BENGALURU: You must have heard that scents are more closely linked to our memories than pictures or sounds. The smell of the filter coffee you shared with your friends after an exhausting lecture, remembering the perfume your first love interest wore, or remembering home every time you smell your mother’s signature dish being cooked, all trigger memories. It’s not only our fondest memories that are drenched by smells, but so is our city. In her book Vasané (smell in Kannada), artist and author Indu Antony captures the many smells that make up the city of Bengaluru.
“Every city has its distinct smell. Mumbai, Goa, all these cities have smells that characterise them, but with Bengaluru, there are so many smells that make up this city,” says Antony about her 70-page book. “Because of Covid, our sense of smell was lost. Not just by those who had it, but wearing masks also restricted our ability to smell things around us,” says the author.
According to Antony, this project published by Mazhi Books, connects with the city beyond the visual, about associat i n g smells with the city. She collaborated with Avinandan, a perfumer whose family business, Sathyanarayana Traders, is a wholesale retailer of sandal, oud, and musk perfumes. Together, the duo created 12 unique smells in 1 ml bottles each, which readers get with the book, so that they can apply them to the pages and experience the city through the olfactory sense.
“Avinandan and I worked on this project for more than two years, and in these two years we collected the oral histories of two to three hundred people, the smells that they identify with the city,” says Antony. The duo also created a ‘smell map’, through which readers can embark on the journey of smells around Bengaluru. Antony says, “One of the smells that a lot of people remember is the sponge cake from Iyengar Bakery, so we created a scent for that.
A lot of people also recall the smell of the grass as they walk through Cubbon Park, which became our next scent. The smell of Bellandur lake was one that we created, we also recreated the smell of garbage in the city, the smell of sambhar, the flower and spice markets, and more. One of the scents we created was that of the Karaga Festival, it smells like a mixture of jasmine, vermillion, and turmeric.”
When talking about the process of creating the smells, Antony says she and Avinandan experimented with many different notes, talked to different people and took their feedback, until they created a scent that they felt truly captured the essence of the memory they were trying to capture. “Each smell contains around five to seven notes. We had to figure out how to layer the smells,” Antony says. At the launch of the book recently, the audience was presented with 17 scents in glass jars that they could smell. “A lot of people got very emotional and started crying because the smells triggered memories for them,” says the author.