Niche Fragrances in India: A Shopping Guide

Niche Fragrances in India: A Shopping Guide

I discovered the world of niche fragrances only recently. It started with a small sample of the classic Baccarat Rouge 540 EDP, from the house of Maison Francis Kurkdjian. And it went on to become two samples, and then a handful and then I fell down that rabbit hole. It’s been a good rabbit hole, but it’s easy to get lost along the way: the reason for this being the fact that there are a ton of fake fragrances floating around, and unless you are careful, you’re going to end up losing a lot of money. This is where I come in, with a select few LEGIT recommendations of places you can get hold of your niche fragrances from.

Now, before we get into the whole shebang, let’s talk a little bit about how a niche fragrance differs from a designer one.

Fragrance experts have divided fragrances into designer and niche since for ever. When designer fashion houses, like Chanel for example, make a fragrance, it is designed to appeal to as many people as possible – this also means that the ingredients that go into the fragrance are usually synthetic. Now, that might not always be the case. On the other hand, niche fragrances are designed to appeal to a “niche” group of people who are always looking for something unique and different. Niche fragrance brands almost always exclusively sell fragrances, and usually use better ingredients, or offer a smoother blend. They also often have a much better sillage (derived from the French word meaning ‘wake’, or the trail of scent that one leaves behind when wearing a fragrance) and wear longer.

This is also why niche fragrances cost you more money, even the entry-level ones like Montale/Mancera. They are also notoriously hard to come by – you won’t find these at your local Parcos – and you are left with very few options to choose from.

2021 for me has been a year of fragrances: I have bought almost little to none of everything else. This whole journey has also made me gravitate towards a few boutiques that I know I can trust, and I am so happy to be sharing them right here:

1. Maison Des Parfums:

They have a boutique located in Palladium Mall, Mumbai and they have a BUNCH of niche fragrance brands. You can find Amouroud, Bond No. 9, Nasomatto (whose fragrances are super unique, from the shape of the bottles to the blends) and even Xerjoff, to name a select few. They don’t have a dedicated website yet, but I’m told it’s in the works. Meanwhile, if you want to buy from them online, you can always look on Tata CLiQ Luxury or send them a direct message on their Instagram handle @mdpindofficial. Shipping is fast, and I always receive my package in less two days.

2. Scentido Niche Perfumery:

Scentido now has three boutiques in the country – one at Fort, Mumbai, one at Khan Market, Delhi and the last one at Banjara Hills, Hyderabad. They carry brands like Clive Christian, Jul et Mad, Roja Parfums, Fragrance du Bois – that list is endless. They also have Fragrance Consultants who actually call and stay in touch over WhatsApp should you find it confusing to pick THE scent of your dreams. And they send in two samples with every order.

Scentido also has an online store.

3. Splash Fragrance:

I got my backup bottle of La Nuit Trésor from Splash Fragrance. Owned by the VERY patient and kind Gaurav Verma, also has a Lucknow based store called Opulence perfumery, this is a one stop shop for BOTH niche and designer fragrances. They also sell decants, and again, send samples with every order.

Find them online here.

4. Belvish:

My latest discovery, I had to add this store to my list for the sheer fact that they tick all the boxes. Really good prices, check (I find their pricing slightly better than Splash’s). Amazing customer service, check. The two gentlemen at Belvish, Akshay and Jaspreet, are real gems of people. You get pot-pourri and eco-friendly packaging with every order. Their shipping is fantastic and I got my order in less than two days. SHOOK.

They’re based in Delhi but they ship pan-India. Find them online here.

Now, having recommended these stores, there’s a tiny footnote I would like to add: niche fragrances are an investment BUT you need to be careful with how much you end up spending. It is so easy to lose track of things, so I recommend sticking to a budget if you’re just starting out. With that thought out of the way, happy shopping!

