Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Blissful Attack

It really is impossible to over-emphasise the prominence and importance of smells in Mumbai. My last post was just a brief, tip-of-the-iceberg sample of the stream of chemicals that constantly enters one's nose in this genuinely sensuous city. I could've mentioned the aroma of jasmine and tuberose coming from the garlands hanging by the florists' stalls, or the salty freshness blowing into Chowpatty Beach, or the dampness of rotting wood in the ramshackle buildings from the 20s and 30s...

If nothing else, all these olfactory encounters make me realise how extremely sanitised our version of reality has become in the western hemisphere. We tend to experience smells on our own terms: we decide when to spray the deodorant or dispense the fabric softener or light the incense stick from the 'ethnic' store. We're very rarely confronted by smells, and when we are, we tend to find the experience unpleasant or downright repellent.

There's no doubt that India's changing at a breathless rate and that it isn't quite the same country I visited 6 years ago. But if there's one quality it appears to have retained it's a sense of being more closely connected to the elements than we are in the west. Fear not: I absolutely don't mean that in a 'pseudy', neo-spiritualist way... although there's plenty of that sort of thing here in the growing number of suspicious, tourist-trap ashrams, but that's another story... No, I mean it in the simplest, most prosaic sense I can imagine: you walk in the city and almost nothing stands between you and the world. You're welcome to see, hear, smell, touch and taste as much as you're able. And that's something that doesn't happen very often when you're a tourist in Europe.


Persolaise.

5 comments:

  1. I'm really enjoying these India posts - I dont want them to end!

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  2. Thank you, Frida, what a sweet thing to write. And I may still have one or two India posts up my sleeve...

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  3. If we in the US weren`t confronted w/ blasts of cheap candy/calone or fruitechouli upon entering dept stores, there might be less fear of confronting good scent blasts like those you mention! :-)

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  5. Linda, I'd never considered the situation from that point of view. Let's blame EVERYTHING on calone and fruitchouli ;-)

    ReplyDelete

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