Monday, July 22, 2013

Aa Smell Enti?

Of all the senses bestowed upon us, the sense of smell affects us the most. Who would have thought such a small organ on your face could have such a huge impact on you? You can shut your eyes to a bad visual, cringe away from too much heat if it burns your skin or freezes it, spit out something if your tongue doesn’t like the taste, cover your ears with noise cancelling ear phones if things get too noisy but when it comes to smells, there is very little you can do to avoid them. The good, bad and ugly smells, all have to be endured! 

How many of us stop in our tracks and search all around when we smell something cooking. We could be on a busy street and just had lunch but the smell of frying samosas/jalebi/onion rings/potato fries will make most of us stop and try to find the source. A friend once told me about a restaurant owner who would fry onions right around lunch time to entice customers! Guess what? His trick worked and business went up! Ever walked through the food court at the mall and wanted to sample food from EVERY stall? I even wanted to try some of the non-vegetarian fare which smelled awesome.

Have you ever caught a whiff of the most amazing perfume in the cosmetic section of a departments store and spent 15 minutes sampling different perfumes trying to find it in the cornucopia of perfumes? I have been there, spent a heavenly 15 minutes smelling perfumes, got exasperated at not finding the one I was looking for and eventually thinking that it was a mix of scents I smelled and not one perfume. Yes, that’s what it was. Not my unwillingness to go through 100 bottles of perfume or my nose’s temporary inability to tell the perfumes apart, yes, that’s what it must have been. I have never been able to find ‘the’ perfume I smelled so that’s what I will attribute it to.

So, if you see me walking around a certain spot in a departmental store breathing deeply, please don’t think I am having an asthma attack, it is just me trying to catch a whiff of that mesmerizing smell one more time so I can go back to the shelves and look for it. Again.

There are some of us who can go through the day and ignore the overpowering smells around them but not me. I have been “blessed” with an enhanced sense of smell. I remember smells from my childhood! A strong smell will often trigger a memory. The smell of sandalwood powder reminds me of my teenage in India, the smell of baby powder, that of my kids’ diaper days J. The smell of my mom’s cooking reminds me of the days when the pressure cooker’s whistle acted as an alarm for us to get out of bed and rush to get dressed for school. I even remember the way some people smell! I would catch a whiff of a scent and go into la la land thinking about an old friend and how much fun we had together or how much I hated the smell of that particular hair oil J

The other side of the coin is being extremely sensitive to bad smells. While most people can walk past a garbage can and not smell much, I can catch the faintest odor. I remember dreading walking to karate class because the road went past a community dumpster which didn’t really smell bad but to me it was the equivalent of the city dump. If my food didn’t smell good, I wouldn’t eat it no matter how good it tasted. I always drive with my air vents closed, especially when driving in a skunk infested area. Believe me, the smell stays in the car for DAYS! 

I knew I had an elevated sense of smell but I didn’t really pay too much attention to it until my younger son started displaying similar traits. Yes! It is hereditary! He identifies EVERYTHING by its smell. His favorite sentence- ‘ aa smell enti ?’ which translates to ‘ what is that smell?’. He hates bad smells with the same fervor. The best way to persuade him to eat is making sure it smells good! He gives me a hard time if we get into an elevator with somebody who has a strong body odor.

I smile every time he asks me ‘aa smell enti?’ I don’t think anybody else would understand the depth of that simple sentence as much as I do! The tradition continues…

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