Smells like Sri Lanka

When I was 9, my cousins who were born and bred in the US came to visit. We were driving through Maradana one day when one of them daintily crinkled her nose and drawled “Sri Lanka stiiinks”. My little patriotic heart bristled and I almost punched the “American” nangi in her face. Don’t think I ever really forgave her.

For a few months this year I had to take a tuk-tuk to work. During the 15 minute ride every morning, I would usually turn up the volume on my iPod and close my eyes. But after a few days I realized that there was one sense that I simply could not shut down. Smell.  And I started paying attention to the splendid and not so splendid, but intrinsically Sri Lankan scents that wafted my way.  What an olfactic cocktail it was!

Eau d’ cologne & talcum – Passing the neighborhood pre-school. I believe the little people are marinated overnight in a combination of the above.

Jasmine – Real ones off a tree. Beats the cheap air freshener kind hands down.

Kiri hodi/ karavala/ fish (mirisata) – Passing a house where I can see smoke coming out of the kitchen as they cook over a wood stove. My favorite bit actually. Kiri hodi is such a comforting smell methinks.

Cow dung and garbage. Near a corner dump which is the cow’s equivalent of Coffee Stop I assume. Well the poor cows do have to poo all the time considering all that they eat is garbage – literally.

Fresh bread – Passing a bakery. I always like to imagine that it’s the Roast Paan I smell.

Wood – The timber stores. I can smell fresh wood shavings.

Warm, putrid smell of a huge canal. Like rotten eggs.

The strong clinical smell of disinfectant – Passing a state-owned hospital.

Petrol fumes and engine oil – Petrol Shed. I like a long whiff of this too. Yes I’m weird.

Steamy smell of Kola-Kenda. – Near a little Petti kade

That’s only just some of it. I haven’t been to any country where I can experience such a myriad of scents within a span of just 15 minutes. Clean and fresh it may not be always, but rich and interesting it definitely is. And sure kicks American ass where you can walk down the street and only smell the Starbucks.


7 thoughts on “Smells like Sri Lanka

  1. I can’t smell 😦
    but I can taste
    so fuck that xD

    but I miss being able to smell things 😦
    the only smell I come across now is the smell of Gold Marie from the Maliban factory… and that’s only because I’m usually panting as I walk down the road after class…
    and it doesn’t help that I’m hungry as well

    I’ve never understood the use of talcum
    I HATED it as a child… and I don’t understand how parents can send their kids to school looking like a tin of flour fell on their heads O.o

  2. what a combo… and to think we smell these quite a lot….

    hahaa talcum powder… parents use it on kids when they’re small.. and then when the parents grow really old, kids use it on the parents.. lol… starts and end s with talcum i tell ya!

  3. See, I agree. When you walk down the street in any US city, despite the throngs of people walking about, robotically, in their picture perfect suits and with the deliberation of going somewhere (and fast!), and of course the army of cars honking and edging through the streets, the anonymity (though sometimes refreshing) just gets to you.

    You just don’t feel life happening.

    And as humans, I think we need to see and feel, and acknowledge our fellow human being. It’s more than a curt nod or blatant avertion of the eyes, it just feels so….. human to be stared at (not for too long, though), smiled at, and smell and hear life as it happens.

    A cover up of everything, and the conformity of everyone being the same, everyone wanting the same, everyone and everything smelling the same, and a lack of veriety in the textures, smells, attitudes, beliefs, scenery, personalities, just gets to us, cos’ being human means we are programmed to be able to appreciate the variation in everything.

    Went off on a bit of tangent there, but on the whole, I agree.

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