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!

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?

THE AFTERMATH OF COVID-19

THE AFTERMATH OF COVID-19

I was sent this post a few minutes back, and I thought it would be amazing to share it on my page too. Read on, it is crucial.

Oblivion8

For starters, not all of us have siblings who are doctors and who can give us a scare, time and again while providing authentic information about what really should be our priority points.

The first thing my brother, who is a doctor, told me today was that, it’s not the 21 day lock down that matters, it’s what we do on day 22.

So here’s what’s going to happen:

  1. Like some people did during the Janta curfew, now the whole country is suddenly going to run out of their homes with the national flag, playing patriotic songs and shouting slogans like we’ve won a war and talking about how great of a nation we are forgetting that we have not completely eradicated the virus but merely tried to cut it down.
  2. The so called highly educated people of the city are going to flood public places like cinema theaters, restaurants…

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Fitness In The Time Of Corona

Fitness In The Time Of Corona

Admit it: there have been a million times when you’ve complained that the gym was too crowded. Or that people had zero hygiene in there. And that you felt weird working out in front of other people. And you ended up not going in for your fitness sessions while that membership you bought died a slow, unmemorable death. Admit it.

And then the Corona Pandemic struck and you told your friends: I was supposed to start working out tomorrow, duuuuuuuude, but the stupid gym’s closed! And you went ahead, plonked your laptop on to your lap, put on your earphones and started binge watching FRIENDS all over again, while the bags of chips and soda bottles accumulated rather nastily on the floor. Admit it.

The thing is, you can’t blame a pesky virus for neglecting your fitness goals. Remember the goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the year? I’ll go to the gym five days a week. I’ll eat quinoa and kale and snack on berries when I’m hungry. I’ll give up on alcohol and sugar and trans fat. Remember that? No, right? Everything has flown out of the window, and it didn’t even take a day of Coronavirus situation.

In order to stop the spread of the Coronavirus, we’re all staying indoors. Some of us are panic-buying provisions. Some of us are eating too much at a go. Many people are drinking WAY too much and smoking joints and they seem to have forgotten that it’s just as bad to have lung cancer. I mean, YOLO, right? Wrong. Our lifestyle has gone from varying forms of active to one hundred percent sedentary. Which means that if you’re someone who, let’s say, is on a fifteen hundred calorie per day allowance with a three hundred calorie burn allowance, you’re actually just adding the whole calorie budget, AND THEN SOME, into your body since you’re not getting any exercise. That sentence was a mouthful but you need to know that I feel very strongly about this.

I know it’s hard to resist food during times like this. Specially when you’ve gone out of your way and hoarded everything, including other people’s share. You eventually end up stress-eating because WFH feels more like WTF and you legit. Cannot. Stop. Eating. And despite all my preaching *heh heh* I’m honestly no saint, either. At the same time, I don’t want to emerge from the quarantine looking like this:

NOT that it’s bad or gross to look like that, but I don’t want central obesity, heart attack and I know how terrible the hospital situation is, globally. So, issa no. I’m trying my best to stay fit without feeling the need to depend on outdoor or gym activities, and I’m not doing much, not really, but I feel like it’s the little things:

• Limiting calorie intake: It’s been a week since I’ve gone into complete self-isolation with the husband, and I’ve reduced my calorie intake by about one-third of my everyday calorie allowance. Do I feel good about myself? No, not really. But is my body working fine? Yes. No paunches reported.

• Home workouts: That yoga mat and Chloe Ting and lightweight dumbbells are coming in handy. Chloe posts a bunch of workout videos that are super easy to follow, while being super effective at the same time. Here’s the link to her two-week shredding programs – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAFs3kxY4h18ubPUONHriXCgo0YD4rmSW. She also posts meal plans that are super filling – I’ve tried a few of them, and they work.

When NOTHING works, you can actually walk around in your living room. It’s the little things, it’s always the little things.

• Doing my chores – This brings me to my last point. Mopping the floors and doing the dishes, doing the laundry and climbing up a bunch of stairs, actually sweeping the floor instead of asking your cleaning lady to do it, burns a crap ton of calories. Belly today, washboard tomorrow. Thanks to the pocha. Thanks to the Corona Pandemic, I’ve also been hydrating like a fish. Just water, I promise you, works wonders.

