The Scent of Harbouring Hopes
by Shamala Palaniappan
(Bergisch Gladbach, Germany)
The pungent aromas of a harbour evoke both, an intense sense of joy and a deep sadness. Harbours emnate both the best and worst smells someone's senses can ever be assaulted with.
It is the wafting sweetness of hope and sourness of hate. I often feel as if I can almost inhale the aromas of empires that were formed and civilizations that were decimated. Harbours reek of despondency and yet fragrates the air with euphoria.
As I inhale deeply by a harbour, I detect both the sense of doom and gloom and at the same time the heady perfume of a better life ahead. There is the odor of a thousand rotting bodies and pulverized hopes as slave ships set sail. There is the bouquet of aromas of sailors coming home to their sweethearts.
When I breathe in at a harbour, on a more personal level, memories of my grandfather are evoked. And memories of the gray, overcast morning when as a ten-year old child, I last bid him goodbye as he set sail come to mind. I remember the plunging pain my heart sank into and how for days afterwards, I would sit for hours writing him odes of desolance and poems that pined for him.
The memory reigns greater than any other memory as the next time I was to see him was when he was arrived home in a casket. I remember leaning over him or at least the physical body that was him and somehow remembering the cornucopia of scents that surround a harbour.
I think it may have been that with my grandfather, I could harbour any hope at all, and he would champion me on. When I told him that I was going to change the plight of the people of the world when I grew up, he asked how and when I answered that I was going to write, he bought me my first fountain pen. He instilled hope by encouraging me on.
Months later when I broke the nib and together with it sidelined my writing and hence the dreams, he coaxed me on as I told him I would like to make the world a better place by becoming a classical trombone player, he bought me a trombone, much to my parents chagrin. My dreams evolved, and so did my hopes, cajoled by his encouragement, simply instilling the fact that I could set sail on my ship of dreams and anchor on any one of my ideas.
As I stand on a harbour deck, inhaling the deep scents of joy and sadness, I remember the scent of hope, and the hope that the confidence that my grandfather had in me, that continues to live.