On Broken Souls and Olive Branches

On Broken Souls and Olive Branches

I’ve been told I don’t try hard enough

I’ve been told it’s my fault things go wrong

They said I was weird and unfixable, with a sad little laugh

They said I don’t know what it takes at all

I’ve been told the problem lies in me

I’ve been told I’m no good

And I whole heartedly agree, because honestly

A year went by and I achieved nothing

It’s hard to find someone who gets it

Someone who feels what you feel

They might try on your shoes but they won’t fit

As comfortably as they seem to fit you

No matter how many olive branches you extend

Someone needs to be receptive there too

Broken people and broken relationships don’t mend

Not one their own, they need a lot of help too

I’m an introvert when it comes to feelings

That won’t ever change

I wish I could stay in my bubble and find some meaning

Meanwhile I’d let my ramblings comfort me in my head

It’s a new year but nothing feels different to me

I feel detached like I’ve always been

Broken people don’t heal themselves, you see

What’s worse, I feel like I’d never find my clarity

The Lull – Prologue

The Lull – Prologue

I’ve been working on this – shall we say – “piece” for a while now and found this hidden away in my drafts. Any thoughts would be appreciated. In case you can’t tell, this is going to be a medical thriller, someday. Here’s hoping.

I’ve been waking up at the exact same time everyday, 3:30 AM. Sometimes I think I can hear noises, but that’s probably just my imagination. Truth is, I haven’t been sleeping well and it’s been eight months now and I know it’s not the new mattress. The clumps of hair I find in my hands every time I run a few fingers through my hair feel like warning signs. Multiple warning signs. Back in my day as a doctor at the hospital, I would see cancer patients on therapy losing hair this alarmingly. I don’t know what’s wrong with my body, but I sometimes feel like a part of me is kind of dying. And that isn’t comforting.

Who is going to take my place when I am no more?

The pain in my tailbone is bad today. I would rate it a solid eight point five. I can’t remember when it started but I can feel it intensifying. My normal ignore-it-till-it-goes-away tactic isn’t working anymore. Which is funny because it works really well when I have my dysmenorrhea. I try chamomile tea. It’s now almost four in the morning, and it’s cold, and dark and wet outside. It hasn’t stopped raining in forever. The wifi goes for a toss when thunderstorms happen and I temporarily have no access to Instagram. I like to stalk – no, keep up with – a few people when I am alone. I like to see what Rita is up to with her brand new side hustle, or what Nikkie is up to with that judgemental mind of hers, and what Tina is doing with life. These guys were my best friends in college, and then we went our separate ways and then the whole pandemic happened and all hell broke loose.

You’d think they’d check up on me, but I am someone they secretly like to call “The Dismissed”,  and they’re not wrong. I’m a has-been, a pariah, the one who threw her life away. I have no job, no prospects, and I don’t know if I would ever see my patients again. There’s a health crisis raging outside and they need me more than I need them but they don’t see that.

After all, what would anyone see in a emaciated former doctor in her late twenties who lives in a shoebox of a house, savings dwindling, with no one to turn to? I close my eyes and touch my back, that’s where they surgically implanted something so Nikkie could get away with something else.

Their life, happening.

Mine? Nothing but a lull.

It’s 2020. You Can’t Say Stuff Like This.

It’s 2020. You Can’t Say Stuff Like This.

1. You’re too fat/thin. Lose/gain some weight.

First of all, just because you claim to be someone’s well-wisher doesn’t necessarily mean you can go ahead and comment on their weight. It doesn’t matter if you’re family, or a stranger, or a friend. As long as the other person is healthy and feeling fine and feeling FIT, you’ve got zero say in what the weighing scale should say.

Secondly, you don’t know what the other person has gone through. You don’t know their struggle on their path to fitness. Just because they don’t look a certain way to you, doesn’t mean they aren’t doing great. Trust me, they’re doing great and they’d do better without a bunch of unsolicited opinions.

2. It’s so hard to talk to you, you’re gonna call me out on social media.

Um, okay.

Maybe if the conversation was nice and healthy and didn’t involve a lot of character dissections, we could all learn to hold a damn conversation instead of posting about it somewhere online.

Just because you’ve got more experience or just because you say you’re older, doesn’t essentially make you right all the time.

3. We are parents. We know better.

WRONG.

We’re a constantly evolving species. We didn’t have access to internet back in the day. We didn’t know what was going on with the rest of the world and we didn’t have the voices we now do. And just because you’re the parent, doesn’t mean you’re right or you know better all the time.

Sometimes a three-year-old could teach you valuable life lessons too.

Sometimes your teenager could teach you the value of deep thoughts.

And sometimes, your full-grown adult son could teach you the application of philosophy better than you’d ever know how.

4. We bless you so you can give us good news soon.

This happens a lot in India.

