A Whiff from the Past!!!
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Being an Indian I grew up in scented environments--the most frequent scents wafting in on the Breeze from our huge Garden.For me the Floral Scents have always fascinated me--and my childhood was spent experimenting with Flowers---trying to make different types of Oil Perfumes or Attars!!!Whenever I remember my childhood each memory is associated with some scent or another.For instance Diwali reminds me of the fragrant scrub called "Uttana/Ubtan" which was a must for our ritual baths each year.Our bodies would first be massaged with a perfumed Oil--most of which had those cloying Perfumes that I hated so I just used Patchouli Oil instead!!However the subsequent activity of scrubbing of our bodies with the fragrant Herbal Scrub made everything worth while.The mild,lingering perfume that exuded throughout the day from our bodies after the Ritual bathing was the highlight of Diwali for me!!This scrub is made according to an ancient Ayurvedic Formula-- with various Powders and Herbs dried and powdered together and then mixed with a little Chick Pea Flour and Milk Cream to form a thick paste before applying it all over the Body.After it is washed off with warm,Attar scented Water, it leaves the skin feeling moisturised and baby soft all over!!
According to Custom I used to anoint and bathe Sudhir each "Bali Pratipadaa" much to his embarassment and the amusement of our daughters every year!!However I could not do this for him in 2009 for we were with Sayali in New York and I didn't want to risk clogging the Drains--for she lived on the 17th. Floor!!In 2010 it was with Sayali again--- this time in London--and the same held true once more----2011 he passed away a few days before "Bali Pratipadaa" so he missed his Ritual bath for 3 years in a row!!I love following our ancient Traditions--as children in the very cold,dry North Indian Winters the "Uttana" Baths were a regular weekly feature for us when we were growing up as were Oil Baths which meant a regular oiling of our Hair and bodies with Mustard Oil before bathing.For me the home made Shampoo Powder my maternal Grandma Aaji sent was another high point--it smelt wonderful and very woodsy--redolent of all the various Hair rejuvenating Herbs she personally dried and powdered at home in their sprawling Bungalow in Poona.For me these Perfumes form an unbroken link with the Past--a thread that runs from the beginning of my Life till today--weaving so many different Memories in it's String!!
I also remember Perfumes that were a Gift to Mummy from Le Corbusier one Christmas--maybe in 1959.He had brought her these specially blended Vials from Grasse. One was a Pine scented bottle shaped like a Pine Cone in deep,dark, Emerald Green Glass with a Beige Ceramic stopper and the other was a jewel rich Lapis Lazuli Blue with a Gold Glass stopper---- redolent with the scent of Alpine Meadows in Summer--a subtle, elusive but haunting Perfume that simply lingered and lingered on.Mummy was allergic to strong smells--and specially allergic to a type of Jasmine called "Chameli" in India.There was a huge Creeper of this growing outside my Bedroom window--scenting the Air throughout the late Spring,Summer and early Monsoons.I loved it's scent and would draw it in deeply with each breath whenever the Breeze wafted it into my bedroom--Mummy on the other hand hated it because it made her Hay Fever Allergy worse!!The worst of this situation was when my paternal Grandma Akka would be visiting us during the Summer--she'd gather lots of the fat,long,Pink tinted Buds and string these up into a thick,fat string we call a "Gajra" during the hot Summer afternoons and then very lovingly insist Mummy wear it on her huge bun of thick wavy hair that evening----a Machiavellian way of playing the bitchy mother-in-law to the hilt!! Another scent that haunts me is Lavender--my father's favourite Perfume.Even today I love using Lavender in any form because it reminds me of Daddy--the fresh,clean scent lingering on in the Atmosphere!!In 1983 we had travelled to Kashmir for our Summer vacation--the heady scent of that beautiful,perfumed Air still haunts me--it was a very intoxicating mixture of Saffron Crocuses,Iris,Narcissi,Roses,T
uberoses,Water Lilies and the tiny,yellow coloured Mountain Jasmines---all mixed with the woody scents of Spruce and Pine.Till date it remains the most tantalising and mesmerising Perfume I've ever come across--not even some of the best English Gardens I've visited can compare favourably to it!!
I'm a hoarder and my huge hoard of various types of perfumes is the proof of it.There is a bottle of "Opium" and "L'Air du Temps" lying unused in my Cupboard--both Sudhir's gifts to me--maybe on our 10th.Anniversary.Then there is an almost empty bottle of "4711" that Daddy sent me for my 21st. birthday from Mauritius a month before he died.There are also bottles of Chanel No.5,"Dunes","L'Air du Temps","Coco" all of them Gifts from my daughters--along with plenty of stuff that I bought myself on my trips. Sudhir however loved wearing "Aramis" when we got married--later replaced by Davidoff's "Cool Waters" ,"Black XS" by Paco Rabanne,"Boss" by Hugo Boss,finally "Burberry" by Burberry and Grey Vetiver by Tom Ford towards the end.Some bottles he threw away--some I still have ---for they hold the essence of some very precious Memories for me!!