I crushed, and crushed it hard, so as to get it’s aroma for long. The balmy fragrance of dried Eucalyptus leaves is so refreshing and therapeutic. I closed my eyes and inhaled deep, to let it reach every bit of my consciousness. I wanted it to become a part of me, to anneal deep in me, so that even when we move to one more new destination, I should carry this fragrance along, safely packed in the Olfactory Senses of my body. The fresh and pure aroma, like so many others, will be treasured in the ornate memory box of mine. The box in which I carry secrets, laughter and giggles, sobs and sighs, experiences and incidents. It’s a box of warmth experienced in friendships, of memories both sweet and sour, of likings and disliking, of elation and grief, all neatly packed inside.
I carry all this in the gallery of my mind where there is no delete or crop modes. We move on posting to one more undiscovered, unknown place with our forty plus, black painted trunks and a Pandora of different hues, of the time spent in this station. This house, was our home for last two years, and these tall graceful, Eucalyptus were my loyal companions during these two years. I enjoyed basking under their shade during sunny winter afternoons. They were happy to lend their strength to the hammock, which my daughter had been swinging herself on so very gaily.
As I inhale this fragrance, it brings to the threshold of my senses, many other aromas so close to the heart. The aroma of ‘Dal fry tadka’ from mom’s kitchen is so distinct in my memory. I have cooked so many meals with Dal in the menu, but the tadka of yellow lentils in mom’s kitchen is perhaps a perfectly complete childhood story which can’t ever be rewritten. It would zigzag its way in the evening, and would lure all the feet towards the kitchen.
Being the youngest among three siblings, I had the privilege of sleeping with mom. The warmth of mom’s body, the sweet smell which I would stealthily catch from the bare skin of her mid riff between her petticoat and blouse while I cuddled up with her during the afternoon nap, is tucked carefully in a corner. Touching the red mole below her neck near the cleavage was another romance I would indulge in, claiming my exclusive propriety on her.
The most precious possessions of my Pandora…they store and accumulate and are never replaced. The secret box never threatens of shrinking space.
I am a mother now. The tender fragrance of an infant – like the mixture of milk, baby oils and baby soap – transcends me to the angelic world of fairies and fairy tales, the abode of Thumbelina and Goldilocks. Every night I plant a deep kiss on my daughter’s skin, to gather the residuals of soothing, subtle smell that relaxes my nerves. I carry them along in my sleep.
Memory of that sleep doesn’t connect with the chores of the day next. It wakes up rather to the mystic smell of first showers, which drenched the world many monsoons ago. That’s the conspiracy of the Pandora. It refuses to maintain a chronological log. Whenever I try to arrange them in order, the fragrance of spices in the old steel jar, aroma of baking cake, smell of woolens when taken out from the box as the winter sets in, dried rose discovered between the pale pages of an old book, reshuffles through all my attempts.
Time! The mischievous secret box has some kind of rivalry with the ticking clock. It will trigger the memory of first love, but won’t allow me to either measure or maintain the rhythm of time.
Only one foul smell my Pandora has held on to, within its otherwise mystic collection. The pungent smell of medicines in an old age home I had once visited. A lady in her sixties sat on the stairs, looking blankly at the ceiling.
“Schizophrenia,” the caretaker had explained.
Some other voice inside me said, “She has lost her Pandora!”