“When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory” ~ Marcel Proust ~ “The Remembrance of Things Past”
These words of Marcel Proust speak loud about the power of fragrances in triggering remembrance of bygone days – your long lost childhood, your passionate love of youth, a sun-soaked noon and you rushing home to eat a delectable lunch cooked by your mom, the hair oil of your granny, the wet soil after the first monsoon rain, and what not.
For me, fragrances bring a flood of emotions, soaked in the exuberance of my childhood days. With the advent of autumn, when the delicate sunbeams smile on me and the shiuli flowers bloom in the backyard of my home wafting its fragrance all over the house, my heart and mind close their eyes and reminisce the awesome autumns of my childhood.
Photography: Bhagyajit Bhuyan
My nana (maternal grandfather) woke up at dawn, walked over the soft grassy carpet drenched in the first dew of the season. Then he sat on an iron stool, slightly tilted and sunk in the loose mud of our front yard – strewn with shiuli flowers. These flowers showered from the tree that stood where my nana sat to relax. Here, he sat from dawn to noon telling us real stories about the value of life and its struggles. He was a fabulous story-teller. How we loved listening to him and also loved the juicy jalebis he gave us to eat.
His stories made us laugh mostly. I remember one day, I spotted a caterpillar crawling on his shoulder. It had slipped down the thin branches of the shiuli tree, it’s home, where it lived with many others. I rushed to brush it down his shoulder with a twig and crush it beneath my feet. The very sight of it mad me itchy. Nana moved back to stop me from doing that. I screamed: Nana, no! It will bite you and you will feel itchy all over!
He said: No, it won’t. Let’s send it back to his way. I stood astonished.
He picked the caterpillar on a leaf and left it on a grass blade. Now I was curious. I wanted to know why he did that?
He smiled at me and said: You must be wondering why I didn’t allow you to kill it? I nodded to say “yes”.
He said: My dear, it has life in it. It can feel pain just as you do! How will you feel if someone hits you hard just because they don’t like you?
I said innocently: I will be hurt!
He smiled again and said: So, do you think it is fair to kill that creature just because you feel itchy at its very sight?
Honestly, I didn’t get the logic right – I believe, I was too young to understand that. I laughed out loud and hugged him. I just understood one thing – that my nana is the best human being I ever came across.
So many years have passed since I last saw that autumn, smelled the shiuli, tasted the sweet jalebis, and saw my nana. He is no more; No more is the fabulous autumn of my childhood. Yet, the blossoming shiuli in the backyard warms my heart with its enchanting fragrance, reawakening the child in me, yearning to get back all that has gone by.
This post is written for the “smelly to smiley” contest on IndiBlogger. For more information, check http://www.facebook.com/AmbiPurIndia