In a country that’s basically choking under the weight of overpopulation, where certain cities are expanding vertically due to lack of land space, people still want to populate and keep at it till it’s a huge irreversible mess.

Also, why does the concept of a certain “good news” still exist in 2020? Your kid still has a job and a roof to live under, despite the pandemic. There’s good food on the table. Isn’t that “good news” enough?

Why must you – as parents specially – talk about the end result of bumping uglies ALL THE TIME? Aren’t you the same set of people that frowned upon the concept of sex and treated it as something oh-so-shameful all the while? For the last time, people in 2020 don’t get married to produce a whole bunch of kids alone. Childbirth and child-rearing aren’t the only components of this endgame, and people DO (surprise, surprise) get married for things that are almost alien to you – things like companionship and having someone’s back. And vice-versa.

So for the last time, go ahead and bless your married kids with good health and prosperity. The decision of baby-making lie with them and them alone. And it’s not the end of the world if there are no babies in the mix.

5. OMG. That girl has infertility. I feel so bad.

PCOD and infertility are both sensitive topics and you need to show a little more kindness to people who suffer from it. Genuine kindness, not the fake stuff you pull for the benefit of literally NO one.

At the same time, you need to realize that it’s high time we normalized stuff. Health issues don’t send prior notices many times, they just drop by.

6. That kid is so un-sanskaari, she drinks and sleeps around with people. Hawww.

Drinking doesn’t make someone a bad person and pre-marital sex is a choice. As long as someone’s not harming YOU, you need to quit judging what other people are doing with their lives.

Peace out.

The Color of Blood.

The Color of Blood.

It has to be, they say

It’s that time of the month,

Throwing harsh words and curse words

Her way, all day, everyday

She says nothing, just lets tears fall

And a storm rages on in her head

She thought he’d understand at least

He doesn’t, and she wishes she were dead

Unsolicited advice comes her way:

“Have children, before it’s too late.”

“Have children, doesn’t matter if you’re not into it.”

“If you don’t want them, God curse your fate.”

She feels like a package

That everyone’s dying to unwrap

She feels suffocated

Every harsh word is like a slap

They don’t let her bleed in peace

The color of blood it repels them, you see

She’s just a walking uterus

Meant to carry kids, isn’t that how it was supposed to be?

She’s not a woman if she doesn’t want kids

She’s not normal if she wants to be

She’s shallow if she wants to be happy

She sits in the corner, with the color of blood for company

And they shake their heads and click tongues

She’s failed the generation once more

He could have done better, they think

And for once, she couldn’t agree more.

Resentment.

Resentment.

I don’t know why I married this thing in my bed. She doesn’t have brains. Doesn’t have the looks either. Doesn’t make money. Has a voice louder than those drills going in my neighbor’s backyard. I look over at the sleeping form next to me; chameleon-eyes open like she’s always watching me. She has these big eyes I used to find beautiful and luminous once but now, all they do is follow me around, grotesquely.

I am a henpecked husband.

I cannot even remember how long I have been married to Her. It disgusts me to even say the name. to think that I wanted a home and a child, or maybe two, with Her, one day. She’s not who I married and she has completely changed. Recession hit and she – very voluntarily and very comfortably – pulled off her socks and curled up permanently on the couch, just watching and being a pain in my neck. She acts like she’s doing me a favor when she gets me breakfast in bed. She lords it over me when she’s folding and putting away piles of my laundry. I’ve never asked her to do any of it, but she acts like she has this chip on her ugly, hunched and emaciated shoulder and uses it against me at every opportunity. I hate being stuck with her indoors all day. Fucking Corona. It had to happen now, now when I was on the verge of going on this business trip to Amsterdam alone. Now, when I’d have a few peaceful days all to myself.

She makes unnecessary commentary when I talk to my friends on the phone. She tells them not to call on the weekends – her voice shrill in the background, making me feel like I would bleed from my ears – saying she wants me to herself and she tries to sabotage my two-decade long friendship with my best friend. We had a go at each other the other day. The rabid cunt thinks I would let her treat me this way, does she? She thinks I don’t deserve her, and she’s right because no one does. Stupid, freaking, crazy bitch. How I wish I could turn back time and ensure this marriage had never happened.

I don’t even remember taking a pillow and stifling her till her writhing body goes still and her silent screams fade away to silence, blissful silence.

