Sunday, July 29, 2012 12 comments

DANGEROUS LAISIONS

One of my friends shared with me today a very disturbing piece of news . It concerned her niece’s classmate. Apparently this fifteen year old girl from the tenth standard had  accepted a “friend request” from an unknown boy  on Face book.. The person she had become friends with was  someone who claimed to be eighteen and in the twelfth standard. After about six months of virtual interaction, this person asked the girl to come to Bombay to meet him. When she mentioned this to her friends they became a bit suspicious and after some snooping around on Face book found out that the “boy” in question was a thirty year old man!! I would say that it was really lucky for her that she had sensible friends who guided her properly.. Generally what happens in such cases is a group of girls conspiring with each other to keep this a secret and help their friend run away to Bombay to meet her virtual boyfriend!

While facebook may be a new way for such relationships to develop, that fact that they do is the truth about teenage. It used to happen when we were younger often in  similarly innovative ways. I remember once during my teenage when I was talking to a friend on the phone we had a “cross connection” ( the phone lines of Calcutta were notorious for that !) with a man/ boy  who started participating in our conversation uninvited. After the initial irritation we  started talking to him  While I got off the call after that novelty of flirting with an unknown stranger had worn off, my friend on the other hand continued talking to him, giving him a lot of details about herself. Soon, we had this young man at our school gate waiting to meet my friend. It was very scary on one hand while also rather thrilling.. I am not sure what it was that he did with his life ( I mean we don’t know if he was a student or a drop out or looking for employment) but it was obvious that he was pursuing my friend. As bystanders in this “romance” we felt very entertained. Now  when I think back, I feel that we may have actually encouraged my friend into it. They were together for quite sometime, I think until she was in her 11th and 12th when her parents got wind of it and put an end to it!

While attraction for the opposite sex is normal during teenage, I think what is dangerous is probably the fascination that teenagers – particularly girls may have for complete strangers. There have been occasions when girls have been stalked by strangers but have convinced themselves that they are attractive enough to engage the attention of an unknown male.

 And where female teens are concerned, I think there is something else that is equally dangerous.  I would like to call this  “experiencing by proxy”.  Most girls like to share their  experiences with the male sex  with friends and the friends get as excited as the one who is actually going through it thereby providing encouragement for this ! I also  find it really strange, the way girls can talk their friends into a situation of being attracted to someone. While this influence is strong in the teenage years, it persists until ones twenties. I don’t know why they  do it but I guess it provides many with the thrill that they themselves may be unable to experience due to various reasons like restrictions at home, or themselves not being attractive enough and so on…! And I can never understand the girl who believes her friends when they tell her “Oh, I think he must be interested in you!”

So, the girls provided with such encouragement get into dangerous liaisons feeling like heroines. The friends listen goggle eyed as they share the moments spent with the boy friend ( of which about 80% must be made up stories) . Sometimes they do more “daring” things with the friends conspiring with them in this simply for the attention that it gets them in their peer group.

I don’t know how we can address this or whether it can be addressed in the first place! When hormones drive you then it is very important to be part of a peer group that understands and keeps in mind your welfare rather than their own entertainment. These days such relationships are happening while girls are very young, so the maturity levels of their peer group is likely to be equally lower and so the risks are higher. The opportunities ofcourse are much more in the sense that one does not have to leave the house to come into contact with a stranger. You can do it right in your living room or study with your mother or father sitting in the same room.

As a parent, I can only say that keeping channels of communication open may probably be the best way to deal with this. I try not to be shocked  when my daughter tells me something about what some in her peer group are up to. I hear about girls who leave their house dressed in a certain way, reach a friend’s house and change into something completely different! I also hear about girls who take naked pictures of themselves on their mobiles and show it to their friends. I cannot imagine what will happen if this phone falls into the wrong hands!

“Don’t freak out !” says junior when she tells me all this.  It requires a lot of will power not to .. because if I do I know I will not be the recipient of any more of such bits of information. But at the back of my mind is also the concern as a parent about whether I should share such information with other parents – particularly if their daughters are involved in such activities. The husband tells me to stay out of it but I feel a sense  of guilt..!

