The Smell of Serenity

When I was a kid, we used to travel to India almost every year. With the first step out of the aircraft onto the airbridge, you are almost immediately coated in wet heat and the sweet stench of India. If any of you have been to my motherland, you know what I’m talking about. India (and specifically Mumbai) has a very distinctive smell. I think the best description I ever read actually came from Shantaram (bear with me - I know it’s a long quote, but I promise it’s worth it):

Shantaram Quote

When I read that passage, my heart wept for my homeland (and it did again just now re-typing it). That is exactly how I feel every time I step off the plane and walk down the airbridge. It’s a smell that brings back that deep feeling of perfectly belonging.

Every time my mom brings back saris and linens from India, the first thing I do is take a deep whiff. And I am instantly flooded with memories of my childhood: waking up at some ungodly hour in the morning thanks to jetlag and helping my Nani with the laundry, grocery shopping, and making breakfast; watching my Nana shave and then running errands ‘round town with him; spending hot nights on the carpet in the living room under the fan playing carrom and eating the world’s best mangos.

Making chai with breakfast

Puris frying in the marketplace

Bags of spices

Those summers I spent in India are some of the best memories I have from my childhood, and I can literally spend days rubbing India-scented clothes all over my face to relive those happy memories over and over again. It’s the smell that brings me back to my very core. It reminds me of everything that makes me happiest - family, food, culture, heritage, relaxation, laughter. It’s the smell that makes me feel most like myself.

If I’m having a rough day or when I’m starting to feel too stressed out, this is the smell I long for. I try and bring that sense of stability/calm to my life with natural smelling perfumes, sandalwood incense, and spiced candles. But it’s a feeble attempt, and I know it. Nothing comes close to the real deal.

Either way, I’ve noticed that playing with the scents I surround myself can really influence my mood and my mental state of being. It’s common knowledge that scents are the most intense and quickest way to evoke emotion, so why not take advantage of it?

Tease your senses! Experiment with new smells and scents in your home! It’s something so small and easy that you can incorporate into every day and it will make a world of a difference! If you’re unsure about where to begin on the olfactory train, here are a couple of popular suggestions get the ball rolling!

If there are certain scents that bring back happy memories for you, or certain smells that soothe your soul, I’d love to hear about them! Are there certain smells that make you feel happy or calm or nostalgic? Why not fill your home with those scents!? Drop it all in the comments below!

Sniffing suitcases, xx Nikbear