Smell it to see it

Oct 20, 2011, 10:27 IST | Priyanjali Ghose

A city-based eyecare service provider brings on Bannerghatta Road, the first touch and smell garden in the state that will introduce the visually challenged to 50 different plants through touch and smell

Visually challenged American author Helen Keller once said, "Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived."
And city-based Dr Agarwal's Eye Hospital is all set to follow her words. In a month or two, Bangalore will have its first and India's third Touch and Smell garden on Bannerghatta Road.

The terrace cum garden launched last week, will showcase around 50 plants with various medicinal properties across a space of nearly 2, 500 square feet.

Chennai-based biotechnologist Satyen, who has been consultant for this garden, describes it as a sensory and therapeutic one that will open the door to the plant kingdom for the visually challenged.

"Touch is the first sense that develops inside the womb followed by the the sense of smell. We chose plants that produce essential oils so that one can be differentiated from the other through smell," says Satyen, adding that the smell of each plant can be recollected by a child later.

Satyen reveals that it took him a week to decide which plants will find place in this garden. Once decided, he went to various nurseries across the city to collect them.

According to him, it is easier to educate a visually challenged person about a common fruit or vegetable than a medicinal plant by explaining the characteristics.

"The plants in this garden help in therapies and are available easily. By touching them they can understand the texture and shape of the plants as well as learn about the smell," says Satyen.

Other than plants like mint, lemon, tulsi, lavender and more, the Touch and smell garden also has rare ones like Pan Kapoor and All Spices.

Satyen shares that leaves of Pan Kapur tastes exactly like betel leaf while those of All Spices bring out the combined taste of spices like cardamom, clove, bay leaf and more.

The eye service centre will provide commutation to visually challenged children all across the city. Once they arrive in the garden, a staff member from the hospital will accompany the visitors to help them understand the properties of each plant.

S Rajagopalan, the CEO and director of Dr Agarwal's Eye Hospital, explains that a Braille board explaining the medicinal properties and usage of each plant will be placed next to it. To make it easier, the common names for these plants are mentioned on the boards.
Also, visitors can pluck the leaves, crush it in their hands and chew to understand the texture, shape and taste of the plant.

"This initiative is to help the visually challenged child get into the main stream as they are empowered with knowledge about botanical sustenance," says Rajagopalan.

He also adds that the sense of touch and smell in visually challenged people are much stronger than others. "Once they experience the touch and smell of something, they remember it if they come across the same fragrance years later at a different time and space."

Touchy Facts
Humans can detect 10,000 scents 
No two people smell the same odour the same way
Children smell better than adults!
There are 17,000 tactile receptors in our hands 
There are nearly 13 million visually challenged people in India

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