There is also the issue of trying to get her out of interacting with such peers. But that is something that I don’t think that I should do because then she may just become friends with them to prove a point to me ( never underestimate a teenager’s potential for rebellion). But what gives me comfort is that she herself finds such behaviour stupid and silly – she feels that such risks are unnecessary. I heave a sigh of relief and wonder why I did not think like that when I was a teen. I guess, it was because I had more restrictions and less open ness from my mother to discuss such things – for example if I had told her about the telephone issue she would have gone straight to the school principal along with a dozen other parents!

It is a fine balance I guess – this thing about parenting a teen. I am thankful only about the fact that I have a daughter. So, in some ways I have previous experience to bank upon. Not having had  a brother, I would have been clueless in dealing with a boy and his hormones!!!


Saturday, July 21, 2012 14 comments

CHOOSING TO HAVE A CHILD

This is the first guest post on my blog. The post has been written by my friend Anindita Baidya. Ani is actually my friend Nikhil's wife. ( Though these days, I think of Nikki more as Ani's husband.) Both are wonderful people, extremely compassionate and exactly what parents should be all about. Ani and Nikki are very unique in the sense that they " chose" to become parents. They are pround parents of a lovely little girl  who they adopted eight years ago. Ani shares here her experiences of ADOPTION.

Apne jazbaat mein nagmaat rachaane ke liye
Maine Dhadkan kee tarah dil mein basaayaa hai tujhe
Main tasavoor bhi judaai ka bhala kaise karoon
Maine kismat kee laqueeron se churaayaa hai tujhe...

She came into our life when she was about eight months old.  We had visited the Institution two three times and she was there, all the time.  Sometimes sleeping at one edge of the long bed, sometimes cuddled up in some caregiver’s arms. 

We, however, did not know then that we were destined to be parents to this little pink bundle.  It was only when the Adoption Agency authority informed me that the ‘waiting’ was over and we could now take forward the process of adoption, did we actually know this.  The agency informed that this little baby is the only one waiting for adoption and so in a minute, we decided to adopt her.

We filed the affidavit and  felt a mixture of happiness and surprise when everyone actually addressed as the Baby’s Mummy and Papa! I kept visiting her every Sunday after filing the affidavit until the day our hearing was complete and we brought her home.  I have dedicated a separate post on the special day. (http://aizindagi.blogspot.in/2010/03/homecoming.html).

Our journey of parenthood must have been similar to that experienced by all parents but it was unique and special for us as it was for the first time we were experiencing this.

We had convinced our parents about our decision to adopt. My father in law himself was present during the Home study, done before adoption.  My parents were aware of my decision since my college days; however they were a bit unsure when I actually informed them about our decision; nevertheless they were supporting.  I remember taking them once to a temple where my parents marvelled at a life-size statue of Yashoda with little Kanha in her lap.  My parents stood there, with tears of devotion in their eyes.  While coming out of the temple, I casually told them, “He is also adopted...!”  My parents nodded and smiled at me, and their moist eyes said it all.  We had their blessings, I was convinced.

While we were getting ready for the adoption, we began informing our neighbours and friends about it.  Some of their thoughts still remain punctuated in my tale, some of which I will never be able to forget.

Most of them advised me that we should have our ‘OWN’ children.  We told them the baby will be ‘OURS’, what if not BIOLOGICAL.  One of them also asked me if we are ‘Taking her home forever..!!” and then there was the sagely old lady who said, “If you adopt her, you have to make her your heir.  She will inherit your property!”.  I asked her, “Who else will?” and added, “In any case, what property do we have?  We will slowly build our finances for her and ourselves.”

I was a low-in-confidence mother at first.  On the days I visited her, before the final court hearing, I would volunteer to feed her the milk.  And how clumsy I was! I did not how to hold the little bowl!  At one instance, my smart baby helped herself with her little hands.

