As I looked out on my porch this morning, I was greeted by the most pleasant sight. My favorite flower had bloomed and with it, a flood of memories came rushing in. The jasmine that can be found in South Asia, particularly South India, is unparalleled in smell and composition. From this small white flower, the most heavenly scent emanates. I remember so vividly falling in love with this flower as a six-year old girl, and mostly because this scent was strikingly different from the odors and fumes of the rest of India. Not only was I taken by the smell but also with the tradition of wearing flowers in one's hair. And from that moment, wearing jasmine in my hair became my "thing". Whenever I visited India, my family would greet me with strings of jasmine (side note- I almost named this blog Strings of Jasmine).
I stared at these flowers from my kitchen, sipping on my morning coffee, reminiscing about my family back in India. My aunt, older cousin and I used to spend hours on their veranda, picking jasmine. I would then sit next to my aunt as she skillfully crafted these flowers into long strings to be worn by the females in our family.
My most vivid memory was when I was 12 and another aunt had collected all the jasmine from her house and her neighbors' houses. She set to work for hours upon hours of threading the jasmine onto cardboard to later be affixed to my hair (see pic below- this is not exactly what it looked like but it was pretty darn close!). As I sat there patiently waiting for her to complete her work, it wasn't lost on me how much time and effort she was putting in making me happy. And how much she loved me and my love for these flowers. When she was done, she turned to me with the most amazing smile and gave me the flowers that had taken her so long to complete. That gesture of selflessness, kindness and pure joy still warms my heart. While my aunt has since passed, I cherish this memory still. And smelling that jasmine today reminded me of that moment and how much she had taught me to give onto others selflessly and with joy.
Staring at the jasmine this morning also flooded my heart with sadness. At the moment I write this, one of my paternal uncles is dying. My dad left this evening to spend his last days with him. The last time I saw my uncle was last year at a party my aunt had thrown for us while we were in India. And I wore jasmine in my hair that night. If I close my eyes, I am transported back to that night, to the laughter and the smiles, to the hugs and the good fortune of being surrounded by my family and my uncle in particular. It's amazing how smell has the ability to transcend time and place and help you relive moments as if they are your current reality. As I reminisced about all of this in the morning, my daughter crossed the porch and plucked a jasmine from the plant, inquiring about its pretty scent. I told her about the flower, its origin, and its connection to my family. I told her how much jasmine meant to me. She then asked if she could wear it in her hair. Of course, I said yes.