Saturday, July 19, 2014

The case of the Filling Fragrances

Godrej Aer - Inspire a fragrance

I grew up at a time when Tata's  Eau de Cologne ruled the market. 60 years ago. Simply because there was nothing else.  Everyone called it "Scent".   ( A million times better than what we have today, fragrances called , of all things, Poison.  ) 

A single bottle went on for years, as you dabbed on, or better still, someone else dabbed on you, a few drops of the same on special occasions. Room fresheners, per se, as seen today were non existent, and no one felt the need to have a room smell of pine forests when the pervading smell in the house was that of ghee being made in the kitchen, or the years supply of garam masala being pounded by hand.

Years later, when I went to the US for grad school, and shared a small apartment , I suddenly learned that when you expected guests for dinner,  it was the done thing to use a room freshener fragrance spray,  not so your menu remained a secret, but, because houses were not expected to smell of adrak-lasoon  enjoying themselves in
hot oil.

Our cerebral cortexes (or is it cortii)  are trained to actually associate memories with smells.  And while there are several memories like those inhaled while passing in a train over Mahim Creek, that I prefer to forget,  so many others take me back  to the old days.

Like when we had neighbors from Hyderabad in the early 80's and every Id, the grandma would be visiting, and she would cook up a Biryanic storm in their kitchen. The flavors would waft down to the garage area, and we would blindly follow our noses  inhaling the adrak, the lasun, the saffron, the onion, the cinnamon, the cloves , the mint, the dhania doing their stuff amidst Basmati, to land us amidst the guests visiting for Id.

 Like when we celebrated the Ganesh Festival, and the house was redolent with the small of freshly shredded coconut  becoming one with a melting jaggery amidst pinches of cardamom powder , and raisins joining the fun.  Sandalwood making it presence felt , amidst agarbattis , all of this contributing to what I might call a puja fragrance.

 Like hot summers redolent with fragrances of ripening mangoes,  and pieces of raw mango fussing about with  salt, red chilly powder, hing and methi seeds fried crisp and crushed ; pickle smells that drew the neighbours to your house, to taste and nod approvingly, as your grandmother/mother beamed  amidst the tadkas.

Like a parched Earth, achingly dry,  and the amazing fragrance of the Earth smiling as it looked up at the first rain o the season. I could say "wet earth" but Geeli Mitti says it so much better. A fragrance that draws the most stuffy person out of the house, to inhale deeply, and beam in approval at the kids getting wet in the first rain of the season.

Like the ajwain leaves, blooming in profusion,  and emanating a cleansing fragrance as you pluck some, and go forth to make the pakodas with the leaves, something always enjoyed in the rains. (Greedy folks like me also enjoy them throughout the year).

Like the smell of ginger being grated and added to the water boiling away to make tea;  like some mint leaves awaiting their rendezvous with the same;  and sometimes cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves,  behaving like mature seniors waiting their turn.

Like a roomful of Mamis , wearing flowers in their hair, gajras with heavenly fragrance, all assembled in traditional silks for a Haldi kukum , a sudden sprinkle of rosewater, while a creeping smell of frying kadhipatta  emanates quietly from the kitchen .

We have so many fragrances to celebrate.   Very Indian fragrances  which are part of our lives. 

Godrej Aer, wants us to  suggest fragrances which are crowd sourced.  There can be none better than those that celebrate our Indianness.

The International Journal of Obesity has papers by Dutch researchers, that say that food smells need to be avoided by those trying to reduce their weight.  Apparently, non-food smells like pine and cut-grass reduce appetite.

Wait. There are, however, other smells that are part of reducing weight.  The smell of lemon squeezed in warm water, the smell of sweat, as you drip after a  good run in the morning, and strangely the smell of your tired socks, as you fling them, with a grimace , into the washing machine....

Clearly pine smells and cut grass do not make the grade. 

And so the Godrej types should introduce fragrances like  Adrak Crush,  Turmeric Temptation (ever smelt turmeric leaves ?),  Royal Saffron, Puja Sandalwood,  Geeli Mitti,  Kairi Methi,  Amazing Ajwain,  Sweet Coconut,  Sinful Cinnamon,  Pretty Green Pepper,  Stuck-up Cloves, and even  Nutty Nutmeg.   

Naturally, there will be Jai Jasmine,  My Mogra,  Resplendent Rose, Chamak Champa, and  Truly Tulsi , for times when you are full. 


And for times, when you are really hungry, and cannot afford to eat (for whatever reasons, health or economical) ,  a  Biryanical Fragrance  to satiate and mislead the brain the Dutch researchers talk about.....  

(Submitted as an entry for the Indiblogger Godrej Aer #InspireAFragrance contest)


  1. Early this morning in my cottage by the woods
    I read your post and smile.
    Remember fragrances from the past that I used.
    A special perfume and have not used it in years
    and my daughter's comment when they see it advertised
    or smell it reminds me of me.
    I like Lavender at night and helpful for relaxing and sleep.
    Incense is burned in the cooler weather and like pine
    or anything that reminds me of the woods.
    Also their are some healing scents that are used.
    I probably am the only one in this area that burns incense
    and picked up the habit from my son.
    My son teaches yoga in Thailand and at the moment
    writing about this practice makes the missing him
    deeper. Thank you for this post and the memories
    it brings back and also it is time to start using my incense once again.

    1. Ernestine, thanks for your lovely comment . I love lavender as an incense, but somehow cannot connect to it like I can, to smells of my childhood. I just think our fragrances need to connect to the local Earth, so to speak.....