The agency had advised us to meet her paediatrician.  And we did. It was the first outing with her, although we were still to be her legal ‘guardians’.  I was totally ignorant about handling a small baby as little as her.  I tried to put her on the weighing scale and did not how to! The caregiver of the agency did it for me.  I was holding the baby and every time she cried, only the caregiver’s lap pacified her.  I felt eyes of mothers in the hall looking at me and felt very conscious! “What kind of a mother is she; the baby is peaceful only in the lap of the ‘ayah’ and not the mother!” I imagined the young mothers saying about me.

After a month of filing the affidavit, she came home.  I felt bad about the other children waiting for adoption at the home then.  Some of the older children had just arrived there and for some of them, the process was taking unusually long time.  They would ask me, “Are you her mother?”, “Is she yours?” “Will you take her away?” I really had no answers for these innocent questions of the children who still had not found a family.

All this time I was also negotiating for Adoption leave for myself.  There was no such leave in the Maternity Leave Act, however, some of the Private Companies, NGOs had already amended their leave rules.  But I was denied such a leave. 

My immediate reporting officer was very considerate to advice me that although he cannot do anything about amending the rules, he is okay with the fact that I don’t go to the field and spend more and more time with my baby.  I was singly in charge of the project then and had an office cum residence for the task.  My head office also graciously deferred the quarterly audit.  But then, the baby surely did need a Full Time parent.

The written down social norms were once again bent by us and it was my husband who took a break from his job to be the full time dad.  And how he enjoyed the new role!

However, I did pursue this for long in my organisation, putting forth that even though we did not get an adoption leave, others in coming years should.  Adoption SHOULD be acknowledged as a way of parenthood.  And today my organisation has its rules amended.

Babies who spend few months at an Institution tend to be very self-governing and remain detached initially.  The children do not weep much and are used to lying down silently.  They do not seek attention at all.  No, it is nothing to do with how they are cared for.  I can vouch for this institution in Bhopal for their unconditional care and devotion.  It is only that the kids are living with many other children.  Imagine a family with a single child vis-a-vis a family with many many children.  

So was our baby, although she was all off 7-8 months.  She did not want us to hug her when she slept, she did not cry much.  Gradually with familiarity and lot of physical contact, she grew to be an emotional person.  And today, we cannot say anything to her, or else we will have a Sangam of Ganga-Yamanua near her nose.

Adoption, historically, has been a way to ensure an heir.  Remember Rani Lakshmi Bai and many other kings and landlords who adopted ‘SONs’ to take forward their family name and monarchy?

So my neighbour, a young girl asked me, since we had the choice, how come we chose to parent a girl and not a Boy.  “I mean, this was a God-sent opportunity to have a boy” she said! 

An ex-colleague once joked, “Its good you adopted a baby who is nearly one year.  The first year is usually filled with anxiety, health concerns.  Tumko DISCOUNT mil gaya!” I had only said, “Hamne apne bachche ka ek saal kho diya hai sir/ We lost one year of our baby, sir!”  But I am sure his joke cut through my heart. 

Well, now it is about eight years that Pakhi came home.  She is planning for her Homecoming gifts, already.  When she is very happy, she affectionately tells me that Pari Mummy has done a good thing in giving her to us since we look after her well.

Pari Mummy is the name we have given to her biological mother.  She has asked us whether we have seen her, we said, no.  But, we said, Pari Mummy must be a very good person.  Considering that she could not raise her baby properly, she opted for placing her with Matri Chhaya and ensured that a Mummy-Papa adopts her.  We have been as casual and ‘matter-of-fact’ with our answers.

When she asked me, “Was I covered with blood when I came out of Pari Mummy’s tummy, like the baby in 3 Idiots?”.  I simply said, “You must have been covered with the fluid with which she protected you inside but I did not see you when you were born”.  My baby is as matter-of-fact as ever, “Okay...so you were in the office!”

