Wednesday, August 28, 2013

His Olfactory Lobe

Back in 1970s, there was only mud, grass and animals. It was all very nice and serene. There was agriculture and the farmers thrived. The reason was the river that was flowing in the neighborhood. They cut canals with much difficulty and brought water through those canals for irrigation. The canals were wider than 10 feet, deeper than six ft. and water would touch both banks and flow. Then in 1992, they started this school in this area. It was a Christian missionary school. The school brought huge value for land around it and people started moving in for the sake of their kids. By 2000, it started to grow in an exponential rate and soon, Rockfort was not visible from the terrace of houses. And, then, it started to stink…

All the people had no place to drain their drains and the area was so crowded. By 2004, the river that flowed down in light green colour, that it stole from the trees around, became black. Black of the coal and the smell started to aggravate. The smell could be compared to nothing. People used to say all sort of explanations and the smell was very bad. Sometimes during the morning, the time when the human beings excrete, there would raise a smell that was powerful to wake up a boy from sleep. Then he would go to tution on time and that was an advantage for the parents.

This is the first smell that comes every day in the morning. The tution would end by 7 and while he returns, if there is no rain, there would be nothing. When Monsoon hits, there would be water stagnant over unconstructed plots and there would be algae formed over that. This smell of algae is sometimes very good, but at the same time, it can go bad if there is any sort of disturbance, like pigs and cows to the water.

He will be home to get ready for school - the school that is very nearby and that is reason for the first smell of every day. He would have thirty minutes to rest and then he would have to go to school. These thirty minutes, he would spend in watching over his garden. In that small space there were four banana shrubs, a lemon tree, a pomegranate tree, a few tulsis, a guard creeper, tree that grows drumstick, a hibiscus plant which gave bright red flowers and a tree that bore ‘Ixora coccinea’

His father would patiently water them for a very long time and he would come into the house sweating. The ash on his forehead after having worshipped Shiva, combined with his sweat gave out a very strong and pleasant smell. By this time, water in the canal would be flowing and there would be no problem of smell. The soap of tetmasol used to have no smell. The scabies, for not to spread again, had to be given the lure of tetmasol. But now, Hamam had replaced Tetmasol. It was better in smell and generated a lot more foam than the former. The smell of neem and glycerol did something.

The important ritual of going to school happens then. His mom irons his clothes for him and that smell of hot iron on cotton had always been his favorite. That smell took him to a few places and that sound of switching off the iron box brought him back to the world.
The ladies-finger sambhar (a south-Indian food) mixed in rice was his beloved dish. That and carrot & beans fry for which he longs would definitely be in his box on one day of the week. When this got packed, he would get a hint of the odour. The cereals and coconut and oil and everything in it made him float.

 He wore that warm clothes and took his school bag and importantly the basket that had the lunch and walked. On the way he would join her – she, who also like him wore the school uniform had a bag and a smaller lunch bag, with jasmine garland on the head that had hairs plaited into two in between which he had kissed her often.  That walk to school was again a heavenly feeling to him. With those jasmines on head and the sweat because of the walk, the road side trees, friendly smiles and it was always heaven. Her small talks made it even more beautiful. If the day was not sunny, the walk was slower – no one, not even me, knows why.

Then, he reaches the school and at the gate would be a hundred autos, vans and scooters. He hated the smoke but, liked the smell of petrol which was a small component in the smoke. They have two classes before the first break. The bell for the break would ring and people would rush to the canteen. The smell formed of the dust that people created because of running, was awesome. He would search for her, for she was of a different section from the same year. They both would have samosa or egg-puffs.

Soon he would be longing for the breaks and free hours. When it came to free hours, he being the class leader would say the class to keep quiet and shout along with them. He loved the smell of chalk-piece and saw dust in the box used to keep it. He would write and erase something on the board. Duster throwing was a famous sport in the class-room.

Then, he returned with the same ‘her’ he loved and cared so much for. Soon he would have his coffee which smelled very much like coffee for which the actress raised her eyebrows closing her eyes. Cricket was his best sport and he was a good wicket-keeper.  The smell of blood caused due to falling down in the field, the smell of her tears on hearing this (which eventually turned to smile when he said he was ok), her hair and the oil combo’s smell - it was all divine to him.

There is a smell that connects the mother and the child when the child is small. That actually continues, for all those who are with her. The love of her, has to itself a divine odour. He knows it, when he lies on her lap talking stories about school and classes. He liked the perfume that his English teacher used and loathed the way she taught.

The evening usually goes on well, till he goes to bed. There was a smell like everything else to his pillow and the room. It slowly rocked him to sleep to wake up to that horrible morning.

Written for Smelly to smiley contest sponsered by