What is it about the olfactory sense that seems to hint at absences as much as presences? Why does one recollect so many peripheral details about ‘that particular smell’ but not quite the odour itself? Perhaps smell forms the base, the foundation, for our sensory memories, sending out tentacles into visions, hearings, giving then nourishment, yet ultimately laying hidden, subterranean. It is only when, for some reason, one does not use a particular sense organ that one gains faculties related to the others. This seems especially true for the sense of smell.
Vasu was off to a great start today. She was ready for office, well in advance to relish a steaming cup of chai and eat two parathas at an appreciate-each-morsel pace. On most days, breakfast was a paratha–jam roll, gobbled on the march to the bus stop. Today she had fifteen opulent minutes to reach the bus stop instead of the usual eight minutes that commanded dusty shortcuts, hasty footsteps and frantic waving to stop the bus. If only any of that had made a difference.
Is the future odourless? How would Delhi’s zealous planners chasing the idea of world-classness imagine the future of Khari Baoli, Asia’s oldest spice market? Would it be in the form of an ordered set of malls rising in the midst of Old Delhi, reeking of heady European perfumes and caramel popcorn, with clean marble corridors… Continue reading Smell and the City II
This is the first piece commissioned by Chiragh Dilli, hopefully there will be more, to open up conversations with others who write on and engage with cities in intimate ways. I wanted Sailen to write this piece, even as he was unsure how it would fit into the framework of our blog, for various reasons.… Continue reading This City, Other Cities
‘The black, pensive, dense/domes of the mausoleums/suddenly shot birds/into the unanimous blue.’ —‘In the Lodi Gardens’, Octavio Paz ‘Yeh kahan aa gaye hum, yunhi saath chalte chalte...’ —Silsila (1981) As an anthropologist of space, place and architecture, I have always wondered about the monument. Moving back to Delhi, the city of monuments, a cryptographic ensemble of… Continue reading Love in the time of the monumental
Paintings by Ritika Sharma from the series Journey in Chaos. ‘Out of the way It’s a busy day I’ve got things on my mind’—Us and Them, Pink Floyd Prologue A long serpentine queue at the metro security check. The baggage machine is ‘out of order’, a cardboard notice informs passengers. Bodies nudging, fidgeting, sighing, muttering.… Continue reading City on the move, in fragments