She is as much a devil like any other child in the campus; when she is angry, she makes pictures of her bruised heart and asks me leave.  Now she says she wants to adopt a baby when she grows old since if she has it from her tummy, she will have a tummy ache.  Once again, thanks to Bollywood!  J

( you can read more by  Anindita in her blog http://aizindagi.blogspot.in)

Monday, July 16, 2012 19 comments

DO MACHINES MONOLOGUE?


In 1996, Eve Ensler wrote a play “The Vagina Monologues”   which is a collection of monologues each dealing with an aspect of the feminine experience, touching on matters such as sex, love, rape, menstruation, female genital mutilation.  The play seeks to position the  vagina as a tool of female empowerment, and the ultimate embodiment of individuality.  I have not read the play or seen it being performed though I have read a lot about it. Each year, Eve supposedly adds on a new monologue to highlight a current issue affecting women.

As I was reading an article in THE HINDU  today, I was reminded about this play.

The article was about wombs on hire  (which I am sure many of you have read).  It mentions about a fertility clinic in Anand (yes the same place which was the epicenter  of India’s white revolution) where women who have agreed to carry a child in their womb for a cost are housed. The article mentions about how the  entire operation goes on unregulated – costing anything between Rs 8-  Rs 10 lakhs with the mother in question getting less than Rs 3 lakhs in the entire deal. While the Anand clinic was probably the biggest one there are supposedly many other such places in our country where surrogacy in child bearing goes on.

I think back to a Thai film that I saw long ago at a film festival. It was about the same issue- surrogacy! Apparently there used to exist in Thailand a custom where aristocratic men who could not have a heir used the services of women belonging to a certain community to produce one. These women had to live in the estate of the man and produce an heir for him. If it was male, then the child had to handed over to the family commissioning her services and she would be sent back with some gifts and property to her village. However, if she was “unfortunate” enough to have a daughter both mother and daughter would be sent back – empty handed! The daughter in turn when she grew up  had no option but to continue to keep up the tradition of her community – surrogacy!

Many of us may remember Indian movies made on similar themes – the childless couple where the wife forces the husband to have sex with another woman so that they can have a child- desire to perpetuate one’s   genetic heritage being carried to a ridiculous extent…!I had often wondered why the reverse was never shown – where the wife had physical relations with another man ( may probably have been the best option in cases where the man’s sperm count was low).It is actually not alien to the great “Indian culture” that we hold in such high regard. How do you think Kunti and Madri in the Mahabharat conceived the Pandavas?  If you think that it is through the blessings of Indra, Surya,  Vayu etc then you are probably very naive!

However, it appears that now surrogacy is taking on new dimensions –where the woman in question is nothing but a chamber in which the baby grows. There was a very shallow movie made by none other than Gulzar’s daughter which shows a woman  carrying her friend’s  baby and giving birth to it.  The doctor in the film explains it exactly the way I have written –“ It is as simple as borrowing a vessel for  cooking food if your vessel is not good enough”! I think it is the most disrespectful way of describing this! Does not do any woman justice!

But it looks like surrogacy is here to stay.  A country which already has a large number of children without parents is  now getting ready to produce “ made to order” children for couples who are unable to have children. This obsession with genetics is becoming just becoming too much!

There are unfortunately no laws that govern  surrogacy – unlike in the west where it is forbidden. So what happens is that many foreign couples come to India to hire one. In the absence of any law, the woman involved in surrogacy is therefore left open to a lot of risks . For example, there is no provision of health insurance for the woman who has agreed to go through this and so in case of any complication her health is the one which would be in danger with no options for paying for the treatment.

While there are entire ethical and moral questions around such practices, what concerns me is something that is more basic- this renting out of a part of a woman’s body! It used to  happen in sex work and now in birth.

At the cost of sounding clichéd, I must say that I find this commoditisation of a woman’s body very disgusting! Now, many may say that it is women themselves who sell their services as carriers of fetuses or providers of sex for a sum. But tell me friends, can something be sold in the market if there is no demand for it? The economics of that would just  not work out!

