Come August and September, there is a chain of festivals that get triggered and that sets off a series of memories that transport me to a different world and era indeed.
I really really miss the smell of new clothes on festivals, dabbing some turmeric to something new before wearing it while your parents check and double (and triple) check on whether you have done it or not, what a celebration new clothes were because they signified a special day or event. Oh that hustle in a market that smelt of fresh jasmine and marigolds and kanakambri, camphor, agarbattis and banana leaves that heralded a festival! Or when it inevitably rained on your day out but nothing mattered, not even the fact that you parked roads and roads away from the shopping street because you could look at all the new dresses on display, the happy smiles on people out for shopping, wondering what their shopping bags contained. And finally that moment when you found something you liked and your parents remarked it looks good on you, the pride with which you watch your parents pay for it and clutch it tight all the way home only to do a dress rehearsal again. I do feel happy when I buy something new, but these shopping trips that happened before festivals and birthdays, occasionally will always remind me of gentler lighter times, of unbearable happiness and rich pride. So when I do wear something ethnic especially on a festive day, it takes me to those times even if it is for a brief moment and I feel ridiculously happy to have those memories to relive until we recreate them again, someday soon.
“Petrichor is the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil.“
I must confess I quite did not understand what was so special about this until now. When so many people around me kept saying that they love the smell after the rains, I did not get it. It felt silly to be the only person who did not, so I nodded away every single time. Not saying anything. Neither agreeing, nor disagreeing but amused all the same. Was I missing something obvious? Had I not been through a dry enough patch to appreciate this? I wanted to be part of this experience and feel included in knowing I shared a scent with so many of my friends. So I built it up in my head – an imaginary scent.
This was back in school and college. And it stayed that way until day before yesterday.
As I walked back from the railway station, it started to drizzle and catch up. Not in a violent way but enough to moisten the dry soil that has been a welcome gift of English summer, for many. And that’s when it hit me. Petrichor. Ever so subtle and immediately taking me back to those trees on the playground around which we huddled as we discussed out favourite scents. I love petrichor now though not much for its scent but rather, for all the ways in which it brings me so close to my childhood and all those conversations that carried all the meaning in the world. It has been years and yet I feel closer to them in a special way.