Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Fuel for Your Time Machine

Nostalgic memories are wonderful time machines that allow us to travel into our own past. What best fuel to drive this time machine other than smell, fragrances and pictures? Land on that old, crumbled and dirtied old picture or inhale smell associated with your past, there you are on a ride which many scientists have failed to build.
The wonderful baby smell!
 One of the very assuring and pleasing smells is that of the baby powder and baby body cream, which makes me feel safe, secure and protective at the same time. I am not sure how others feel, but that is how that smell makes me feel. I do remember holding my fragile new born in my arms, smelling sweetly of the baby powder and creams. I wanted to lay down even my life to protect them, when I realized it must have been the same way my parents felt about me when they held the tiny me in their arms. That is the reason for the secure and protective feeling I think.
I grew up not in apartments but a cluster of nearly 50 houses owned by a single owner and rented out to people of all communities and regions. There were lot of Keralites and Kannadigas. There were people from Andhra, Tamil Nadu, followed by Rajputs. There were some Punjabis, Sindhis, Marwaris, Maratis, and Gurkhas also living there. It was a great place to grow up watching different people, eat different food, dress in different attire, speak different language and celebrate different festivities. It was also wonderful to watch them celebrate the same festivals like diwali, holi or a national holiday in their own unique way.
Those were the days of celebrating our unity in diversity. Back in the 1980’s we did not even know which caste or community we belonged to. We were muslims on the day of Ramzan, Hindu’s on diwali, holi etc and Christians on the day of Christmas. All those great days with history behind them did not have any significance to us.. they just meant fun and entertainment. My parents were liberal enough not to stop us from having fun with our friends on the special occasions.
Kids enjoying chicken on Eid
Every festival had its own smell which spread around our house. During Ramzan and Bakrid, the aroma of the kheer Sheer Khurma would wake us up. This was the time when most of the relatives and friends visited us. All the aroma of food and festival was lost once people came back from eid namaz as the smell of attar spread around the homes; well at least it lasted until the aroma of Biryani would take over.
During diwali it was the sound of crackers burst by our dad that would wake us up which brought the odd but delightful smell of burning crackers. We would fight with dad for enjoying crackers without waking us. We would not touch the breakfast cooked by mom as we had a big stash of sweets to finish off. Dad used to purchase raw materials for his factory; therefore he got many sweets and gifts for diwali from the people he did business with. We got the taste of Gujarati, Marati, Sindhi, Bengali and many other local sweets. His boss would send a huge pack of crackers and sweets too. Diwali was a grand festival in our home. Our neighbors would treat us with payasams and kajjayas.
Holi brought the smell of colors mixed with the dishes being prepared in homes around us. Food was ignored on this day as most of us were either trying to escape being drenched in color or went on attacking spree to spray colors on friends. It was the day of hiding for me until evening when I would slowly come out to taste the great Gujiyas.
Ugadi was one of the biggest festivals celebrated where we lived. All doors emanated the smell of mango leaves as they were decorated with the thorana. We would run from one home to another to watch people eat jaggery with bitter neem leaves. It was fun when our friends refused to eat neem but were forced by their parents to have them as it was an important ritual. The afternoon lunch on Ugadi was a feast and we would be invited by many of our friends. We had tough time deciding whom to visit. Every home would have a lavish spread consisting a special palya, kosambari made of cucumber, moongdal, channadal etc, mango pickles prepared at homes, Sandige, pakodas, rice, special curry, sweets, kheer, hulianna, chitranna and of course the king of the day Obbattu. My sister and I would love having this special treat with our friends.
Christmas was a very special festival as we went to St.Joseph’s convent where it was celebrated in a great way. The smell of hot cross buns, Christmas tree and the ambience of the church always took my breath away. I loved the way the nuns smelt, very mild and pure unlike the strong smell which came from artificial perfumes. We used to get gifts on the Christmas day from our school which meant a lot to us.
Unfortunately gone are those days of fun with festivals. With more progress of our country, people have drifted apart. No one has enough time or enthusiasm to celebrate festivals like they used to in the past. Fresh mango leaves have given way to plastic ones, traditional dishes been replaced with modern catering and we do not visit friends either. The natural fragrances have been replaced with pleasant home fresheners. My dad, sister and mom with whom I enjoyed those days are not with me anymore, but their memories brings smile on my face even to this day. At times when I chance upon a sight or smell the special aroma, I travel in the time machine to meet them and relive the days when nothing was more important than being happy and having fun.
This post is written for the contest on Indiblogger organized by AmbiPurIndia
The days when we were free birds are gone now :(


  1. Your vivid memories of family, friends, and celebrations brought back a few of mine. I hope we'll both remember those days that seemed a little more relaxed than nowadays.

    I enjoyed reading about the different foods, cultures, and rituals. Best wishes to you in the contest. :)

  2. You blog was the time machine that took me back in time .. into the world where I enjoyed my life just wearing a simple petticoat. What I would not give to have those days back!

  3. i want to eat the ugadi spread now :(

  4. What a lovely range of aromas Farida! It brings to mind the odors on my childhood too.


  5. Odors are powerful memory triggers....every time I smell boxwood it takes me right back to my childhood and visiting Colonial Williamsburg with my grandparents. It never fails to make me feel good. Great piece, Farida.


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