Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Olfactory Fun

Listening to: Dr. Feelgood – Motley Crew. Kickin it old school today.
Mood: Happy – Got some work done today.

Hello there. Time for more stories about life in India. Today’s topic is smells.  India is not for the faint of nose. Or heart for that matter, but we’re talking about noses today. Pile so many people, animals, and foods in one country and olfactory overload is almost impossible to avoid.

We’ll start with the good smells:

The Air. When I first came to India with Daddy G 7 years ago (damn it’s been a long time!), the first thing I noticed when I stepped off the airplane is the smell. It hangs in the air here. It’s like a mix of incense, sweat, people, cows, burning trash and coconuts, because Daddy G is South Indian. It’s just a part of the air. You never get away from it, although after a while, you notice it less. I’m not saying it’s a bad smell. It’s just quintessential India. I thought about this smell before we got on the plane to move here. I was really looking forward to that smell again.For some reason, when you put them all together and un-concentrated in the air, it's not as bad as single concentrated smells.

The Food. India has some amazing and varied choices when it comes to food. For someone who is a spice and spicy junkie, it’s heaven. Even if I don’t cook a meal, at least one of my neighbors is, and it will invariably smell amazing. So amazing that I almost want to knock on the door and beg a meal. Almost, I’m not that shameless. Chat is also included here. Chat are small, usually savory snacks that people here munch on around 5 pm. Anywhere public you walk around this time, you’ll smell it. Spicy yumminess floating around – even if it’s from the typhoid cart trying to pass out poison pani puris. (small crispy shells with flavored water and other yummies inside)

Incense. Indians are big on incense. It happens to be a smell I love, especially sandalwood.

The bad:

Sewage. There’s no getting around it – this many people produce this much waste. Drains are not always covered. When it’s hot, it really gets gag worthy. This includes the recycled water they use in our toilets in my compound. My bathroom always smells like sewage and I hate it. Hard.

Animals. Lots o stray dogs and cows also produce lots of stink and poop of their own.

Garbage. People here don’t always bother to find the nearest trash bin and most of the time, there just isn’t one. Trash is burned in the less urbane places too, like the village next to my house. Which leads me to…

Burning trash/coconut shell heaps. This is my Achilles heel. I can deal with the sewage smell, the animals and the trash, but the burning piles of disgustingness really get to me.  I’m glad I’m not pregnant. This one would have me puking every time I turned around.

Sweat. India is hot. Get a whole bunch of Indians in a room in the middle of summer and it is bad.

Automobile fumes. Lots of folks here have cars. An insane amount in fact. Nothing like choking on a nice big lung full of car exhaust when you’re on/near the road.

Eventually you become used to all of these smells, but every once in a while one will sucker punch you and you’ll be all, “Hot damn India!”, for good or for bad. Most days I don’t mind the bad smells so much and really enjoy the good ones!


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