Attraction of Fragrance
(Vinod Anand)

There are some words we find beautiful in and of themselves; take ‘ephemeral’. It sounds good rolled around your lips, tongue and mouth, and to me it also looks good written. Its meaning, too, is hauntingly lovely—lasting for a markedly brief time. We get it from the Greek ephemeros ‘lasting a day’.

It isn’t any wonder then that the words ‘ephemeral’ and ‘beauty’ often go together. The first day it began to rain, we were treated to the indefinable scent of water soaking into the parched earth.

This is a gift of the first rains. After that— it’s gone. There is word for this fragrance — petrichor, constructed from the Greek petra, meaning stone and ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology. What happens is that oil exuded by certain plants during dry periods is absorbed by clay-based soils and rocks.

With rain, this is released into the air, along with geosmin, a metabolic by-product of bacteria, producing that subtle yet heady scent. Another ephemeral sensory de light is the experience of walking through fields of bluebells in England. The best time to see them is in late April and May, though some will flower earlier or later depending on their location and local climate.

The ‘bluebell season’ is all too brief. People wait for it; there is even a national ‘watch’ with sightings in various places being reported in the news. Bluebells are predominantly found in ancient woodlands that have at least a small area in which they lie dormant for most of the year before suddenly flowering in spring.

What is magical is that one day you might be walking through a green landscape and the next there appear swathes of delicate vivid blue flowers. There is something truly enchanting about stepping into a bluebell wood. As sun light flickers through the trees, the fragile flowers are dappled in light—a dreamy haze of blues, that reveal different shades of the colour in the changing light, and also as they grow older.

The same patch looks differently hued each day you visit. No wonder bluebells are associated with wonderment and fairytales and folklore. Then we have hanami, the Japanese traditional custom of making time to enjoy the beauty of sakura or cherry blossom. From the end of March to early May, sakura bloom all over Japan, and are the stuff of postcards and calendar pictures and posters.

Yet, beautiful as they are, the pictures really do not do justice to the experience. The gentle fragrant smell, the contrast of pink-white blossoms with dark branches, the movement in slight breeze—all these together make hanami a memorable experience. Each year, the blossom forecast is announced by the weather bureau, and is followed carefully as the blossoms only last a week or two. These flowers are not only short-lived, but so fragile that alight spring rain can easily cause the petals to drop.

Even at the end, when the petals all fall off, it is still a beautiful scene, like very light pink snowflakes covering the ground. The cherry blossom is treasured not only for its beauty, but for the enduring metaphor of the ephemeral nature of life that they represent.

This concept is known as ‘mono no aware’, translated as ‘the pathos of things’, and is the Japanese term used to describe impermanence. Within it is the idea that in the transience of all things exists a gentle sadness in its eventual passing, and it is this awareness of impermanence that can heighten for us the appreciation of its beauty.

Author's Bio: 


Born in 1939, and holding Master’s Degree both in Mathematics (1959) and Economics (1961), and Doctorate Degree in Economics (1970), Dr. Vinod K.Anand has about forty five years of teaching, research, and project work experience in Economic Theory (both micro and macro), Quantitative Economics, Public Economics, New Political Economy, and Development Economics with a special focus on economic and social provisions revolving around poverty, inequality, and unemployment issues, and also on informal sector studies. His last assignment was at the National University of Lesotho (Southern Africa) from 2006 to 2008. Prior to that he was placed as Professor and Head of the Department of Economics at the University of North-West in the Republic of South Africa, and University of Allahabad in India, Professor at the National University of Lesotho, Associate Professor at the University of Botswana, Gaborone in Botswana, and at Gezira University in Wad Medani, Sudan, Head, Department of Arts and Social Sciences, Yola in Nigeria, Principal Lecturer in Economics at Maiduguri University in Nigeria, and as Lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in Nigeria. Professor Anand has by now published more than 80 research papers in standard academic journals, authored 11 books, supervised a number of doctoral theses, was examiner for more than twenty Ph.D. theses, and has wide consultancy experience both in India and abroad, essentially in the African continent. This includes holding the position of Primary Researcher, Principal Consultant etc. in a number of Research Projects sponsored and funded by Universities, Governments, and International Bodies like, USAID, IDRC, and AERC. His publications include a variety of themes revolving around Economic Theory, New Political Economy, Quantitative Economics, Development Economics, and Informal Sector Studies. His consultancy assignments in India, Nigeria, Sudan, Botswana, and the Republic of South Africa include Non-Directory Enterprises in Allahabad, India, Small Scale Enterprises in the Northern States of Nigeria, The Absolute Poverty Line in Sudan, The Small Scale Enterprises in Wad Medani, Sudan, Micro and Small Scale Enterprises in Botswana, The Place of Non-Formal Micro-Enterprises in Botswana, Resettlement of a Squatter Community in the Vryburg District of North West Province in the Republic of South Africa, Trade and Investment Development Programme for Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises: Support for NTSIKA in the Republic of South Africa, and Development of the Manufacturing Sector in the Republic of South Africa’s North West Province: An Approach Based on Firm Level Surveys. Professor Anand has also extensively participated in a number of conferences, offered many seminars, participated in a number of workshops, and delivered a variety of Refresher Lectures at different venues both in India and abroad. Dr. Anand was placed at the prestigious Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), Shimla in the State Himachal Pradesh, India as a Fellow from 2001 to 2003, and had completed a theoretical and qualitative research project/monograph on the Employment Profile of Micro Enterprises in the State of Himachal Pradseh, India.