My host family offers me a kurta (formal Indian wear) because my white one that I usually wear to school has been ruined from pen marks and dirt stains. I graciously take the article of clothing and try it on. Suddenly, an overwhelming feeling showers over me as I put on the kurta.
It smells just like home.
A burst of laughter erupts from within me while the kurta’s still draped over my head. My host family is surprised at my emotional outburst, and understandably so. I must have looked like an idiot, chuckling under a long maroon cloth that has yet to be fitted over my upper body.
While my host family is worried about my current mental state, I take another sniff. A rush of memories starts flooding into my head, and I try to assess whether the current feeling I’m getting is of nostalgia or homesickness. Seeing how my first instinct when experiencing the stimulus was to laugh, I chalk it up to the former.
I pull the kurta down and my face emerges from the fabric. I’m greeted by confused looks by my family, and I quickly inform them that I had not gone insane, but that the smell of the kurta had caused me to have a moment of bliss while remembering the comforts of home.
But in a moment, it was over. I didn’t feel the urge to smell the fabric again, either. It seemed unfitting to try to recall a place halfway across the world when I was here, in Pune, India, experiencing things that I would have never even imagined experiencing in my hometown of Tampa, Florida. So without latching onto the memories associated with the smell of familiar fabric, I acknowledged its importance and returned to the present.
For the next 5 months, I will have to be mindful of the senses, but keep them from overtaking my current experience. I’ll have plenty of time to reminisce in the future.