The smell really takes me back several years, to the time I was in school. My formative years were spent in Ooty. (Yes, my parents did love me enough to send me to hostel.) A good stretch of the road from Gudalur to Ooty is flanked by eucalyptus plantations. The barks of the trees were flaky and ash grey, the leaves, a silvery green and the earth below would be covered with a million fallen leaves. Every time we drove past them, we'd feel a bit of a chill, the kind that made me want to snuggle close to my mum.
Still closer to Ooty, near Pykara, on a bend on a road, there was a blackened shed. The smell of burning eucalyptus would emanate through the air as we drove past it. As a child I wondered two things - who lived in there and what did the inside of the shed look like. I've always wanted to take a peek inside - I must the next time I go that way.
I also recall the chicken-pox outbreak in school; I may have been about 10 or 11 years old then. After dinner, those of us who had the good fortune of having had an attack earlier and were therefore immune, would have to go to the infirmary to collect a sprig of eucalyptus leaves. This, we would leave under our pillows. Not sure what the logic was, but it apparently helped keep the pox away. It also worked rather well (I think) as a mosquito repellent. For me, it was so much more. The pillow would absorb the lovely smell of the leaves, and as I buried my head into my pillow and drifted off to sleep, the smell would be so comforting.
To this day, the smell of eucalyptus, especially when the leaves are burning, inspires such a comfortable and warm feeling in me. On this note, a trip to Ooty, seems to be in the offing.
Pic courtesy: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/51526204