And what is probably most unfair is that the seller in this case is not the woman herself – the woman’s  body part is being sold or rented  by a market in which she herself is often just a pawn! The entire fertility industry thrives on the services of many of these poor women who are nothing but instruments for them to earn money out of! Similarly the sex trade – where the women themselves earn very little with much of the money going to those in the middle- pimps, police, brothel owners and what not!!

In terms of rights they enjoy very few. For example one of the women interviewed in the Anand fertility clinic stated that she was found to be carrying quadruplets and since the couple commissioning did not want four children she underwent an abortion of two fetuses. She was not informed about the medical consequences of having a procedure such as this performed on her in the condition.

The way markets have taken over lives is amazing! Anything seems to be available for a price! And the saddest thing is that like everything else in our country, the person at the end of the supply chain remains the most exploited. Whether it is a womb or her sexual services that a woman sells, she gets paid almost next to nothing- she is just a “ vessel” ( to quote the doctor in that infamous movie)! Her health and her rights are not protected by any law and often her very existence is treated as a dirty secret!

Coming back to  Eve I wonder what she would have to say about this? I think she should now call this “ the machine monologues” where a woman’s womb is turned into a  machine!!! But the problem is, that unlike a vagina which is a living part, machines are inanimate and therefore cannot speak of their “production” experience!


Friday, July 13, 2012 12 comments

GIVING FOR A CAUSE


I had promised myself when I started this blog that I would not write about my work. But then old habits die hard. A bus man (or woman in this case!) does long for getting on that bus even while walking on the road ( holiday or otherwise)…!!

As those of you who have been regulars  may  have gathered, I work for the non profit sector. One of the recent trends that I see in many non profits in our country these days is  tele calling or doing  “face to face” interactions for fund raising. And believe me, it is not as simple as it sounds! Many non profits engage professional organizations who run “call centres” for approaching people through phone calls to raise funds and then there are others who combine telecalling with face to face interactions. This I understand is fairly common in the west but in India it is something more recent.

Though I have been with this sector for almost two decades, I am still a bit  doubtful about  the inclination of the average Indian  towards “giving”!! Let me explain it a bit more. I am not saying that we as a group of people are not interested in charity. Think of the  few coins that people put into the donation box every time they  go to a temple or the money that is given as  “ Zakkat” by  Muslims and the donations made every Sunday after service at the church. These  are all examples of charity, but  driven by religious motives.  Many do not even think about why they are doing it – they do it so mechanically that it is not linked to the larger motive of charity or philanthropy. And in some cases like that donation box in temples, I am not even sure that it is used for charity ( except in the case of a few famous temples).  Then ofcourse there is the begging industry that thrives solely on what I call our “charity compulsions” !

Despite all the money that we spend on charity,  I would still maintain that we are not a “Socially conscious” nation. We give,but very randomly- to appease our conscience, to feel good about ourselves, to escape taxes or because we want to celebrate an event. All this is money that we spend for ourselves and not for a cause.

However, there are in our country people who feel strongly about causes-I can vouch for that! But I am not sure that they will give to any organizations when they call or visit them. For example, a friend I know is very passionate about education – she supports this cause by holding free classes on her front porch for children from a nearby slum. She spends more than two hours every day doing this! Then there are others who pay the school fees of the children of their domestic help or sometimes support medical emergencies in their families.  These are people who would prefer to help someone directly because in a country like India, we do not have to go far to come across someone who is in poverty or distress.

But considering that so many organizations are investing in approaching the public directly for donations these days, I am increasingly beginning to think there must be a group among us who will donate when approached by an organization. This is a very interesting change that is happening to us as a society. I am watching this both from within and outside the non profit sector – as a person who works for an organization that has recently taken to this direct approach at fund raising and also a person who has been “targeted” by fund raising efforts of other organizations.


I will share with you some of my experiences in both roles.

I was approached a few weeks ago at home, by a group of fund raisers from a faith based organization. However, I have never donated for anything in the name of religion! When this organization said that they were driven by their faith in order to reach out to the poor, I experienced a sense of discomfort. I am and have always been a secular person and I think that the very act of donation should be very objective – driven only by the desire to help someone and not because our religion or faith demands it. We had a nice discussion after which they left – empty handed!

