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Friday, December 9, 2016

The December Nostalgia Series..


The husband is working late. It's 2.30 am, when he calls to say he'll be ready to leave in another 10 minutes. He hasn't had his dinner, he adds.

I put away my phone. The newly acquired Jio sim card - 4G and 'free data' - had ensured I was glued to YouTube, watching a Marathi natak..

I reheat the dinner and am at the window as soon as I hear a car coming in near the gate. Yes, it is the husband. I go up to the door, and leave the door ajar, the safety door still unlocked. A waft of cool breeze hits my face. It is the nip in the air which startles me at first and then the fragrance which has been carried by the breeze. It is a very familiar fragrance , familiar yet distant.

A vague feeling of happiness and sadness sets my heart aflutter...... where?.. when?... where?...the mind races back and forth and suddenly, it is the Eureka moment! Pune! Pimpri to be precise. Pimpri in the late 1970's and the early 1980's.

My aunt worked with the Hindustan Penicillin factory in Pimpri and she lived in the company quarters, HA colony. Away from the bustling city of Pune, Pimpri was a quiet little place and HA colony with its housing quarters based on hierarchy - apartments in single storeyed stone buildings for the seniors and the little rows of houses for the others, was a cosy litttle settlement .

For the people in the colony, life revolved around the factory. For my aunt too. She usually worked the 7 am to 4 pm shift. Wake up time for her was 4.30 am and it was a busy 2 hours as she cooked for the family , the cats and the one stray dog, bought the milk from milk booth, lit the kerosene stove to heat the water for her bath, swept clean, the strip of service street outside the house, settled the dust there with a liberal sprinkling of water and drew the rangoli. Little gusts of really cold air would stream into the house as she traipsed through the house, opening and shutting the front door in one moment and then the back door. Me, my grand mum, and my cousin would be sleeping in the drawing room and I would make little protesting sounds each time the very cold breeze hit me. I would coax an 'easy to please', plump little cat, curled up somewhere close, into snuggling with me and would draw the blanket tighter round the body.

While still tucked into bed and still in slumber, the olfactory nerves would now be treated to a plethora of whiffs and smells emanating from the kitchen and permeating though the house ...over the next 2 hrs.

Aunt had this habit of toasting a bit of tobacco, and then applying it to her teeth.,...her one addiction. The 'Kaagda' ( a two pronged bit of apparatus) dipped in kerosene to light the stove would also toast the tobacco on a aluminum plate... the smell of the kerosene, the roasting tobacco, the smell of the bath water boiling in the aluminum pot, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, of the many chapatis she baked, of the oil as it touched a piping hot chapati , the 'kanda lasun' masala or the ' goda masalaa she sprinkled in the vegetable she prepared for the day, the seasoning of ghee, curry leaves hing and the red chilly which made the dal sizzle....

A little before 7 am she would rush out of the house, her synthetic saree crackling with the static, leaving behind a whiff of her Emami face cream and talc.

And through the open door, would enter the fragrance..... of the dew laden moist air, infused with a grassy fragrance as the plump dew drops fell off the blades of grass and leaves on to the soil....a fragrance of freshness..

Yes.. yes.... it is this scent which tickles my nostrils, now, as I stand at my door step...The pictures unwinding in my mind like from a film spool!

Is this what they mean when they say , - 'the fragrance of memories??

It is just the first week of December and though Mumbai doesn't boast of a winter , not until Christmas at least, the slight dip in temperature , funnily enough, warms the cockles of my heart!