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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Monday, 20 November 2006

Thoughts: to sniff a whiff

by Susan Abraham

Have you walked through the ancient wholesalers' near the Central Market? On those busy roads, the pungent smell of dried ikan billis (anchovies) could hit you like a mysterious hammer.

As the violent smell hurricaned its way through old Kuala Lumpur faster than the furious hooting traffic, you may have drowned in a series of unsuspecting aromas with a quicker imagined fatality than a furious ravine.

It was of course, a strange kind of immersion.

And not at all like a spa bath.

The smell either attempted to lure you into deeper cuisine territory or it would simply holler you away from every coffeshop in the tourist-infested Petaling Street.

But long after you reached home, you still remembered its faint brush that quivered and rested on your shoulders as stubbornly as a shadow. You had tried to catch fading wafts once more hoping it would lullaby memories like a rainy monsoon night in November when you were just five.

You closed your eyes and remembered that arrowed sharpness playacting a shooting star while zooming in to greet you, and you cautiously watched out for potholes with the diligent slowness of a Terengganu turtle.

But by then, the smell had graduated into a tall, dark and interesting stranger.

Like an old friend stepping out from a past for a final glimpse; it masqueraded as a mesmerising tang. Eyes met and hands touched.

And you knew with a teardrop, that you were unlikely to bump into such an intriguing whiff once your feet whisked you away from this soil.

In other words perhaps, a reminder of how impossible it would be to saunter back into a familiar past. And yet like me, did you think you could?

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