That Familiar Old Smell …

July 25, 2009

Does it ever happen to you when you remember a familar old smell which was buried in the recesses of your mind? Something that you haven’t thought of in a long long long time but remember it suddenly out of the blue? And that too in a place which has nothing to do with it? Well, that’s what happened to me today – a very old but cherished smell. I must have been in primary school then. My dad was allocated a bungalow by the hospital he was working with. It was a lovely place. The dining area was a place worth mentioning. Dark and cool with the soft afternoon light streaming in, our dining had the effect of Β being lit up from several candles – mellow and soothing.Β A huge cupboard with sliding doors lined an entire wall. Opening the door of this cupboard had a magical effect on me – the woody smell of the cupboard, the warm smell of Arrowroot biscuits stored in Lactogen tins (ones which can be opened only with a spoon), a slight musty smell thanks to the humidity of Cochin pervades the air. Armed with a spoon, I plonk myself on the floor after having brought down all the tins that had my favourites. And I spend a few minutes slowly munching on all the goodies, taking in the soft afternoon light, enjoying the afternoon quiet. Amma too, sitting around peacefully after having set the little brat for the afternoon nap. Today the memory came flooding back and brought along with it a case of goosepimples. Unlike what they say, diamonds are not the only things that are forever – the sights, the sounds. and how they made you feel will always stay with you.

Rememeber how Shahrukh Khan takes a deep breath, closes his eyes gets transported to the time his GF was alive in Mohabattein? I rolled my eyes then. But I wonder, if there isn’t a grain of truth to it?

Do you guys/gals have any favourite memories? It need not necessarily be of food, but I understand food is what evokes fond memories in most of us. πŸ™‚ Do write in, I would love to hear from you. πŸ™‚ For those of you who worry about taking up too much of my comment space – Long detailed comments are my favourites, so go ahead and knock yourself out! πŸ™‚


21 Responses to “That Familiar Old Smell …”

  1. I can so relate to this post. I can so understand what you mean. Cannot think of one for myself immediately, but it usually happens to me with songs, some songs get associated with an incident or a period of life, and whenever I hear the song, the memories coming rushing back!

    Yes it happens with songs for me too. πŸ™‚ I just love the way it makes one feel what one felt at the time. πŸ™‚

  2. Savitha said

    Now I understand why your mom named you cookie:). ha,ha, opening tins with spoons and having your fav…

    Familiarity of smell and words and food comes up quite often to me. I have so many Ash, which one to mention? Will write a post on it…..

    LOL! I will be looking forward to that one. πŸ™‚

  3. ajcl said

    now that im in bangalore.. its my wardrobe that evokes that all familiar smell, that hasnt diminished one bit.. a combination of the smell of naphthalene balls, freshly washed (ariel) and pressed clothes.. can stand and drink in their scent for hours.. makes me feel so close to the life that once was..

    Oh yes! Clothes wardrobes among my favourite too. πŸ™‚

  4. Ramesh said

    Oh yes. For me a smell that evokes memories is the camphor smell of the early days ping pong balls. Played a huge amount of TT and the smell of camphor invariably arouses memories of TT games, – wins, defeats, fun, tears …..

    Oooh you are quiet a player. No one wonder you are such a good sport! Playing with words here … πŸ™‚

  5. The smell that used to make me want to kiss the earth ….when the first drops of monsoon hit the warm ground ….I crave for that smell in the States … but alas !! … the smell of Colgate and Keo Karpin in the bathroom …..the smell of Naag Champa Agarbati …. I probably should do a post on this …. the smell of egg rolls .. like I mentioned in my latest post … lol !! all my roads lead to food ….(burp) ….super walk down memory lane!!

    And a sooper dooper comment too! Keo Karpin – its been MIA in a long time. Smell of earth is the same in NJ, thankfully. The egg rolls look so tempting!

  6. theishu said

    Ah.. damn! Was abt to mention the wet earth thing and looks like LEB beat me to it 😐

    Anyway, that’s the one that always lingers in my head

    Thats a universal favourite man! I have been telling if they come out with a perfume of damp earth it will sell like hot cakes! πŸ˜‰ Thanks for writing in!! πŸ™‚