Home Décor on a Budget

Home Décor on a Budget

Economy’s been hit pretty hard and times are crazy and you’ve just moved into a new house. A new, unfurnished house. And you’ve only been married a few months and you’ve got no clue how to decorate this blank canvas of yours. You constantly look at home décor ideas on Pinterest, to the point of obsession. But stuff’s expensive and you want your home to be aesthetically pleasing but by the look of things, that seems impossible. Right?

Fret not, I’ve got you covered.

1. Set a price bracket to work with:

Modular kitchens in India start typically at 2L and can go up to anywhere between 10L and 15L. Wardrobes start at around a Lakh and can go up to 10L. Both the kitchen and the wardrobe are essentials, and sometimes you end up over-paying because you get overwhelmed by what your designer is trying to sell you. The best way to avoid this is to set a budget and tell your interior designer that this is what you are comfortable paying. Be flexible enough to stretch out the budget a little, but at the same time, do NOT go over the top. Get someone who is good at negotiations, someone who can talk prices with your designer without hurting sentiments or messing with the professional relationship.

2. Minimalism:

Less is more, and you do NOT need that expensive teak L-shaped teak couch with the chintzy cushions because – one, that’s going to collect a lot of dust and cleaning said dust is going to give you rhinitis, and two, clutter isn’t cute. Try to keep the space breathable. Plus, minimalism is kind of trending right now. Good for the economy and good for your soul, ha haha.

3. Use good and long-lasting materials:

I just mentioned that you don’t need teakwood furniture, because you can use other hardwood alternatives like acacia instead, for example. Or even shorea or eucalyptus. Acacia has the best price point amongst the three, which makes it the most sensible choice if you’re working on a tight budget. And if you’re getting your furniture custom-built, you can get the wood polished in whatever color you actually like. I don’t recommend mango or rubber wood, because they’re prone to a ton of damage. Don’t be tempted by the sweet prices you see on PepperFry. Nuh uh.

Ensure your kitchen and wardrobe and furniture are really well-made in case you won’t be changing up too frequently.

4. Buy stuff online:

Things like wooden tables for your bedside, accent chairs, garden décor and so on, come at great prices online. Smaller furniture is often cheaper online because it is all produced in bulk, and you can save money just by buying these online rather than having it all custom-built, where you end up paying nearly double in some cases.

5. Consider choosing second-hand furniture, or even thrifting:

Online stores like GoZefo.com sometimes have surprisingly good deals. If you have a thrift store around, you can buy home décor at legit throwaway prices. (I don’t recommend going thrifting given the present situation, but when and if things calm down considerably, this becomes a great option to buy odds and ends like hallway mirrors, throws, cushions, floor rugs and shag carpets.)

6. Go phase-wise:

I cannot begin to tell you about the sheer joy you actually find in doing things one step at a time, with your partner, especially if you’ve both just gotten hitched. Building a home together from scratch – for me, personally – has been such a great exercise because it gave me something to do and I love planning things. Plus, it’s actually helped the SO and me come together as a team.

7. Amazon all the way:

There’s nothing you don’t find on this website. Pick out cute trays, and china and dinner things, plus linens and everything else that you need to put the ALMOST final touches, and all at super good prices. Their contactless delivery system makes life a lot easier too.

8. Fresh scents:

Invest in good home fragrances, burn incense if you must. I recommend the three wick candles that are currently on sale (BOGO) at BathAndBodyWorks.in. Vanilla Bean and Mahogany Coconut are good ones to try.

Do you have any home décor ideas?

An Essay on Mental Health.

An Essay on Mental Health.

Two celebrities took their own lives within one week of each other. One, a talented Bollywood actor. The other, his former manager.

Sushant Singh Rajput was only thirty-four when he committed suicide by hanging. There was no note. Indian media being the Indian media, the family was harassed and photos, circulated. Photos that showed the poor soul lying supine on the bed, ligature marks around his neck. And people kept forwarding those images on social media without showing any respect for the deceased or his grieving family. There were no trigger warnings, either. It shocked me to see how people here lack respect, empathy and common sense. As more details surfaced and as more people shared what they knew about the situation, a couple of major issues came to light. Depression, and the fact that since the Indian film industry only survives on the ‘product of nepotism’, Sushant had also been left feeling unacknowledged. He’d made it to Bollywood without a Godfather to push him, and he was finding it hard to stay afloat. In a conversation with a fan on social media, he confessed that he would be kicked out of the industry if his movie didn’t do well.