Then last week I received a phone call – this time from the representative of an organization that works on protecting the environment. This was a completely different experience from the previous one – a young girl spoke at the other end. She sounded very enthusiastic and began by  mentioning  the name of the organization. In terms of branding, I would say that they are probably very good because I could immediately link the organization with the cause. I had supported them for a year and somehow after that there had been no contact. She wanted to know why I had stopped supporting them. Actually, I  did not know I HAD stopped because I had a ECS facility with my bank for support to  this organization. The period for which I had donated was over in January and that was it ! I liked the way she kept me engaged in a conversation wanting to know if I had decided to stop supporting them because of any particular reason. When I told her the real reason  she asked me if I would be willing to support them again. On hearing that “Yes” from me she asked me to confirm my address and by that evening I had the very same girl at home taking down my details and a cheque with her!

As an organization we also do fund raising. We take the help of professionals who call people over the phone and make that initial contact. Where telemarketing is concerned ( after all it is only that – marketing a cause!) I think the key to success is understanding who is our potential donor.  Who is that person who might  spare those two minutes on a call just to listen . In my understanding I would say that there are two types of people – one is the educated urban professional holding a responsible  and well paid position in an organization and the other are people who are  retired from salaried jobs.  The first category can hardly spare you time while the second category has all the time.  Both are very well informed and socially conscious to an extent. But  the challenges in getting them interested are different.  In the case of the group which has little time, one needs to have a voice that differentiates you from the callers from companies that sell insurance, credit cards, phone connections and what not! At the cost of sounding snobbish I must say that knowledge of good spoken English would get a person past that first hurdle of having the phone disconnected. This is particularly true in the southern metros where people  associate good English with good education and in the case of your urban professional there is immediately a sense of connect helping in building that rapport which ensures continuity of the conversation. In the case of the retired person, the caller needs to have a lot of information about the cause and be able to answer all the questions that are asked. This generation of  people are often retired from the public sector so they have a certain bias towards against  anything which is non government. So, the caller needs to have all information at their finger tips and be able to convince them through their enthusiasm. In these cases it helps to have a young person do the talking because many of them being senior citizens respond well to enthusiastic youngsters as it reminds them of their children and grand children who may be living away from them.

And finally there are the causes that work- anything to do with children always helps raise funds, followed by education for girls and support for the HIV affected. What I have found strange is that causes around women do not work so well with people who want to give. Issues around women’s economic engagement particularly are  difficult for people to understand though  convincing people around providing support for maternal health  initiatives is easier. But most importantly organizations that raise funds need to have a clear brand positioning in terms of causes that they promote as the name often does the trick. However in India it is only few organizations which have been able to successfully build their brand in the social sector.   

So, as I get ready to sign off I would like to hear from those of you who are reading this  - what are the causes that are close to your heart? And would you respond by agreeing to support it if a complete stranger called you one find day on your mobile  as you are taking your lunch break? What would be the questions that you might want answered before you agree to part with your hard earned money for the cause that interests you? 

Thursday, July 5, 2012 12 comments

AN ODE TO THE OLFACTORY SENSE


I have been reading an interesting book - “Perfume” by Patrick Suskind. Set in pre revolution 18th century France, it deals with the life of a man who has an amazing sense of smell! The way the author introduces the concept of smell is very innovative. As the book begins, he relates the period  to the smells that prevailed in it. “In the period of which we speak, there reigned in the cities a stench barely conceivable to us modern men and women. The streets stank of manure, the courtyards of urine, the stairwells of moldering wood and rat droppings, the kitchens of spoiled cabbage….” Set against this backdrop is the birth of the main character Jean Baptiste Granouille- a baby born in a fish shop under the table used for cutting the pieces. His mother dies soon after his birth - she drops off  still holding the knife stained with fish blood in her hands and is then arrested and killed for being an unwed mother! The child is brought up on charity.. A learned theologian somewhere later in the story feels distinctly uncomfortable with the way the baby exhibits its keen sense of smell. According to him the sense of smell is something primeval – relating only to animals and not to evolved creatures like us humans!  The story then takes its twists and turns. I have not completed the book yet you see. So this post is not exactly a book review.

