I STILL remember those thick blinds that kept my home cool, while filling it with a sweet earthy aroma during one scorching Delhi summer in the early 1970s. My parents had bought the blinds to hang on the doors. They were made of roots and stems of khus, a perennial bunchgrass known for its water holding capacity. Every afternoon my siblings would sprinkle water over the mats and soon, the cool and calming fragrance would lull us all to sleep.
But it was a messy affair. Water dripping from the blinds would often flow into the room. Sleeping with the doors and windows open to catch the breeze was also not particularly safe. So, the khusblinds were soon discarded, and we found solace in the bright green khus sharbat, which is prepared from the same roots and is equally aromatic and refreshing as the blinds.
Khus or Vetiveria zizanioides is native to India. It belongs to Poaceae family which includes India’s staple food grain, wheat, and grows wild in the northern states. In southern states, farmers cultivate it as a commercially traded grass—its scientific name, in fact, comes from the Tamil name for the grass, vettivar.
Though every part of the grass is useful, khus is most valued for its roots, which are used to extract one of the most complex oils known. It contains some 150 aromatic molecules, many of which are yet to be identified.
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