Wednesday, 4 September 2013

My Nose, My Time Machine

The nose is a very important organ. Not just because you can poke it where you please or dig it in times of boredom. The nose is also important, as we all know, for helping us smell. Now, olfaction is an ancient sense. We have been sniffing around for food or trouble ever since this planet of the apes came into being. However, if a cocktail of science and psychology is to be believed, it seems that our 2 humble little (or big) nostrils can even evoke vivid memories in our heads, with just a whiff of a scent that we have smelled in the past. 

And it’s 100 per cent true! 

All too often, my nose becomes my Time Machine, for as it smells various fragrances doing their rounds in my house, it makes me fly back into time faster than the speed of Shaktiman. A simple inhalation and a deep exhalation that softly says, “Ah, those were the days!” and brings an ear-to-ear smile on my face. What creates those ‘ah’ moments in my mind? Here are some:

Aam ka achaar

God made mangoes seasonal, but he added ‘let there be mango pickle all year through’, and mankind learnt how to make it. Puri-aalu needs it, gobhi-parantha loves it and mathree is nothing without it. Same goes for us. Every time the bottomless jar of mango pickle that my mother-in-law made opens in my kitchen, out comes the masaledaar smell of about 200 ingredients mixed right and preserved in oil to keep it finger-licking good. The smell instantly takes me back by many years to when I was 7 years old, sitting next to my grandmother with 5 other children and watching her hands fill huge martbaans with pickle made from home-grown mangoes. Even the trees used to watch on, fascinated, as her measured hands made manna from their fruit, to last our joint family of 12 a whole year. Oh we did our bit too – removed the seeds, and dropped the mango pieces in the yellow paste waiting in the paraat, beaming with pride as our pick got pickled!

The same tangy aroma reminds me of days of hungry temptation too, as we sat on our school desks. In the periods before recess, which were usually reserved for chemistry lab work, tiffin boxes would start opening with clandestine clicks as if too impatient with hunger to wait for the interval bell to ring. We front-benchers would stare at our teacher lecturing about organic-inorganic compounds and show us magic tricks in test-tubes, while all the while our olfactory organs were going dizzy with the mango pickle smell around the pulao that a backbencher’s lunch brought our way. And no, frequent glances at the watches did not make the time pass any faster. Needless to say, by the time the acids and the alkalis were put to rest at the sound of the bell, the rear seats in class had been fully fed.

Cardboard boxes

Call me strange, but there is a smell to an empty cardboard box which, I am sure, only a few mortals have learnt to appreciate. From humble Relaxo chappal boxes of yesterday to Hush Puppies of today, from peytees which carried our monthly groceries from the kirana shop to sleek-n-slim ones within which our LED TVs arrive now – cardboard boxes have a characteristic smell of their own, not musky but somewhat that. 

The smell makes me remember those countless hours I spent with my kid brother creating wild collections of match boxes picked off the streets, used Campa Cola caps and Ripley’s Believe it or Not cut-outs from newspapers – duly sorted and laid to rest in cartons arranged by our father to forward his children’s “creativity”. With no real sense behind all the hard-work, we continued with a steely purpose to fill up the Gagan ghee cartons to the brim, housing within our sibling hearts a secret desire to enter the Guinness Records ourselves with the classified, taped and neatly preserved collections! Days of gay abandon, when best-out-of-waste was not found in fancy showrooms but in the space under the staircase in my house. And that’s where it still lies – a little forgotten, but right there. And that’s where I get transported to every time a big brown box stares at me to be emptied of its contents, or to be filled up with my memories, whichever happens first. 

‘Flora’ in a Bottle

Not all scents are made to jog the memory down childhood’s lane. Some take us back by just a few years from what we call today, to when we were grown-up adult hearts and arms, ready to take a beloved in. For me this was some years back, when I met a boy from my school days, fell in love, got our love arranged and impatiently waited out the 6 long months before our wedding day. As we love-birds were courting and counting down days to our wedlock, he gifted me this lovely fragrance ‘Flora’ by Gucci. I did what many would do – locked it up only to be used on those very special occasions. And special occasions were all occasions when I was to meet him - coffee dates, long drives, movies and other fillers-of-courtship-days-until-d-day when Love chooses to swim in the air, and walk the ground too. Today, 6-years and one toddler later, whenever I go spray-spray the same pink hearts and little cupid appear as they used to in those filmy days of hand-holding, smiling and going pink, in that exact order.  