But what this book has succeeded in doing is getting me intrigued about  the sense of smell.. While animals have a more keenly developed sense of  smell, in humans it helps sharpen other senses. Like one of my friends said – flavours in food are enhanced by the sense of smell. We enjoy food when we like the flavour. Smells also have mood elevating effects – aroma oils are a perfect example!!  

As another friend says, they help in building survival skills. Smells also help in attraction and repulsion.. The entire chemistry of pheramones are built around this. While pheramones generally conjure up images of insects, I have read somewhere that this is also applicable to humans. Almonds are apparently very attractive to women. Therefore many cosmetics use almond extracts to attract women. How many of us have seen perfume and cologne ads where the main message is of using the product to attract the opposite sex?

I think that though our sense of smell is  less developed when compared to  animals, in humans it is probably one of the first few senses to become active. Have you ever seen how a baby even while asleep can sense its mother and start feeding? Each of us has a distinct odour but few among the human world can discern that.. I mean we can say if we smell good or bad but very few can actually tell if a particular good or bad smell belongs to a particular person!

Smells have a very powerful recall effect. Smells also build associations. Every time I smell Mysore Sandal soap I think of my maternal grandmother. I associate Gokul Sandal powder with my mother. My husband says that the smell of Cuticura powder takes him back to crowded buses in Trivandrum. He insists that if we did an analysis of the sales of this brand of talc we would find that the maximum sales are in the state of Kerala!

Smells are also something that we associate with seasons. Remember the smell of wet earth when the rain first falls? The smell of jasmines is something that I associate with summer and the smell of baking cakes with winter ( read Christmas)

There are again disagreeable smells. But what is agreeable or disagreeable is very subjective! I find the smell of garlic very repulsive ( my Tam Brahm upbringing I guess) but my Malayalee husband cannot imagine any dish cooked without “Vella ulli” . But both of us love the smell of coffee that wafts in whenever we visit Saravana Bhavan.. Actually the entire street in the part of Mylapore on which “Leo coffee” is  situated has a very agreeable smell all the time! We love the smell of little babies- they have different smells at different times of the day. They smell a distinct smell when they wake up, have another distinct smell after a bath and a different one when they sleep! If you do not believe me try it…! The book I am reading says that babies heads smell like caramel! Now that is original. But I find that babies and mothers often smell the same – atleast during the first month! Puppies also have a lovely smell. I can smell them the moment I near the  place they are..! I can also smell elephants in a temple though according to a Tamil saying it should be the sense of hearing that should inform us about the arrival of an elephant ( “Yannai varum pinn, maniosai varum munn”)

I have nicknamed my daughter “Police Kutta” ( police dog). She can smell just about anything. For instance she knows if we have ordered pizza while she has been away though we may have disposed off the boxes. She can smell it even while she walks into the house hours afterwards! She also knows if me or her aunt have visited a beauty parlour and this is not through her visual sense I can assure you that ( I would like to believe that we are both naturally beautiful so there is no visual impact of such visits..ha! ha!)

My friend says that she knows when her Dubai returned neighbour is taking a walk outside! Yes, you guessed right – he wears a very strong cologne.. Many women can guess  if their husbands have been with another woman exactly because of this ( so next time I guess  unfaithful husbands may want to have a bath before they come back home)

So, there.! So much about the sense of smell. It is very subtle but builds on enhancing the other senses. I am not sure how the perfume industry develops its fragrances ( I will know when I finish that book I guess) but while naming them it might be nicer if they call them “rain drenched earth” “ summer scents from Chennai streets etc”.. Lots preferable to “Dune” or “Poison”. Nina Ricci, Chritian Dior, Elizabeth Arden.. are you listening?






 
;