How Is Your Nose?
“Only the nose knows, / Where the nose goes, / When the door close.” (Muhammad Ali)
The nose goes wherever you take it…this being applicable in the case of humans and animals as well, mainly because the same nose has made up its mind to settle down on our faces and communicate to us whatever odor it happens to detect in the air surrounding us. And as it is always with us, it gets to be witness to whatever scent there, be it a pleasant, pungent, annoying or repelling one, invading our mornings, evenings or afternoons.
At times we find ourselves enslaved by this nose in a world of almost always fluctuating smells and while being enslaved we may as well take our time to create a nice piece of writing such as the one entitled “Ode to My Nose”. It is this ode that gets to clarify things (in case you’ve ever felt they were not clear enough…) and tells us that “My nose does sit upon my face, / Above my mouth its happy place. / A diamond stud adorns one side, / A lovely piece that says “Don’t hide!”
Truth: we happen to be governed by our senses all through our lives. And sometimes the accuracy of our senses may lead us to conclude that we all happen to be animals, it is true superior ones as we are presumed to have the consciousness with us, yet all the more animals that like to smell each other and the things surrounding them. As an artist once said “A man is beautiful-if you can’t touch, feel, or smell him, you’re missing out quite a lot.” And as Helen Keller said “Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.”
The importance assigned to smell varies greatly from man to man, culture to culture and animal to animal. It may be either viewed as a fragrant way of perceiving life or simply as a mere rather primitive, bestial way of sniffing our surroundings and while doing this either make grimaces or adopt the smile of an enthusiast smeller. Much like Ramesh Mahadevan said in his ”Smell and Smellibility” “…nose is a terrible thing to waste. And all we use a nose for these days is to rest our eyeglasses or to blow or if you are Sridevi, patch it up with plastic surgery. Actually there is a tremendous amount of potential you and all of us have-literally right under our noses.”
And if some of us seem not to be able to notice this potential, whereas others certainly, assuredly do trace it down…animals having developed an acute sense of smell have learnt to deal with this “potential” very well. They make wise use of it to either find their way around their environment or trace by smell the most appropriate mating partner, letting the other animals know that they happen to be in heat, walking on hot bricks, as many would unequivocally say, locate their own offspring or equally well mark their territory as if wishing to announce the others that they have been there for quite a while now and that that gets to be their territory.
Among animals with an acute sense of smell there happen to also be Mr. Polar Bear, Mr. and Mrs. Rhino and both mole sexes. It is this sharp smell that allows many of these animals to track down their prey or better said their next meal. To the polar bear it suffices a nose in the air to just catch anything that may smell like a yummy, succulent seal. Yet, polar bears are not uniquely endowed with an acute sense of smell as they get to share these skills with pigs or with pigs as well…Know it or not, pigs do know their way through dirt foraging for food. Sniffing the air they probably can tell that there happens to be some food for them there…something to prize their efforts…
Much like the mentioned animals we many times end up sniffing the air when being faced with a certain dish and not only in those moments and deciding whether we like it, hate it or willing to taste it. Though we certainly happen to have a less sharp sense of smell than that of animals we have it. There is a nose there on our face and we are perfectly capable to make use of it, either to smell the fresh scent of rain or to imbibe our being with the sweet fragrance of a flower.
Yet, did you ever think about the significance people around the world assign to smell? As far as smell is to be brought into discussion, there certainly happen to be more than just one way of envisaging this gift nature bestowed upon us.
Interesting things happen in the universe of smell…All around the world there happen to be some people who hold this sense in high esteem.
Though unimaginable for some, there happen to be some places around the world where you would get to be blown some air in the face if you felt like you there happened to be not enough scents there or on the contrary if you felt like being haunted by too many odors be set free of those too many invading odors. What would you answer when being asked “how is your nose?” I would probably say that my nose is fine, still there in its place, doing what it knows best, meaning sniffing the air…Yet, somewhere in the Andaman Islands the Ongee organize their entire universe around this sense. And by doing this they ask each other such a question as “how is your nose?” In fact seasons there get to be associated with certain odors and all the more be named after these odors. As far as I see things, these people live in just about the perfect harmony with the smell of flowers and whatever other smells coming from nature. All the more, they also define themselves by means of smell and whenever speaking about themselves they are said to do it as if saying “Here I am! Me and my odor!” And they do it in a rather cute way, namely by touching their nose when referring to themselves. To make a joke I’d say that there is no doubt there that these people do know where their nose is.
Rumor has it that so do Indians who have once been known to salute each other not by kissing each other or hugging each other but by smelling each other’s head. There is clear proof that this was once an affectionate way of greeting each other and this proof is to be found in some Indian text asserting what follows: “I will smell thee on the head, that is the greatest sign of tender love.”
And even though there certainly happen to be many differences in regard to smell in the world of animals and the universe of people, when it gets to settling down at one’s house and choosing a partner, we both seem to be guided by and rely heavily on the sense of smell. What clear example and perhaps the noisiest one too could there be in this case if not the one provided by a cat in heat? Tossing and turning around, issuing all sort of noses and emitting all sort of smells that cat lets the whole residential district know that she is in a “doing foolish and naughty things” mood. As such, her master should be waiting for a tom-boy to appear in front of his door and ask him by means of some lascivious “mew-mew-s” if the she-cat is at home and willing to get out in to get out to play…And much like the cat, there also happen to be many other animals choosing their mating partners relying heavily on smell.
But like our fellow creatures sharing the earth with us, there also happen to be some people out there belonging to a tribal group known under the name of Desana, who would simply refuse to marry people who have the same body smell as themselves. And thus obeying to this unwritten law placed under the auspices of smell, the members belonging to this tribe, being believed to share “a similar odor”, must look for their partners in other tribal groups. That must be quite a hard job for these people, yet as there happens to be a well grounded culture of smell there they abide to it!
Therefore, perhaps we should give this world of ours a good sniff and from this day on start writing plenty of odes praising our noses. And just to end it all I cannot but end my pleading for smell but by quoting a poem written by Alexandria Crabtree. Here it is: “I stay inside where it’s safe / yet this is the price I must pay. / The cost of the treasures of smell. / The fragrance of feet, of socks, of rotten eggshells, / Are the trade of congestion and snot. / And just when I wonder “What good is a nose?” / I smell something pretty divine. / Fresh bread or clean laundry or rain soaked pine / and I think “What a lovely nose I’ve got!” / A nose by any other name would smell as sweet. / Doing so more often, however, would be a treat.”11