Sigh! Those were the days. 

Every time I wake-up from my reveries into the present that we must occupy and live in, I wonder - if only our noses had an inbuilt filter buffering away the bad odours from the good. Alas! Evolution was never meant to be perfect, and neither was olfaction. And while mishaps of toddler toilet-training, dankness of the monsoons, smell of sweat in cycling shoes and of the fishy curry getting cooked for you cannot be wished away, they can surely be wiped away. How else will all the nostalgic scents flow easy and act the spark plug for my nose, my Time Machine, and zoom me back to yesteryears?

The elixir for that is in another bottle, not Gucci this time but certainly flowery enough and as wonderful. And that’s my AmbiPur, a hero that helps keep the smelly out and the smiley aglow - who not just deserves mention in this lovely smelling post but a picture too. Here it is then, posing, but instead of saying ‘cheese’ it chose to say a deep fulfilling ‘Ah’. And just look what happened ...  

Now, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, or so say the sacred texts. If you really want to see how I make no tall claims but speak the tried-and-tested truth, spare 2:43 minutes of your lives and watch this video, taken many weeks before this post was invited. I assure you no blossom scents will come out from computer screens and enter your rooms to prove their potency. What you will see here is me, and a few others, as part of a secret experiment to demonstrate the power contained in this bottle. In the midst of mind-numbing rot I sit blind-folded, ignorant of the reeking garbage strewn around. My nose does the talking, as it waxes eloquent about how my surrounding scents take me back to Kerala backwaters, with boats full of flowers floating around me and my beloved. This here is my moment of Ambi Pur induced nostalgia caught on candid camera!

 So, there we go! You have got your proof that I speak the truth and nothing but the truth, and I have got a second bottle to add to my 'Ah! Those were the days' collection. I had only one heart-felt thing to say then (in the video at the end of the prank) which I say now too, with even more confidence - "I had seen this advertisement before but I did not know it is so cool. Now I do, really! So, thank you!"

And chances are, you will say exactly those words when you experience your Ambi Pur too.

[Written for 'Smelly to Smiley' contest hosted by IndiBlogger in association with AmbiPur;]


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Born to a working Mom and in a Bengali family, the aam ka achaar was something I got to taste only from my friends tiffins. That heady aroma of aniseed, fenugreek in mustard oil is still capable of bringing me down to my knees!

    And I always judge people on how they smell :-)

    1. Actually, so do I. :) Thank you for reading, Purba Ma'am. :)

  3. Wow, that's so nice Sakshi. Indeed our nostrils have the power to bring back memories from long ago.

    Its really nice that you have highlighted a real life experience in this post. Cool! Super Cool!

    1. Thanks, Kajal. It just so happened that I got picked for the experiment. Was interesting, being a bakra and realising some adverts are actually true. Thanks for reading. :)

  4. The nostrils do work as time machines at times, Sakshi. All the best for the contest!

  5. Yep, aam ka achaar or any other achaar is so heavenly! I make the pickle myself now and go sniff every time the jar is opened :). I love perfumes and air fresheners as they take me back to the perfume of flowers that I so love :). On the other hand, bo is one of the most offensive odors around. Yuck!

    1. Oh, BO is the ultimate turn off, Rachna. Especially when it gets mixed with those deos which are better for attracting women than keeping sweaty smells away. :P Thank you for reading. :)

  6. I sniff a winner here. Smell is an abstract sense but it does act like a time machine. The video links and the pictures add to the beauty of this post.

    1. Thanks for liking it, Alka. All posts which make me go back in time are beautiful to write too. Loved creating this one, so much. :)

  7. Wow , cardboard boxes ,
    I almost forgot about them , thanks for for bringing it back ,
    All the best ,

    That's me :

  8. Ok, I had vowed that I was going to stay away from contest entries but then the whiff of this blog was too much for me to resist. And I am glad I stopped by to catch a sniff!
    Loved the part about the perfume and the courtship. And the school thingy was exactly how it used to be in our classrooms too. Except that we used to be brazen enough to offer some of that paratha and achaar to Ma'am too!

    1. Thank you for sniffing around and dropping by, Your Highness, Rickie ji.

      And why do I have a feeling you took the lead in offering that achaar to your Miss? :P

      Glad you liked it. :)

  9. Simply good post , U R won the contest , Iam hope with U.
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