The only smell that has always remained very high on my list of favourite smells is ‘the smell of warm earth after rain falls on it’.
In my more rational moments I have tried to reason it out – maybe I like the smell so much because it triggers off memories of ‘first showers’.
April showers in the small mining colony in Jharkhand, which brought down the temperature, and left behind carpets of tiny unripe mangoes for me to nibble. But I think not – when I replay the memories of April showers, I can see myself standing at the window watching the precipitation pelt the trees in the backyard, I can feel the cool breeze, hear the pitter patter of raindrops, but cannot smell it.
The first time I remember smelling the smell is in Calcutta – April showers that washed away the dust that had accumulated on the city, and left a cleaner, greener city behind. For the longest time, I even associated the smell with water hitting hot concrete, and remained unsure till I smelt the smell in a place that knew no concrete.
It is a wonderful smell, and I now know that it even has a name – Petrichor. Apparently the smell derives from an oil exuded by certain plants during dry periods whereupon it is absorbed by clay-based soil and rocks, and released into the air during rain.
Strangely, or not so strangely, the smell is one of the most frequently cited ‘favourite smells’. I am not alone! What remains to be seen is how many of us would wear it as a perfume if they do manage to distill the smell and put it in a bottle. Speaking for myself, I would much rather use it as a room freshner than on myself.