Embodied Effigies, Issue Two

Page 87

The Smell of Camphor and the Fragrance of Mustard Girija Sankar

The sun has just set on this tiny Caribbean nation of 9 million people. I’m so far away from home, yet the sights, sounds, and odors are familiar. The television in the lobby of the guest house leaks out loud music; the neighbor’s TV plays a soap opera, at once recognizable by the high pitched squeals from the lead female character. A constant din of activity outside-bikes on the road with silencers that don’t silence, stray dogs yelping and dodging the wheels of the taptap, and then the breeze that gently caresses the ornamental palm fronds placed at strategic corners of the guest house lobby here in Petion-Ville, Port-au-Prince. The breeze gently nudges the stacks of work-related papers strewn about on the dinner table. I miss this. I miss the ambient noise, the competing blares from the television sets, the recalcitrant motorbikes on the street, and the warring dogs. As the aroma of fried plantains wafts through the twilight air, I can almost smell the steam rising from a pot of freshly cooked white rice, of black mustard hitting the sesame oil on the iron wok, of garlic and onions fried in clarified butter. I miss this, this simultaneous assault of the senses. I miss the varying decibels of the human voice—laughter, street fights, infants crying, sermons pouring out the loudspeaker attached precariously to the power line poles. I can see the dust on the tabletop, the imperfections of the paint on the stucco walls, the tell-tale signs of wear and tear on the curtains adorning the window, with one panel not quite matching the other. I like that all I need to do is walk across the street into the pastry shop to grab a quick snack. The Haiti of today stirs a longing, nostalgia for home, home Embodied Effigies | 77