Thursday, December 30, 2004


The first thing that hits you when you set foot into Vietnam, writes Graham Greene in 'The Quiet American', are the smells. Ditto for Mumbai. I could smell the 'Khadi' (the salty fringes of the sea) even in the plane. Outside, it was the 'smell of the local train ethos', whatever that is, but an unmistakable one. Tinged with the typically sulfaraceous smell was also the smell of memory and nostalgia, because this smell has permeated my being so many times since childhood. Apart from being a good augury for the seminar on olfaction that I am going to give in April, the smells signified homecoming in its unique way. The memory was not marred at all by the extremely lackadaisical attitude of the customs official, who was actually chatting with his friend all the time that my three bags were passing through the x-ray machine. Long live Indian complacency.
The sight of your mom and dad after such a long time is of course an indescribably signature experience. So is the ride back home to Pune on the expressway, and the first glimpses of a most familiar city. The most heartwarming experience for me was setting foot into my home. Old sights and details, even cracks in particular places in the wall, inundate your mind and instantly register. It is at once overwhelming and surreal, because you are looking at things that are an inseparable part of your childhood, youth and material and spiritual subconsciousness, but at the same time there is a certain novelty in them since you have been away from them for a while. Oddly affectionate. The rest of it is about the way you expect it to be. The sight of old granny, gulabjamuns, shrikhand and palak paneer trigger rarely explored but strongly inculcated emotions. There is nothing in the world quite like inculturation. Let the good times flow!


Blogger Sumedha said...

A seminar on olfaction..smells fascinating :-)

3:46 PM  
Blogger Hirak said...

It's always great to back home. Some things change but thankfully most things remain the same. One of my worst fears to not really know a place anymore.
For a place where you grew up to just become a memory, a snapshot in time. And to find yourself a stranger in your own land.
The truth is not as hideous as this. I was riding on my two-wheeler the very next day without any confusion about riding on the wrong side of the road and navigating with the old ruthlessness on the Pune roads. Yeah then I really felt I hadn't left home for a single day.

1:01 PM  

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