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Aromas & Mysteries of India - A Visit to Chandni Chowk

Aromas & Mysteries of India - A Visit to Chandni Chowk

As I gaze down the pristine, clean platform of the Delhi Metro, I marvel at how much it suddenly feels like the TTC again.  No matter where you are in the world, the 'subway' always seems to exist in a timeless, geographically-neutral dimension of its own. Same uncomfortable seats. Same fearful glances and stifled silence. Same grim faces, glued to tiny screens. There is no hint of the rich, magnificent culture of India in this place. Not a saree, dhoti, puja or cow in sight.  Even the signs and announcements are in English.

This is of some significant comfort in our quasi-pandemic world. I note only about 30% of commuters are wearing masks. This percentage, I am confident, will grow. 

Yes. Soon, everyone will be wearing masks. 

But I am not. Why?  To be honest, I find them uncomfortable, and the virus of the hour, for all its rampant infectiousness, isn’t exactly the Black Death. Moreover, masks are mainly meant for front-line workers and people who have symptoms, to prevent them spreading.  Even N95 masks are only 95% effective.  That means 5% of nasties can still get in. So what then?  Social distancing?  Good, but its effectiveness depends mainly on good old fashioned awareness - a quality currently in very short supply in our human species.   We need another level of protection; a last defence.  And this is why I have in my possession the subtlest of weapons: Essential Oils - the most reliable and powerful anti-viral agents in nature.

First off, my trusted bottle of The Aromatherapist Wild Certified Organic Mild Thyme Linalol - which I never leave home without.  This broad spectrum anti-microbial has kept me virtually illness-free in India for 3 solid years, battling away illnesses both mundane and exotic. And unlike the standard issue carvracol-heavy thyme, it’s unique linalol content soothes and softens the power, so you can dab it directly on your skin. Under the nostrils, to be precise - the most likely place airborne and travelling nasties will break in and wreak havoc.  Now that sentries are installed at the gates, I can breathe easier (which thyme helps me do too - talk about multi-purpose!)

So that takes care of travelling marauders. But what about the traitors to the cause, my very own fingers? Don’t get me wrong. Love my fingers. But on a day trip like this, where they'll be easily touching fifty-plus strange, unknown surfaces, teeming in Shiva-knows-what, then unconsciously rubbing or scratching the various orifices of my face, I need some serious Fort Knox-level protection! Like Mission Impossible Mach 10 Nasal Encryption!  So... only one thing will do: Essential Botanicals magnificent HEAL Infection. This is one of the most phenomenal antiseptic blends you’ll ever get your hands on - an expertly balanced combination of rare powerhouse oils and elegant scents. I gratefully roll a few slicks across my willing palms and rub them together, covering every inch of skin and especially the fingers. The pleasant scent of geranium wafts across my consciousness - an extra aromatic assurance - and I’m all set. Game on!

Today I am delving deep into the heart of Old Delhi to visit Chandni Chowk, the oldest market in India, one which was built in the 17th century and was originally divided by canals to reflect moonlight for night shopping. 

Emerging from an international-standard Metro up into the teeming life and sensory overload of Real India is truly a shock to the system.  There is no place on earth I've been that throws literally everything at once the way India does.  Extremes abound everywhere, but without buffers between them to soften the truth.  Joyous life and imminent death, obscene wealth and abject poverty, divine purpose and mundane pursuit - all these opposites mingle together and merge like a magnificent perfume, or old soul mates, more at home together than apart.  Did this fundamental oneness of the Indian experience help lead to the spiritual achievements of non-dual Yogic Philosophy, or vice versa?

 

No time for this question now.  I am on the verge of the obligatory intro - trying to navigate through the insane chaos referred to as Indian traffic.   This is not so much a walk as a zigzagging, falling swim through an impossibly tight, dense body-meld of people, dogs, cars, auto-rickshaws, motorbikes, pull carts, wandering cows, beggars, chai wallahs, merchants and sadhus.  There is no difference between animal and machine in this madness - we are all one being trying to move through itself.  I need to prepare for the inevitable olfactory assault of this adventure. Delhi's baseline smell is anchored by arguably some of the worst air pollution in the world, and is further enhanced and accented with every form of biological refuse. Needing a pre-emptive strike, I clutch desperately for my lovely bottle of The Aromatherapist Rose Blossoms.  The steam distilled is ethereal and sublime, of course, but for this assault, I want the fierce warrior embrace of the Absolute. A couple of drops under the nostrils and the world is heaven again.   

After my free-flowing swim within the creature of the 'street' - I am successfully spit out on the other side - impossibly - more or less in the area I was heading.  A magnificent wave of fresh, gorgeous blossoms greets my longing olfactory at the entrance to the market, and now I see the countless flower sellers sitting with their scales amidst mounds of Jasmine, Frangipani, Rose, Lotus, Osmanthus, Tuberose and more, these exotic luminous colours enhancing the sensory feast.  Precious blossoms as far as the eye can see and nose can enjoy. 

This is going to be good.

- This article is written by our dear friend and colleague, Simon Reynolds, who is currently living & working in India. Simon will be taking us along on his journey, discovering the many botanical & aromatic wonders of India and beyond!