Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Walking in Rishikesh (Smell)

The smells of my street walk vary from perfumed, to delicious, to repulsive. But there is nothing like it collectively together. The first time I came to India, I washed the entire contents of my bag before I went home, only to open it and find that everything needed to be washed again. 

They all smelled like India. 

It’s not a bad smell, just distinct. Like a mix of scented candles, exhaust, and trash, with deep fried oil and sweet smelling fruit thrown in. 

As I walked up the street, I initially passed the large drainage area in front of the yellow house, and found that a small ledge-like gutter ran around the street. 

Flowers smelled sweet, like lilacs, at first, and then dissolved into stale garbage and muck in that gutter that reeked like a dumpster. Further down the road, I was assaulted with the scent of incense, smoky and perfumed, wafting from a stall with wooden boxes on it.

Shortly forward was the metallic smells of rebar and concrete from the building being constructed, and something distinctly sweet, like lilies and honey, but unidentifiable. A pile of dirt smelled dry to me, a bit like summer, and combated with the fried food of the snack stall and shop. Further along, the breeze brought me the smell of open water, but unlike the sea, it wasn’t salty so much as fresh and crisp. Textiles smelled a bit musty, dust filling in the cracks in some shops, and from second story restaurants and cafes wafted the scent of cooking chipatis and curry.

On the other end of my walk, I dodged some cow dung, swarming with flies, and got a heavy whiff, and a motorbike screeched past, horn blaring, sending a cloud of exhaust into my face. It smelled like a mixture of metal, dirt, and fuel. It contrasted well with the sweet smells wafting from the cabbage cart, so sweet they smelled like they could be rotting. 

In the evening, there are more carts with billowing steam casting delicious scents into the street, and it always strikes me as odd when they are in conjecture with other less pleasant smells. And as I sit in the café, the odors of ghee, cooking vegetables, and fruit delight my nose, and join the mélange that makes up the specific aroma of India.

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