Flavors and aromas. When I saw the mailer from Aadaab I thought it was a joke. Now what do I make of this peculiar topic and that too it being given so much importance as to eventually become a theme for the next edition. Wow. The content managers must be out of their mind. But after I had let the feeling sink in, I could fathom the rush of thoughts that those two simple words could evoke.
When I asked a friend what comes to his mind on hearing the phrase, he immediately said he could associate a girl standing with a cone of strawberry in her hand. Some imagination. And another friend said he could think of the smell of a woman. A woman? I was surprised. But his explanation was extremely satisfactory. He said there are smells you associate with a person. When you like or hate somebody your mind registers the smell and then you tend to like or hate that smell. And similar smelling things or places arouse memories of the person intended. Interesting. My best friend told me it reminds her of temples. The lingering fragrance of flowers offered and freshly burning incense in the air. In a place like India where flowers are used abundantly in decorations, offerings and adorn women, most of us can relate to that thought.
Now coming to what I make of the phrase. There are some scenes I must relive now.
A village in Kerala. Smoky chimneys. Dusty roads. Cow dung mixed with water sprinkled on verandahs quite liberally. This doesn’t really smell good but it is considered good omen. They actually do it every morning. Ripe overgrown heavy mangoes fallen down because the tree is no more able to bear the weight of its produce. Now this smells heavenly. And hence you can see the squirrels and birds gnawing and pecking away to glory and ants making the long trails carrying tiny bits to their anthills. Here most of the nature is still undisturbed and allowed to thrive. There is a peculiar smell associated with villages that only people who have visited can remember. It is also something you won’t forget.
Paranthe wali Gali, Chandni Chowk, Delhi-6. Ok. this also happens to be a rap song by Akshay Kumar. But the gali is a world in itself and no song can ever do justice to it. The gali is history, right from ancient princes to Mughal Emperors to elaborate wedding processions the gali has witnessed time. I personally recommend the ‘Power of the Paranthas -- Pandit Gaya Shiv Charan’ shop (claimed as first among the lot in 1870s). The board is an impossible miss. The lights, antique shops, ethnic jewellery, the street is teeming with life. But what distinguishes it from the rest of the neighborhood is the aroma of the kaju (cashew nut) stuffed, exotic filled paranthas served with flavored tamarind chutney, mint chutney and melt-in-your-mouth pickle. There are even banana fillings in addition to the regular bhindi (okra), karela (bitter gourd), methi (fenugreek) and mooli (radish) stuffing. A plethora of flavors and aromas that.
A bustling city. People rushing on their daily routine strewn all across, suddenly silenced by the thunder and lightning. Power cut. A city itself halted. The power of nature is huge. Times which remind us that there are some things that we can never control or predict, and yet these times are beautiful. The aroma of rain is not something I can put down in words and I wouldn’t try a fake attempt. But the memories that the smell brings, of love, family get togethers with chai and steaming pakoras, maybe. A family content of being together, a rare treat for urban families. Children running out, adults hasting in. Rains are the best gift of God and must thoroughly be thanked for. Especially because it reminds us that time exists and must be accounted for not just with money but with joy.
Flavors and aromas are not just two words. They are two senses which we use incessantly though not consciously. Next time try and associate a place with its flavors and aromas, probably you‘ll get a head of this article. Good smelling and tasting ahead!