Even though I'm not very fond of this perfume... i.e. it definitely wouldn't make my top ten perfumes' list... the childhood memories associated with it are priceless. Hence, it makes the top of my list today.
2. New books and brown paper.
This used to be an annual memory for 12 long years... 12 years of my school life (not including the years spent in nursery school). Towards the end of March every year, we used to go shopping for a new set of schoolbooks. Those smooth pages with shiny text, bright illustrations and the promise of a hundred new mysteries that would be revealed to us during that year... along with those crisp sheets of brown paper! That is one smell combination that I have sorely missed for the last 17 years! Not to forget the added smell of Fevicol too, that we used, to cover those new books with those brown paper sheets before the new school-year started!
3. Benadryl Cough Syrup.
Most kids look forward to staying at home and in bed, sedated with their favorite cough syrup. That includes one of my cousins in Patna, who once downed half a bottle of an older brand of that syrup!
It was called Fancydryl, if I'm not mistaken. Hahahahaha! Dad just tells me it was called Phensedyl, NOT Fancydryl! ROTFL! What was I thinking! Anyway, I never got addicted to Benadryl. I had to take it so often during my entire childhood and early-teens (I seemed to be perpetually suffering from cold and cough back then!) that this particular memory is one I'd rather forget if possible. (Think: partial amnesia. Think: the movie Paycheck, in which selective brain cells of Ben Affleck are "fried" after completion of his assignment.)
4. Cantharidine Hair Oil.
Just like "Singhania's Traditional Aloo Jhol" is our family dish, Cantharidine Hair Oil is perhaps our family hair oil. Or at least it used to be, till the pre-cable-TV-era. Throughout my school and college life, this was the one hair oil that provided nourishment to my gorgeous hair. My dad used the same hair oil for as long as he had enough hair to oil. My dad's dad used the same hair oil... or maybe he didn't... but my dad's mom most certainly did. My grandma, who passed away in July this year, used only this brand of hair oil for as long as she lived. And she didn't have a single white hair on her head! They were all jet black till her last day! She even had less hair-fall problems in her 80s than I have in my 30s! Now I'm not saying that this hair oil is responsible for it, and I'm not saying that this hair oil is not responsible for it. I am simply stating some facts. The oil smells good, by the way. It's smell isn't strong enough to put you off from using it, neither is it so mild that you'd forget to shampoo your hair before going out of the house! (Does anyone actually do that though? Forget to shampoo their hair because their hair oil doesn't smell?)
5. Cartons of dusty and musty old books.
This was another annual memory. Every year, during Diwali cleaning, all the stuff from our attic was dumped out on our huge terrace. I've written in detail about it... the entire annual "ritual" and the "treasure hunt" for my sister and me... in my previous post, titled "Nostalgia Strikes Yet Again!" Among the "treasures" revealed every year were three cartons of very old books... my Dad's legacy to me. I say "me" because my sister has never been that much into books. So nobody else touched those three cartons. It was only my responsibility to take the books out, clean them, sort them and rearrange them, in new cartons, if necessary. Depending upon my age at that time, I could also keep a few books out for reading. The smell of those books and the silverfish scurrying about in them and the afternoon winter sun... ahhhhh! Heaven on earth! Unfortunately, I had to part with this "legacy" eventually! Due to our frequent relocations, a new home had to be found for those books! :(
6. Wet wood wool.
This reads like a tongue twister, doesn't it? LOL! I'm talking about the material that is used to make those cooling pads of old-fashioned metal-body desert coolers. I actually called it "ghaas" all these years... "cooler ki ghaas", to be precise. Only found out today that it is called "wood wool"! :P Well, these desert coolers became dysfunctional when we moved to Patna, because it is very humid there, but back in Kanpur, they were more effective than an air conditioner. And the smell of this wet "cooler ki ghaas" in the scorching North Indian summers... boy! Do I miss it! We had 2 of these desert coolers in our house in Kanpur - one in Dad's room and one in the drawing room. My sister and I used to sleep in the drawing room in summers. The drawing room also had our old gramophone record changer, on which we'd play our favorite record -- a collection of children songs played on the sarod by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan -- on repeat mode! We'd also roll-up the carpet in the room and then practice "cat-walking" on it! Girls... what can I say!
