I am always amazed at how much impact some smells can have on ones life and state of mind. I don’t mean common smells – good fragrance, bad odor – the perfumes and the rotten eggs which evoke that ah or ouch moments. I am talking about the scents which are much more personal- hardwired into some inner, unknown consciousness. Smells which spring up and catch you by surprise and have the power to suddenly and without warning change your mood, your outlook, your frame of mind.
Yesterday, I was someplace where the receptionist just switched on the air conditioner. It gave off that slight whiff of old dampness (of an air conditioner unused for a while). Almost immediately I felt a heaviness in my heart - (I have no cause to feel so right now).
Which set me wondering about what possible association it could have which causes this sudden change of mood. I have felt it before – that sudden sniff followed by the melancholy. I know that the predominant mental image I have of the smell is a wet blackboard on a rainy day. Me, clutching someone’s hand and climbing up this dank, dark stairway which comes out to a second floor landing outside an old classroom on the second floor (I clearly remember the second floor bit clearly for some reason). I even remember that the bottom edge of the blackboard is above my head. (Reason validates that, the only classroom which could possibly fit that kind of memory happened when I was maybe three or four years).
I don’t know what happened which caused that kind of oppressive subconscious association. I can’t for the life of me remember, and neither can my mother. But that is the odor I can smell (even when it’s not physically present) on late Sunday evenings in the throes of pre Monday blues.
Similarly I can’t tolerate the scent or rose-incense sticks – and the variations of that rose perfume, rose sticks, gulaab paani (not roses though) – that’s always associated with traumatic death. Easier to explain since that’s one of the strongest smells which entered my head through the haze of pain of my fathers death. But what is more difficult to understand is how my nose can locate that sickly sweet odor when I hear of someone’s death miles away.
There are positive associations as well – first rains on parched earth are always the smell of childhood. Whatever I am doing, however stressed I am, that fragrance always manages to infuse a little freedom, loosen some shackles and make me feel lighter.
The intensity of the negative associations is usually far stronger though – can be almost like a physical jolt. .
Recyled from (12/05/2007)- Will shift a few more to blogspot. Pls to bear with me.