Monday, 26 August 2013

Smelly To Smiley - Triggerring Happy Memories

   The olfactory senses have come in very handy to sniff out smelly socks long forgotten in an old pair of shoes or cornering an errant teenage brother in the thralls of stolen puffs with a hurriedly thrown, still smoking, butt out of the window. But the most pleasurable of all outcomes of this nasal ability is when  hit by the right button, it triggers off memories dispersing a  fission of emotions in its wake.

    There I was one summer evening, admiring the hybrid periwinkles growing in my balcony when suddenly I transformed into Mungerilal of "Mungerilal Ke Haseen Sapne" fame and lost myself in a reverie.

  They were  'thatha' and 'paathi' on whose porch the 'rangoon creeper' flourished embracing the column and rising to the first floor laden with pink, white and maroon blossoms scenting the summer evening with a heady fragrance. To me they were 'koka' and 'aita' in remembrance of my grandparents whom I had left behind in Assam when my father was posted to then Madras.

    It was in the early eighties when TV was new for  an eight year old me. There were none where I came from and we didn't own a Dyanora set yet. Weekends were movie days with one in Tamil and one in Hindi.On these days I parked myself right at the top of the stairs leading to our first floor home.

  'He can't miss me if I stand here. And I can see him if he enters or exits his house.' I craned my neck.
 'God! It's already six! Where is he?' 
And why was I parked there with so much desperation? Simply, to force an invitation from koka.
"Aajao, picture shuru hone wala hai!"
    I rushed,  the moment he said the first word - down the stairs, out of our gate, in through theirs, sandals hurriedly slipped out careful not to disturb the 'kolam' and plonked myself  all in one piece right in front of Dyanora dear, just in time to see the revolving discs of Doordarshan logo. If I had run with as much focus in my 'lemon and spoon race' in school I would have been a champion.

MGR or NTR regaled me fighting the baddies and outwitting the sorcerer with swords and chants in torch lit caves, sneering under their clipped moustaches while the damsels in distress like Jayalalitha (Amma in distress?) pranced around. They wooed their love interest in the idyllic indoor sets with flowery trees that suspiciously looked like cherry blossoms. I still remember a song from those days.

    Come to think of it now, what a wonderful way to get an Assamese child acquainted with the Tamil language and grow into an interpreter of sorts for all the Hindi ammas residing in the building especially when it came to conversing with the maid! But why pray, was I going back to Madras of my childhood now, in  a Delhi apartment in 2013? I looked around the nearby buildings and down at the entrance gate. There nestled near the neem tree was the 'rangoon creeper'  weighed down with the pretty blossoms releasing the heady fragrance into the evening sky.

                                                      Rangoon Creeper
                                                               Rangoon Creeper

     I came into the house with a smile playing on my lips only to be assaulted with a stench near the kitchen sink. The culprit was my daughter's two days old smelly lunch box which she hurriedly fished out of her bag and kept in the sink. I rushed to get my Ambipure Lavender Vanilla & Comfort, a gift from the Ambipure Indiblogger's Meet at Hyatt Regency New Delhi.  A spray of that and my kitchen was back to normalcy but I found myself in Ooty!
Those were the days when we came here  often from Defence Services Staff College in Wellington that was barely fourteen kilometres away...

   We walked along the streets  in the quiet evening with the rustling leaves and the pee-ka-boo sun  for company. Away from the hustle-bustle of the main roads, it's a delight to discover tracks amid the trees and suddenly arrive at a clearing with a pretty view spread ahead. 
 " Let's try the other bend next week-end!"I said enthusiastically.
" Yeah, provided we are not loaded with assignments," said the better half wistfully. 
" Let's go back for today."
" Hmm... Do we have the time for the Toda Village today?"
" I guess so. In that case let's head back to the main road and to the Botanical Garden."
    We got into our car and drove down to the Ooty's famed Botanical Garden, through the city. The aroma of freshly baked vanilla cakes greeted us from the bakeries along the road. It is criminal to resist the aromas of fresh chocolate muffins and vanilla cinnamon rolls. So I got off and packed some for the road. The many vanilla plantations in the Nilgiris could be the secret behind the allure of the vanilla cakes here.
   The Garden lived up to its fame with the orchids, Italian garden and whole array of blossoms. It was the Todas who made me sit and appreciate the simplicity of life and thank Him for the little things in life. With their lovely rainbow shaped huts, striking features and intricately embroidered shawls, the Todas lived life respecting nature and nurturing buffaloes.

                                           File:Toda Hut.JPG
                                          Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
                                           Attribution Pratheep P S

Todas!  I suddenly remembered an old forgotten Toda stole I picked up on the trip. Rummaging through my wardrobe, which has a habit of hiding those clothes that I want the most, I retrieved this beautiful piece which I hope to pass on to my daughters.

                                                             Toda stole

   Feeling the stole lovingly jolted me back to the dinner menu for the night. I promised my daughters chicken schnitzels for dinner, a recipe I picked on our recent trip to Germany.

                                             File:Chicken schnitzel and chips with jaeger gravy.jpg
                                                  Schnitzel with fries
                                              Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Standing around the counter the girls helped to coat the schnitzels in the mixture of bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. I heated the oil and as each piece went in the aroma of the frying schnitzels filled the air with the girls breaking out into excited chatter.

    " Remember that cafe near the river? The one in the main market or 'hauptmarket' should I say..." showed off my elder one.
" Do you mean the one where we had the first schnitzel?" the younger one quipped.
" Yes, our house seems to be smelling the same today. I love it!" she beamed eyeing the draining schnitzels.

                                                     Nuremberg on Pegnitz river

" Hmmm...the people were so nice to us. Ma, you did say that Germany did not tolerate outsiders" said the younger one.
" Well, Hitler did not. He forced Jews to leave the place or tortured them" I corrected her.
"Did you two notice that although the entire country was bombarded during the War, how it has risen today?" I pointed out.
" Yes, and so did Japan" added the elder one.
" I learnt something there. People can change their country if they work hard honestly."
" And it's nice to be nice to people and help them, like the time when we were lost. The German lady who didn't know English  tried to help us" said the younger one thoughtfully pursing up her lips.
" Everything is clean there and people follow the rules too!"
" I am glad you brought back some lessons."
" And we are glad you brought back this recipe! Can we have them now?" the girls jumped happily.

   It is strange how certain smells bring memories tumbling down in cascades. And it is a stranger unification of the intellect, senses and emotions when one feeling triggers off a whole lot of connected thoughts fluttering away into the lanes of nostalgia.

This post was written for

 This post demanded digging into memory for content. Many of the visuals would not have been possible without taking the help of
Wikimedia Commons


  1. Great post, Ilakshee! Loved reading it and all the best for the competition. Now please share the schnitzel recipe with us :)

  2. Sangeeta, pleasure to have you drop by. :) And thanks a ton! Shall I mail the recipe to you?


Your words keep me going :)