7. Rooh Afza and Maggi.
These two smells are not only associated with each other, but they are also associated with the smell of the wet "cooler ki ghaas" mentioned above. I don't really remember the exact year, but there was this one particular summer vacation when my doting uncle in Kanpur brought one carton of Rooh Afza (6 X 1 liter bottles) and one carton of Maggi noodles (24 packets X 4 each). Needless to say, meals for my sister and me, throughout that summer vacation, consisted primarily of Maggi and Rooh Afza! Sitting on the heavy-duty headboard of my parents' bed, with our plates and glasses placed between us on the same headboard, directly in front of the window where the desert cooler was installed in their room... you could say that was our "summer of '69"! Of course, I got so saturated with Rooh Afza that summer, that now, I can't even stand the smell of it! :|
8. Diesel generator.
You're probably wondering what a diesel generator is doing here in my list of smells. If you'd been a resident of Kanpur anytime in the last two decades, then you wouldn't have looked at this point with a question mark in your mind. As we Kanpurites say - "Kanpur mein batti jaati nahi, aati hai." In other words, Kanpur doesn't have power "cut offs", it only has power "switch ons", specially in summers! After 48 hours or so of no power in our colony, KESA (now known as KESCo) would finally have mercy on us for maybe 4-5 hours, until yet another transformer blew out, throwing us back into the stone age! So the diesel generator was a must in every household, at least in my colony. We were perhaps the luckiest of the lot, for we had a good next-door neighbor, with whom we did "generator pooling" (like "car pooling", you know). For 6 hours, our generator would run and both families would share the connection, and for the next 6 hours, theirs would run while ours got time to cool down. In this way, those 48 hours didn't seem as long to us as they did to the rest of the colony. Sighhhhhh. What days. Who'd have thought back then that this "memory" (more like a nightmare, I'd say!) would one day make it's way into my blog.
9. The "tabela" (cattle barn) next door!
I have just told you about one of our next-door neighbors. On the other side of our house, there was an empty plot. When I was very young, this empty plot had been illegally occupied by the local cattle owner, who had a fairly big livestock, as he used to supply milk to a major part of our colony. He had his whole dairy barn running there illegally, with cows and buffaloes and a lot of hay and water tanks and stolen electricity and yes, the key ingredient of this nostalgic smell... heaps and heaps of freshly laid, steaming cow dung! Since this barn was exactly next door, i.e. sharing the same boundary wall with us, we had absolutely no escape from the smell. Unfortunately, even our driveway and car parking was located on the other side of our plot, towards the other boundary wall! So there wasn't even a few feet to separate us from that smell! Thankfully, the plot owner got to know about this encroachment soon enough, and this "tabela" was pulled down after not too long. The plot remained empty after that though, for as long as we lived in that house.
10. Old Spice Original.
My old blog readers probably remember this one. I have already written about it in my old post, "The *Man* Smell". This was the aftershave that my dad used in those days. Yes, the very same one that I picked up from the bathroom shelf every now and then and took a random sniff! You know what I think? I think I probably started this silly practice to clear my head of the smell of all that cow dung from the "tabela" next door, and then I guess it became a habit and stuck with me. Anyway, I don't think any "axes" or "hammers" or "swords", or whatever else they might come up with eventually, could ever dream of standing in competition against this particular "Man Smell"!
These are the ten smells from my home, from days gone by, that I still remember, not just for the stimulation they provided to my olfactory nerves, but also for the memories attached with them.
What about you though? What are your nostalgic smells? Do you recall any such smells or fragrances that take you on similar trips down the memory lane? If yes, then please DO share them in the comments below. I would love to read about them. Oh and don't worry if your comment gets a bit long... I luvvvv long comments! :D
Here's more in "Ten-On-Tuesday"!
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