Concocting the fragrance out of the memory of smell

Jahnvi Lakhota Nandan

The occurrences of people losing their sense of smell triggered goa based perfumer Jahnvi Lakhota Nandan to start a project called Dial-a-Perfume, a unique phone base service to speak with the people about their first memories of smell and interpret their words into fragrance.

The Perfume a woman wears may reveal more than her gestures but perfumer Jahnvi has been using her animated hands or mudras to interpret the fragrances when people after losing their sense of smell due to COVID make calls on her to share their first memory of smell.

When pandemic started last year, she set up a modest perfumer’s table at Olaulim Backyards, cloved amidst the grove containing fragrant Konkan lime, frangipani and cashew trees in the vicinity of Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary by the estuary of the Mandovi river. With the help of Impresario Sacha Mendes a community link was established with the community over WhatsApp, when all our spaces were closed.

On the basis of the interpretation of memory of smell over calls, they concocted the  fragrances in a small village in Goa. According to her, though making an actual fragrance takes years, but for this project we decided to weave smells like a patchwork quilt, of streams of memories — the only thing that we could do in this complicated time.

Perfume retail industry is the worst hit not only in India but across the world as it’s all about intimacy which has been blighted by a pandemic. It is hard to acknowledge this, and the answer is not about being online as wearing a fragrance is too intimate an affair to be run online.

Smell seems to have a healing effect as poignantly they receive so many messages from people both in India and outside asking for the catalogue of creations which they intended to link to their travels as scented reminders, at a time when memories were all they had. The liaisons were more about a celebration of their summer holidays in various places.

We are in the age where the sense of smell has been altered, perfumery establishes a close link between the planet and the people in no different way than poetry, arts and music.

Cover Image by Bengaluru by Design

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