The Olfaction Fraction
Like everyone else, this year my outing graph too witnessed a major dip. However, with situations easing in our region, last weekend, I took a day trip to the mesmerizing lake Sarangan and decided to enjoy a warm cup of coffee at my favorite coffee shop.
Despite of it being a Sunday the coffee shop hardly had any customers. Looking out of its window, except for scanty crowd I found rest everything just the same. Lake, mountains, birds, clouds entire nature untouched by the pandemic, rather everything seemed even brighter. Yet there was something missing. Though the nature flowed in the same way, it looked the same, but it didn’t feel the same. As if some fraction of it had gone missing. I was trying to find that missing piece when my coffee arrived.
Sanitizing my hands, I pulled down my mask and there was the answer. No, not in the coffee but in the SMELL.
We perceive things not just by how the look and touch but also by how they smell. The same beautiful scene fell short of inciting the experience it had always done in the past because my mask had been masking the smell of its vegetation. Due to which my brain was unable to establish complete familiarity with the place. Like I said ‘some fraction of it had gone missing’.
Olfaction or the sense of smell, though quite underrated, plays a major role in our life. It is very closely related to our memory, emotions, and helps analyzing a situation. We, humans have olfactory receptors located in our nasal cavity. When an odorant attaches itself to these receptors a signal is passed along the olfactory nerve to the olfactory bulb in the brain, which further processes the signal and passes the information about that particular smell to the limbic system. This way the smell is decoded.
Smell carries the power to affect our mood, make us travel back in time, warn us of any danger, evoke certain emotions and much more. While smell of a particular flower, some perfume, a place can bring back very clear memories; smell of something burning, insect sprays etc. can trigger an automatic alert in our body.
Sense of smell completes our experience but unlike its other counterparts – sense of sight, touch, hearing and taste, it’s working is not loudly apparent. Hence unless in case of prominent smells, on daily basis functionality of olfactory system goes unnoticed by majority. It’s a sense whose absence is more noticeable than its presence. Even the basic things like our car space, clothes, surroundings, food, everything loses familiarity and flavor when we have a blocked nose.
The commercial importance of smell is also not new to us. Brands tactically use different types of fragrances to evoke different underlying emotions in customers, thereby increasing their sales and at times even creating brand loyalty.
Wrapping up the article, I would like to share two of my favorite smells which never fail to warm my heart- smell of old books and smell of wet soil. I am sure you must be having your favorite smells too, smells which warm your heart, smells which take you back in time.