At this point I can’t even laugh at my own jokes anymore. I’m petrified of what’s happening. Staying in and doing chores and making sure I am not a reason for the spread has put a lot of thought into perspective. Human life is so fragile and the worst part is we ruin things by not following protocol. Or caring about things. It’s a pandemic of epic proportions and each one of us needs to be responsible. And you don’t need me to tell you this, but for YOUR sake, stay home and stay safe. On that note…

How are you staying fit during these dark times?

Things Your Nail Technician Doesn’t Tell You

Things Your Nail Technician Doesn’t Tell You

Before we get to the post, I’d quickly like to say that marital bliss is beautiful. And oh, the location of your new house is super important. Which is also one of the reasons why I’m currently sporting two-inch-long talons and using said talons as tools: for self-defense, as can-openers, you name it. Okay, before you get horrified – I’m actually obviously kidding.

I got my nails done for the first time on January 22nd, 2020.

• Before I went in, I was under the impression that the extensions last for at least three weeks before they start to look bad. Mine started to look bad right from day eight. Why? My nails grow crazy fast. And I didn’t know I would need a refill almost immediately after getting my first set done. So ten days went by, and my nails grew and they looked super tacky and I had to run back to my trusty nail bar to get them redone.

Second mani of my life.

• Okay, let’s not beat about the bush – BUT nails are kinda pricey. In Indian currency, you’re going to be paying about INR 2400-3000 the first time and refills with color cost around INR 2200 where I get mine done. And like I said, my nails grow fast – and this means I end up paying around six grand per month on nails alone. Not a very smart move when you’re a new wife who’s settling into a brand new role as a multitasker too.

• Nails are addictive. No one tells you this, but I wish they would. It’s almost like getting a tattoo or eating a bag of Lay’s – once you’ve got a taste for it, you’re going to want to go back over and over again. I was never a nail person and here I am, typing furiously away on my laptop while obsessing over my next mani on Pinterest.

Really digging this.

• You’ll get sucked in and get super confused about your options. Pretty much what Swiggy does to your belly and your wallet. Too much to pick from, too tight of a budget. Like, aaaaarrrrrggggghhh. So pick the one shape and design that’s the cutest – for me it would have to be the coffin shaped ones and a French base – and roll with it.

• Nails need a lot of TLC. You can’t be doing kitchen stuff all the time. You can’t be putting too much pressure on your nails or use them as tools. That’s a HUGE no-no. You have to get a dishwasher and multiple bits of cutlery. Acrylics also lift sometimes if not adhered well, and you have to get it redone. Nail glue doesn’t cut it. Speaking from experience.

• The last point I have to mention would be the fact that you have to keep your nails at a comfortable length. Don’t go “Billie Eilish at the Oscars” length because grabbing things becomes difficult, and so does cleaning your bum. And I’m sure you don’t want that.

And now with all that being said, I can’t wait for Friday afternoon to come around so I can go get my nails done. Again. Yay.

This Show Touched My Heart

This Show Touched My Heart

“You’re a wish come true I never knew I was making,” – Marilla, Anne With An E

I’ve watched more Netflix shows than I’d care to admit. At this point, I’ve developed a pounding headache and pink eye and 2020 isn’t looking too sparkly for me. Also, the news isn’t helping. There’s far too much terror in India at this point. Between Christmas and New Year’s, I’d binge-watched Don’t F*ck With Cats, You, Unbelievable and gotten overwhelmed by all the murder and other forms of bloodshed and chanced upon Anne With an E.

I’m not someone that watches a lot of dramas but Anne with an E is based on Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, and it was one of my childhood favorites and Anne Shirley-Cuthbert, with her fiery red hair and her romantic ways, is actually pretty iconic.

The show drew me in. Based in the fictional town of Avonlea, the cinematography is stunning. There’s a bunch of glorious shots of Prince Edward Island.

AmyBeth McNulty, who plays the titular Anne, is perfect. She actually beat almost two thousand other people that auditioned and got the role. Anne with an E follows the story of an orphaned thirteen-year-old, severely bullied and shuffled from home to home, in her quest to belong to someone.

Anne is accidentally sent to the Cuthberts, a pair of elderly siblings called Matthew and Marilla, in place of a farm hand they originally requested for, from the orphanage. Anne meets Matthew at the train station and talks all the way to the Cuthbert residence, the Green Gables. Initially disapproving of Anne, Marilla eventually warms up to her, and she and her brother go ahead and adopt Anne formally. Anne adjusts comfortably, and although often she creates trouble, she does a lot of good too, thanks to her quick-thinking. She also becomes good friends with the neighbors’ older daughter, Diana Barry.