  7. drnarayannayak said

    A nice post. Yes most of us have similar exp… Only thing is that we dont mention about it for the fear of others branding us as silly, except, poet and story tellers put it to the pen and produce wonderful master pieces and then we feel that we also could have produced them.Now that you have invited I will also bring out a few.
    Smell is one thing that is not in the visible spectrum and is difficult to show to others and hence is more imaginative.I have the smell of the coffee ,my mother used to make in my child hood,which is still lingering in my mind. Some friends who have tasted our coffee in present times complement that it is the best coffee they have taken but I somehow still think it cannot match the yester years fragrance. May be mother used to roast the beans at a particular temp and at an apt time and hand grind them to a particular texture and finally produce the coffee we had, and the milk mother used to get from our own cow also contributed.
    Another smell is that of the dhal my grand mother imparted to the next gen which unfortunately ended with your grand mom.It was not any rich product on the contrary a very thin gruel of thuvar dhal, probably the the thick stone vessel in which it was prepared and the fresh curry leaves made the difference.
    LEB mentioned about the earthy smell of first rain,a universal statement which we get even if it is raining at a distance and produce a wishful expectancy. I wish to add in the same context my exp as a young sea cadet in my school days the smell of atmosphere when we used to dive into the pond (no swimming pools those days in Kochi) in the heavy rain when a little water will enter our nostrils and produce sense of choking transiently,is a fantastic one.This I recently mentioned to some people near me during A’s wedding. It started suddenly raining cats and dogs and most of us came to the balcony to see the plight of the guests arriving.Then we saw lone swimmer in the nearby temple pond thoroughly enjoying himself. While others were commenting on his madness, I was secretly envying him.
    The sounds of bird chirping and croaking of the frogs in the rain and the sounds of the insects in the still nights are commonly mentioned, but the time I hear or even think of the famous song from Pakeeza”Chalte chalte yoohi koi mil gaya dthaa……” which ends with a long whistle of a train passing by at a distance reminds me of the hooting of trains heard almost any where in Kochi thanks to very minimum noise pollution those days.
    The sight of so many white cranes in the paddy fields pecking in the fields and all of them suddenly flying when farmer boys pelt stones to drive them away is a scene only to be seen. A visual of that scene I think was there in a famous movie of olden time ” Lawrence of Arabia ” if I remember right millions of cranes or whatever suddenly take to flight is the opening scene.
    I think my note has gone abit too far, but one more I cannot but mention. A screaming infant’s sound is always an experience for any onlooker,but as a doctor it is almost a daily pleasure for me to hear the lustful cry of the newborn baby soon after the birth. More so when I heard them from outside the labour room when two of my loving daughters were born . I can imagine the extreme happiness and satisfaction of mothers hearing the same.

    Appa, that was a very very beautiful comment. I could feel what you were saying as though I was right in the middle of it all. As great as the sense of smell is, greater glory of the experience comes from the associated sounds and sights. As for coffee, I no longer drink coffee except when you make them. It is truly the best coffee in the world for me as is grandmother’s coffee. Just your description on Great grandmothers dal is so tempting. I wish the swimming pool culture was no so predominant in our times – I can imagine it is different ballgame together to swim in ponds or oceans. I do hope I will get the chance to try that out sometime soon. As for the first cry of newborns, I am sure it is the one cry that all parents wait with bated breath to hear. A beautiful comment – I felt as though I am smelling the damp earth right now. πŸ™‚

  8. drnarayannayak said

    More to add.
    The sound of the cycle bell is associated with the arrival of eagerly awaited postman in our school days.Those days the hard copy letters used to be the medium of communication, telephone being very rare and the telegraph reserved for very urgent message almost exclusively for bad news.For some people in our neighbourhood the cycle bell was also associated with the delivery of milk eagerly awaited for the morning coffee(no stored milk no powderedmilk even)
    Then the occasional sound of the seagoing ships siren
    reminds me of the arrival of Newyear. At the strike 12 midnight on 31`st of every year the ships in the harbour sound the sirens in unison ,a practice which exists even now all over the world.In those days we could hear it far away from our houses and we used to keep awake to welcome the Newyear with a soft clap lest we disturb the elders, we presume to be fast asleep,actually they also did the same I presume.That was our new year celebration,no party in the clubs or hotels, no fire works no dance or ball.Now a days you have to go to Marine drive to hear the siren, thanks to the high decibell back ground noise in the city.

    Awesome, cycle bells, and siren of ships – all charming just like those days. πŸ™‚

  9. Amitha said

    I feel this is the ‘bestest’ post so far… I think reading this post and the comments by all has taken me a level above goosebumps. I’d have to say that the smell of earth after the first showers and the smell of cycle agarbathi (which i still use) when we light the lamp in the evenings is what brings back all those wonderful memories, memories of our loved ones who are no longer amongst us and all that is wonderful about life. Cheers to that familiar old smell!!!

    πŸ™‚ I no longer use agarbattis – sets off the fire alarm. Cheers to the familiar old smell though! πŸ™‚

  10. Swaram said

    Ahh! Nostalgic post! I hv a very sad one 😦 I ws listening to this song ‘Ek Din Bik Jayega, Maati Ke Mol’ when the news of one of my grandma’s death came in 😦 Reminds me of that day whenever I listen to the song n how Mom went running at the earliest leaving us behind with Dad as we had annual exams scheduled the next day

    N yeah, I will b bk with more memories πŸ˜‰ U know I am a comment monster na πŸ˜›

    I feel Comment Monsters are cute! πŸ˜‰ Waiting to hear more from you!

