Tuesday, April 20, 2004

a smell map of Avenue Road

As you enter the southern entrance of Avenue Road, one of the vital connecting roads of the city, you first have to fight through the hordes of pedestrians who amble across the narrow road. The fact that one can reach the other side of the road in four steps lead many to assume that it's a safe road, but the frequency of traffic here has to be seen to be believed. Especially during rush hour, traffic here resembles a small pipe through which water or some more viscous fluid is being forced at a high rate. As you enter the road in the morning, you first smell the flowers from the many roadside flower sellers , but as the day progresses, only lingering traces remain. In the afternoons, the flowers are overpowered by a small fruit section. Immediately after the fruits, you get the heady whiff of rubber and leather from a couple of shoe shops that almost jut out into the pavement. You then pass over a bridge, and the inevitable smell of sewage takes over your senses. But luckily this doesn’t last for too long, because there are a couple of incense stick vendors right there dispensing a good smell through out the day. You pass by other attractions very quickly- a jewelers store with its unmistakable smell of air conditioned artificial air fresheners, another shoe shop, a cloth store with its own particular smell, till you reach the next major smell junction: a small temple. If the doors are open, then you cannot avoid the particular mixture of incense and camphor flame and tirtha. This smell will recur, there are five more temples hidden in various nooks and corners of Avenue Road. In between you might encounter the smell of various mobile fruit sellers, and this is unpredictable both in location as well as character. These are the wild cards. As you reach the upper end, you pass through a jewelers store junction, and this smell mingles hesitantly with the scent of freshly bought books and paper from the stationery and book stores that huddle in their own corner. Pass another temple and the road widens. Traffic pours in from other side roads, and the dominant smell is now the Indian version of the fast food restaurants (the darshinis and the small hotels) which suffocate you with the aroma of cooking. Before you know it, there is no more to be smelled, because you've reached the end of the road, and your nose starts to register again the smoke of the other vehicles.