What would life be like without fragrances to touch the heart? Flowers of the Parijatha tree in our garden make the night air fragrant. The champaka flowers from our neighbour’s garden add their fragrance to our mornings. We have coconut trees in our garden. We get coconuts plucked at least three times a year. They have an earthy scent. I like going to temples because of the atmosphere created there by incense sticks, sandalwood paste, Kumkum powder and of course flowers.
We use different spices in our cooking. Red chillies, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fenugreek, asafoetida, black gram, Bengal gram are used in our masalas. When they are roasted , the aroma fills the house. And how can I not write about seasoning of the curries and other dishes? Seasoning is an important part of our cooking. We season with red chillies and mustard in hot coconut oil. My father’s elder sister could judge which spice had been over-roasted or which had been under-roasted just by smelling the masala ! Ripe jackfruit has a very strong smell. I love it but many don’t. They find it over-powering. We use tender bamboo shoots in curries. We also pickle them. The smell when it is being boiled fills the house and my son finds it intolerable 😊. I have not used it for some time. We get them in the market when the rains commence.
A building is being constructed in the plot behind our house. There are many workers from West Bengal there. Every night we smell Bengali food being cooked in mustard oil. India’s cuisine is diverse and people use different kinds of oil which are indigenous to their places. In coastal Karnataka we use coconut oil. Once we were travelling by bus in Gujarat. The lady sitting next to me could not believe that we use coconut oil for cooking.
Non-vegetarian cooking has a distinct smell. I remember our trip to Malaysia years ago. The place was so clean but the smell of cooking meat in roadside stalls pervaded the whole place. We found it a little difficult to bear as strict vegetarians. 😊 Our friends who were with us were non-vegetarians. They told us they desist from eating meat in Malaysia because they were not sure of what kind was meat was being served. They believed that people there ate anything that moved. I don’t know if that is the case 😊. In our place, people usually eat fish and chicken. We live very close to the west coast. There is a fishing village not far from the beach and the smell of drying fish fills the air.
Apart from flowers and cooking there are so many different fragrances that fill our life with their beauty. Petrichor, I love the sound of the word. It is the fragrance which fills the surroundings when the first drops of rain meet the dry earth. It is special. It means that the rains have come.