The first season was a tad too slow and flowery for my liking, but if you’ve loved Ms Montgomery as much as I have, you’re probably going to stick to it too. Season two picks up pace that season one lacks and the writers put their own twist to the plot, with Aunt Josephine “Jo”, Diana’s aunt, being revealed as lesbian and Anne’s classmate, artist Cole, as gay. The coming-of-age bits are brilliant and beautifully done. You also witness a lot of focus on the LGBTQ community as a whole, with Jo’s companionship with Geraldine shocking Diana initially till the time she learns to accept it. Gilbert Blythe, another classmate of Anne’s, goes off on a ship and meets Trinidadian Sebastian “Bash” after the death of the former’s father. An unlikely friendship forms and the two boys return to Avonlea.

The new teacher, widowed Ms. Muriel Stacy, who wears pants and forgoes wearing the corset obstinately, much to the chagrin of Rachel Lynde, while also riding her motorcycle, is like a breath of fresh air. Anne realizes that she and Ms Stacy are kindred spirits and I almost whooped when they go to the town hall in season three to protest against the ministers burning down the school and taking away the printing press because Anne dares to post an article about consent and what’s fair, and what isn’t.

While the other girls aim to be good brides and wives to some man, with Ruby cherishing a burning passion for Gilbert, Anne wants to become a bride of adventure.

That is, until she realizes that she’s loved Gilbert since forever and while Ruby finds a new object of adoration in another classmate, Moody, Anne and Gilbert try to communicate with each other via notes. These notes never reach the concerned parties and a lot of confusion ensues, and I almost wanted to shake Gilbert and go, AAAAARRGGGGHHH, when he keeps courting Winnie and doesn’t get anywhere. Season three has to be my favorite. Anne searches for her legacy and finds love and Marilla and Matthew send her off to college and Gilbert comes to meet her before going off to the University of Toronto, and I’ve never sighed so much in my life. That too, as dreamily.

Anne blossoming into a young woman in the last episode, running to meet Gilbert with her fiery red hair flowing behind her, contrasting perfectly with her blue dress and freckles, is the best thing on Netflix right now. Oh, sigh.

Honorable mentions:

• Rachel Lynde, Marilla’s best friend – the character’s transition from the narrow-minded mean woman in the first two seasons to someone who’s all for women’s rights, is brilliant.

• Ka’kwet, a twelve year old belonging to the indigenous people who sell hockey sticks and make baskets – the way she escapes the clutches of the whites trying to “convert savages” by locking children up in schools and forcing them to learn English and rechristening them, had me on the edge of my seat.

• The Cuthberts – I had to talk about them twice. They’re super adorable. Matthew is sweet and Marilla, stern start first. I kind of bawled my eyes out when she yells that she loves Anne in the third season and therefore, wants her to be safe. Talk about tough love mellowing into mushy and selfless love, I love how Marilla makes a detour and takes the ferry with Matthew to retrieve memoirs of Anne’s long dead parents from the first home Anne lived in. WHOOP DE DOOP!

• Aunt Josephine Barry – she’s got to be my favorite. Full of life and new ideas and open-mindedness and the fact that she’s fiercely supportive of Anne, is amazing.

The show focuses on so much, there’s so much you can take from it. The diversity is incredible. The most important thing, I’ve learned, is to give people, and things, chances. Because who knows what you might be pleasantly surprised with, right?

There’s a New Genre of TV Shows and I’m HERE For It

There’s a New Genre of TV Shows and I’m HERE For It

So I binge-watched Dead to Me on Netflix a couple nights back and like the cool kids say: I AM SHOOK. (That’s super weird if you think about it grammatically, but that’s another story for another day.)

This whole genre of TV shows portraying angry women is something that’s been gaining a lot of popularity lately and I’m honestly a fan. Although most of these are advertised to be “dark comedy”, I think I’m sticking with “angry women”, because it makes me feel like we need some female badassery already. I’ve talked about Good Girls and Why Women Kill on the blog before. And I adore both shows. All have a similar vibe – cheating spouses/partners, money, sexual tensions, they’ve got it all.

