“Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains”.
Some smells have a lasting impression, and some evoke memories. Have you ever had conversations with a close relative around some childhood memory associated with smell? I come across such conversations a lot. In fact, I have found that there is no better setting than a family reunion or a get-together to have these conversations which tend to be rather boisterous, and at some point, inadvertently, someone would bring up memories of the sweet smelling dish that a certain aunt used to make or a snack that someone’s late relative or a friend’s mother used to serve. At times, with the company of a glass of exquisite wine, these conversations could take wings and extend to the memory of a loved one or the earthly smell released by the first rain, often taking the conversations late into the night.
I was raised in Calicut, one of the main cities in the state of Kerala, also known as God’s own country. Kerala, a southern state in India, is known for its high literacy rate (~96%), high human development index (0.625), and low infant mortality rate IMR (7) which is in line with the UN’s sustainable development goal IMR (8) for year 2020. If you were growing up in the 80’s or 90’s, just like I did, you would know that Calicut also known as Kozhikode, witnessed a cultural transformation during these two decades. We were in the forefront of music, arts, literature, and theatre. I might be sounding a bit pretentious here but having had to shift from one location to another, at times for higher education or at times for career reasons, the feeling of belonging to a certain place is better than the feeling of a vagabond.
My earliest memories with scent is associated with the aftershave lotion Old Spice that my dad used and the popular ad that they used to air on TV. Television set foot at my home somewhere in second half of the 80’s. The Old Spice Tv ad that was played regularly through the 1980s-90s, of a lone surfer riding the waves with the background score of the 20th-century German composer Carl Orff’s ‘O Fortuna’ had a classic punch line “the mark of a man”, was quite a hit among the teenagers. It was somewhere in the mid 90’s, I remember buying Blue Stratos by Parfums Bleu, the first perfume that I bought for myself. It was a citrus aromatic fragrance for men and had a woody and musky smell that lasted through the day. Beyond Old Spice and Blue Stratos, the smell that captivated me was that of Blue Jeans by Versace. It was gifted to me by a friend who was visiting from Austria around 1995. It had a classic masculine fragrance, and this is one fragrance that I still yearned. A few years ago, I managed to get a bottle of Blue Jeans. The smell evoked memories, but it did not capture the moments. Afterall, time is a variable that constantly changes, change being the only constant!!