I was strolling down the drenched road, sploshing through the sparkling water that soaked the atmosphere with a familiar smell. I closed my eyes so that lights fade out to a silent black. And then, I inhaled. Like a riffle of cards, a series of photographs flashed on the back of my eyelid. And the scent, just as the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle, fit every scene perfectly. I could see the downpours of July 2010, I could see the showers on my Uncle’s marriage eve, I could see myself standing at the gate of St. Xaviers with a girl on my side, raindrops ploping down in front of my eyes in a musical symphony.
There‘s a scent attached to every memory, every moment that stays solid inside your brain. Events, places and people have particular smells. In the evenings of the autumn, near the grocery store in my neighborhood, there’s often the smell of burning wood. I close my eyes in those moments and it whisks me to my childhood, when I’d be in my mother’s village, joyous as a bubble. It’s been 7 years since my last visit to the village. Things aren’t the same there anyway, as they say, everything is drearier and more torn apart these days. There’s no more wooden fuel, and no more solidarity.
The dusk in those autumns, ironically, reminds me of prevernals. There’s this smell of evening you cannot evade, it always has a gallery of memories for you. The autumn, particularly, is the saddest. It smoulders with the breaths of melancholy. Maybe that’s why they call it Fall. The air is gunpowdery in India in autumns, due to festivals. And festivals, you’d agree, spark off endless frames of nostalgia.
Just as I move beyond the grocery store and take a left, the smell of avenues begin to pervade my soul. It’s the mossy, woodsy smell that takes me to Shyamli, where I’ve spent the most significant part of my life walking along the serene avenues.
Then, I turn right, and the air starts reeking of people. Loud noises ring in the back of my mind. Crowd, dust and smoke rise up and there’s a mayhem all around. It’s the irritating sight you get when you’re in a bus inching through packed traffic in a May afternoon. People always stink. That smell stays for some time, through some more turns, and then, comes the road.
It smells like shit. Not the metaphorical shit, but the literal ugly amorphous decaying brown semi solid paste of organic matter that drops out of anus. It’s dogshit on most occasions. Not that I specialise in shit recognition, but I assume that because there are plenty of dogs out here. As you walk on the dilapidated sidewalk, you come across myriad specimens of shit. Some are old while some are fresh. In the small journey of two minutes, you get nasal cancer, if there’s something like that, from smelling all that shit. It reminds me of Court Station, Purnea, where a train full of shit, again, not the metaphorical but actual shit, rotted for six years before they removed it. Stations in my place serve as open public toilets. Often on train journeys, you’d see people squatted behind the bushes, giving you a carefree look through the leaves as their bowels rock and roll. That’s a disgrace, but people are real poor and ignorant here.
Then, there are buses. Buses stink of vomit. Remind me of Khadgada bus stand at Ranchi, which was situated beside a cemetery. The place was full of dust and buses. The stench made my stomach churn.
The comes the college. As I move in, a beautiful scent replaces the odour. The smell of morning grass is the breath of God. It frees my soul of all the diseases. I stand, shut my eyes, and inhale.
My soul is enveloped in the fragrance.
I can see the grass Whitman talked about, I can see the field Rumi talked about….