Few experiences can excite the senses more than a Saturday evening stroll through T. Naggar in Chennai, India. As darkness nears, the streets swell with people. A mild-mannered chaos begins at each intersection as crowds of people and vehicles melt into each other. Visitors must either enter the dance or risk breaking the rhythm of this amazing flow. The sounds of people talking, horns honking and engines running provide a musical backdrop for the entire journey.
The sights also begin to change as colorful signs flicker to life, accented by small fires from street cookeries. Shadows begin to dance among the multi-colored clothing of the throng. Street lamps and auto headlights cast a glow on their small section of ground. The array of colorful clothing, toys and housewares line the streets like wall flowers awaiting their first dance.
And few experiences are more pungent with aroma than this. The street cookeries set the stage with their sweet oils and various spices. The smell of fresh cut watermelon and Jackfruit extends its hands offering a short dance with anyone willing to accept. Nearing the temples, Jasmine and other flowers allow their scents to dance solo through the air, an offering to God that can be enjoyed by all.
One of my colleagues was recently asked about Chennai. She mentioned that she liked it and then made a comment about “different smells”. At first I was not sure if she meant that in a good way or a bad way. I eventually decided that it didn’t matter. She was right either way.
Every place I visit has unique smells. That is one of the things that makes travel so amazing. You not only see new things, touch new things, experience new sounds and tastes, you also smell new scents. All five senses are engaged. Add all this to the amazing people you meet along the way and the wanderlust will capture you in a moment.
I write and talk often about the people in India. I also photograph my food frequently. But I leave out part of the experience if I overlook the other senses. This post is a first attempt at correcting that tendency.