    • Swaram said

      N then, there’s a particular smell which I associate with rice being cooked at my grandma’s place. She used to it without using the pressure cooker n the aroma ws something i can’t forget even to this day .. might hv been more than 20 yrs! U know, its like I can’t explain that smell, but when I get it somewhere, my mind just goes back in time n have told my Mom so many times ‘Ajji mane annada vasane :P’ [Grandma’s home rice smell ;)]

      Ooooooh yes!! My grandma used to cook red rice over a chulha and the smell was just wonderful!! Thanks to you, I am getting it right now! πŸ™‚ Beautiful comment Swaram!!

  11. I like the smell of paint. It reminds me of the first time we were moving into our own new house when I was 8 year old and I simply loved the place :).

    Hi BrownPhanton, welcome to my blog. Its very rare people like the smell of paints. As a child my favourite smelling activity was to open the petrol tank of my dads bike and take a few sniffs. A few years ago, I watched a documentary which said a lot of kids are addicted to this smell and its as bad as addiction to drugs!!

  12. I love the smell of a fav perfume. πŸ™‚ Long back someone special had sent me a perfumed card. I though it was a brilliant idea. Ever since if I want to send a card that is truly special I always use my fav perfume on it πŸ™‚
    Simple but magnificent joys of smell! πŸ™‚

    Hey, PS that’s a novel idea. πŸ™‚ I tend to make up funny quotes and stick a lot of stickers to make the card special.

  13. Solilo said

    These days all I do is take a deep breath and all the yum food smell fills my mind. This bhukkad misses mom’s and MIL’s ke haath ka khaana.

    How we “tadap” for that haath ka khana!!

  14. I agree everybody is attached to some fragnance and smell.

    I love the smell coming from Euclyptus tree planted in lush green farm house during rainy season. It takes me to the joys of childhood.

    I can imagine the wintergreeny smell of the Eucalyptus. Our walking route in India had us head on to a road lined with Eucalyptus trees. I loved to linger on that road and take in the wonderful smell!

  15. Kokonad said

    Nice post TTT!!

    Loved the comment by your father too! It’s really interesting to see what everyone has come up with here. πŸ™‚
    Btw, I too saw that documentary on addiction to smells! There are so many bizzare ones – including permanent marker ink!

    Thanks so much Kokonad! Yeah, everyone one has come up with different smells, but I can understand the charm of all of them. The smells that my dad came up with felt like from another planet! πŸ˜€ You haven’t mentioned your favourite. Is it already in among the rest? I would love to know!

  16. Anything first always make good memories- first bicycle, first love, first bike ride, first kiss, first walk on the rain, first cigerette etc etc.
    Everything gets lost with its own smell, I guess- only lucky few can revisit the old smell. I miss them too.
    You observations are quite impeccable – opening Lactogen tins with spoon πŸ™‚

    πŸ™‚ Thanks ~uh~! Yeah most firsts makes good memories! /strong>

  17. Preethy said

    Dear kukky

    This’s been the a very favourite and loved topic . Brought back a lot of memories for me too. To think smell can be soothing as they bring lovely memories back and put you in a safe and loved cocoon. I still rem the musty but lovely smell at Ammamma;s in the cupboards and the times she used to make Patharvodo.. I rem the time your mom used to make omelletes for all 3 of us , with lots of coconut oil and fried ,just the way we wanted. Wants me to wish for a time warp to be transported to that time , the most beautiful of all times. The times when my mom used to make stuff like sambar ,upma etc some of my favourites- I still try to make it just the way she used to and to match the smell so I know i’ve made it exactly like she did. Crazy , but it helps .

    Peethukka, Thats a novel technique to try cooking by matching the smell! And yeah Ammamma’s old cupboards with lots of cool things in it – what a nice smell. πŸ™‚ I too tried making amma’s style of fried omelette’s (egg with the golden net) but wasn’t working till I asked her how she did it! Yeah, amazing where the sense of smell can take you – literally led by the nose! πŸ˜‰

  18. Shivya said

    I know what you mean, though for me, it’s more music than food that creates subconscious associations. I usually get obsessed with some particular song while travelling, and then months later, when i hear it again, it brings back all the travel memories. It’s both nice and sad πŸ™‚

    Thats a classic case of Classical Conditioning!! πŸ™‚ Do look it up – good to know. πŸ™‚ I did not write this post because I got the smell somewhere, I just “remembered” the smell!

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