Also, did I mention – all of these shows have a BRILLIANT cast? Dead to Me, for example, has an ensemble cast of Christina Applegate, Linda Cardellini (who was born on June 25th as well, OMG does this mean I qualify as THE NEXT VELMA DINKLEY?) and James Marsden, who in my opinion, has only gotten hotter. Take a look:

I also love the fact that these shows feature multiple protagonists, and they all come from different age groups and ethnicities. Win. Win. A total win. Jen and Judy, for example, have totally contrasting personalities in Dead to Me. While Jen is a mother of two, who’s investing the recent hit-and-run of her dead husband, and is constantly on edge, Judy is an artist who’s carefree and believes in woo-woo. The banter the two exchange is hilarious and very well-done.

Also, SPOILER ALERT: there’s a brilliant 1966 Mustang that plays a key role in the show. And, Judy’s bangs are on point.

If you’re looking for something to binge watch this weekend, Dead to Me is an excellent pick. That is, if you don’t mind the fact that your Netflix playlist looks like you’re plotting a murder and doing your very own thorough research.

And if you’ve already watched the show, and cannot wait for season two, what was your favorite bit?

Five Habits That Changed My Life

Five Habits That Changed My Life

As you get older, you face a bunch of issues, and I’m definitely no different. First came the busted kneecap. Then came the sudden appearance of astigmatism. The lactose intolerance decided it had a vendetta against me. My neck, my back, oh everything cracked. And chiropractors are expensive, and taking a bunch of pills isn’t ideal. That’s when I decided to actually do something about whatever was happening.

There isn’t much that I’ve been doing, really. Just five things, and I did ask people over on my Instagram (via a poll) if they’d be interested in reading about it, and a lot of people happened to say yes. So here goes, a comprehensive list of five things that I’ve been implementing into my daily routine, which actually have gone on to make my life a whole lot easier:

• Restricting social media activity.

Also known as minding your own business, this is an EXCELLENT way to keep your mental health great. I don’t comment on people’s posts even if they’re triggering me. I simply unfollow, or maybe mute things, and I scroll past.

I don’t post about my personal life on the internet and I don’t compare what I’ve got with what someone else’s got. When there’s no room for jealousy, because you’re nipping it in the bud, it actually helps you thrive.

And boy, am I thriving. * knock on wood *

• Logging in my meals.

I use this app called HealthifyMe, and it gives me a daily calorie budget. Before I reach out to grab that bag of blue Lay’s, a little voice in my head goes: those are just empty hundred and sixty six calories, you don’t need them. And I stop immediately because staying within my calorie budget is a fitness thing I’m very much into, and I refuse to not be able to stick to my goals.

• Body language.

I used to slouch, and I’d have put Quasimodo to shame. No offense to Quasimodo because he was born with it, and I kinda gave myself a slouch situation, but okay.

I don’t do that anymore.

Sometimes I’ll walk around the vicinity or even find a wall to stand against and I ensure that my back is ramrod straight. Gone are those days of back pain and my weird posture that made me look zero confident and unimportant. I still don’t look important (YET) but I’m going to get there. Soon. Body language is very important when you’re trying to hold someone’s attention and to make an impact. Unless you’d rather blend into the wall (“Issa me”), this projects confidence and makes you look like you’re someone who’s worth it.

And don’t we all want to be worth it?

• Staying away from the phone.

I barely use my phone anymore. I don’t text much. I don’t scroll through my explore page. I read an actual book, and no, I don’t feel the need to post about it, and I actually enjoy my time away from the screen.

And there’s this weird peace that comes from being able to keep your phone away. Voluntarily. Try that sometime.

• Clean eating and skincare.

I’ve said goodbye to strict keto.

Most of my food is plant based, and there’s no dairy in my diet. This has kind of led to a reduction in the frequency of my acne breakouts. I don’t juice anymore. If I need to eat a fruit, I actually go eat a whole fruit. Bananas are amazing for you. I did a whole post too. So are oranges in the winter. Full of good stuff.

Also, Vitamin C is something I’ve been using religiously in my skincare now. It protects your skin from pollution and such, and following it up with SPF after has made so much difference to my skin in a short span of time – I’m hooked.

Is there a lifestyle change you’ve made that actually is working wonders for you?

The Problem With Being Me

The Problem With Being Me

It hurts to exist

It hurts to kind of not

There’s no way to fix things

And yet, you can’t let them rot

I post a story

You have stuff to say

Most days you’re concerned, genuinely

But today’s not the day

I’m meant to be happy

To smile and to glow

I’m in love, you see

And it’s supposed to show

The problem with being me

Is that I feel way too much

I want to blend in

I want to vanish at a touch