While the rest of B-town shared posts on social media talking about how they should’ve been there and been more accepting, keyboard warriors started sending hate to top-tier actors. Case in point: Alia Bhatt getting bullied for her post on Sushant. Kangana Ranaut, another self-made actor, getting way too much hate for speaking up about Sushant’s mysterious suicide. And this is exactly how the cycle never ends. Trolls find someone to bully and sometimes, even the strongest of minds breaks down. And goes places where it’s hard to recover from. And it’s not just celebrities or prominent people that face mental health issues, it’s shockingly sad to see that it’s a thing in every Indian home. A thing most families choose to ignore. A thing many believe – TO THIS DAY – that it’s not an issue at all and can be chased away with a proper beating. Not only is that child abuse, it also worsens the child’s state of mind.

As a Bengali Indian, and now a married woman, I’ve faced my share of bullying, I’ve been pressured into doing something I didn’t want to, made fun of for having clinical depression, been doused with buckets of unsolicited advice, been body-shamed and at the same time, never been taken seriously when I needed to talk to someone. And it pains me to say that many others I know go through some form of mental health problems and are dismissed for wanting to talk about it. In (Bengali) households, fifteen-year-olds are mocked at for being low on energy or having enough courage to say that they’ve been feeling depressed. Many are ridiculed for wanting to choose to study something they find interesting. God forbid should you want to become a photographer or a makeup artist. God forbid if you’re not doing well in med-school. While in others, children are made fun of for being “weepy and dead inside” all the time. They’re dismissed if they’re not interested in the same things their parents like. As they grow older and get married, they’re bombarded with questions about when they’d be gaining or losing some weight or when they’d be making babies, despite being fairly new to the whole “being married” scene. No one asks you what you want or if you’re doing okay. No one checks in on you when you’re struggling to reach out. Some people only want you to be happy while putting pressure on you that if you’re not happy, you’d be henpecked into doing what they want because that’s how the world works. People are in fact so quick to judge that all you’re going to end up getting is a bunch of ridiculous statements ranging from “Get over it” to “You’re just thinking you’re depressed. It doesn’t happen that way. No go do the done thing.”

And all of this is normal. That’s what we’ve all grown up facing and are still facing today.

People are so educated but there is serious lacunae in our understanding of mental health and how important it is for a healthy living. And it’s often the people that post about how they wish they’d been there for someone, are the people that spew the most hate. No one actually likes to listen. And that’s the major issue here. We don’t have good listeners around us. Everyone likes the sound of their own voices too much to ever give someone else a chance to speak. And that’s how we start feeling lonely despite being part of a proper unit. And that’s how we start breaking down. Despite all the “education”, we still consider things like pansexuality or depression as something that should be kept under wraps only.

What if the neighbors or the relatives find out? We’ll be so embarrassed!

Why’s any of this taboo when it’s actually out there affecting people badly enough to make them want to take their own lives? And we know that with the quarantine very much in place, it gets hard to keep a brave front all the time. And we need to learn that it’s okay to let do and to have a breakdown or two. But it’s not okay to not have anyone to reach out. Therapists are there for a reason and there is nothing to be ashamed of.

It’s time we learned to be more accepting, more vigilant and more aware. The time for passing crude judgment has now passed. If we want to live healthy, we’ve got to focus on our mental health first and quit treating it as something that can be shoved under the rug and forgotten. And just saying that we need to do something isn’t enough. It’s time all of us actually DID something about it. It’s June 2020 – so if not now, then when?

Twitch.

Twitch.

I wake up with the worst headache.

And my right brow has been twitching too. I’m either super dehydrated, or I’m in need of new glasses. The latter seems to be a very impossible mission right now, what with the pandemic and all, so I’ve to make do with some water.

I gulp down a huge glass of water and wait for the headache to pass. It doesn’t. An hour goes by. Nothing happens.

I’ve to deal with this twitching eye. It’s driving me mad at this point. I go to the mirror to have a closer look. It’s twitching harder than ever and I can see something poke through.

I clamp my hand to my head. Another hand pushes it away. Bloodied. And it has claws. I scream in agony as my inner devil rips out through the twitch and starts to consume me.