The Pungent Smell

Traversing the miles,
uprooting from that distant village,
he barely thinks about them all
till a pungent smell
brings back those years,
all the same, once again.
Playing one after another,
the scenes zoom
in his mind’s eye,
never seeming to stop.
A paradox towers;
albeit sweet musings,
they only make him see
his wretched self.
Moments dipped in dewey-fresh innocence
carried fragrant hopes
when under the sky,
in the stillness of the night,
his head rested
on her caring shoulders.
He had made her count the stars,
and she obliged.
The magic made by her sweet melodies
had caressed him to sweet slumbers,
pushing back those monsters and dragons
he so feared would stage a fight.
Lazy summer afternoons
under the shady tree,
eating raw mango slices,
she played the raconteur for him,
weaving those tales of yore.
She often squirmed
in a subdued voice,
when like an evil serpent
striking its victim and inflicting pain,
the nasty nerves on her swollen feet
made her writhe.
And yet fighting the anguish,
for him she did them all:
those feasts for her precious prince.
The sweetmeats coated with coconut powder;
the yellow lentils with scallions green;
the tangy, spicy, potato fritters;
and what he relished most:
the fish curry cooked in pungent mustard oil.
Her toil and labor graced the table,
and he savored them
with boyish glee.
Safe in her embrace,
shielded by her arms,
he unearthed that warm feeling
he was always looking for
as he grew from that boy
to the man she raised him to be.
She was his mother’s mom after all!
Yet what surfaces now
is a sad story to recall,
encircling the remnants
of a knot loosened,
a broken bond!
Moving ahead, not once looking back,
the selfish streak
defines his being.
For like ancient ruins
of a monument buried deep,
those sweet memories of the place
and that face
lie in a forgotten heap.
Now and then,
wallows he in shame and guilt
that ignite his mind’s turmoil.
Scarcely does that happen though,
unless he senses
that familiar, pungent smell of mustard oil.

(image source: Photo by Karolina Grabowska via pexels )


  1. The impregnable bond between grandmother and grandson is the quintessential Indian actuality….and oooh! The Mustard oil and its pungent smell permeates our soul…reminds me of Kasoondi, another mustard recipe, a hot Bengali favourite. You have portrayed the inextricable bond of families, food and traditions…hats off!

  2. Very powerful. The selfishness is common because we don’t realise the value of holding on to what adds meaning to life.

    1. Yes you are right! Selfishness is common, with people taking for granted the genuine love and affection coming their way. Thanks for the feedback πŸ˜ŠπŸ™

  3. Beautiful poem Rashmi ba, the love of grandparents is always unconditional and brings happiness throughout life πŸ’–πŸ’–

  4. Beautifully and vividly expressed! Loved it πŸ™‚ It’s amazing how a particular smell/taste/flavour from our childhood days stays with us forever. It becomes a part of us, no matter where we reside.

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