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 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.

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?

Humbled.

Humbled.

Took the time out today

To look back on my life

To reach out to people and say

I’ve missed them all this time

Been a while

Since we ventured out

Since we exchanged smiles

With the people next door

Is this how I’m meant to go

And if yes,

Why wasn’t I told before?

I’d have made changes then

But I guess it’s now too late

To fix someone’s mistake-on-purpose

That messed up our fate

We can only debate

We can only watch, and wait

With sanitizers and bated breath

As the numbers elevate

With no hope on the horizon yet

On the upside though

You can see the earth heal herself

Despite having a long way to go

Some things are falling into place

The skies are bluer, yes

The grass, legitimately revived

The wind feels like a caress

All of this has got me thinking

What if we’re the parasite

The human race, as a whole?

And this virus, Earth’s antibody armed to fight

This extortion we’ve imposed on her?

It’s all about perspective, really

So maybe if we go, we go for good

There’s more to life than likes, silly

So live the lockdown like you should

Social distancing has humbled me

Made me so grateful for all I’ve got

Love, light and happiness is all I need

So I’m going to live life with gratitude.

Unchained Emotions

Unchained Emotions

Don’t post this, don’t say that

Pretend you’re something you’re not

Act cold, act happy when you’re sad

Act excited even when you rot

Don’t be yourself, they said

Be someone else completely

Someone not so messed in the head

I say ok, and I nod my head weakly

Haven’t been happy in months now

But I can’t talk about it

It has to be hidden away somehow

So no one knows about it

Made to feel like a dirty secret

Almost like it were wrong to be me

Like I’m supposed to have no identity

And I’m supposed to be unseen

Alone and secluded for weeks

Abandoned, and forgotten almost

No one asks if you ate or if you’ve healed

I’m struggling to barely stay afloat

This isn’t a cakewalk

Not like I thought it would be

There’s no champion, and no rock

No one seems to let my headspace be

Either you’ve to post grad

Or make progeny

There’s just this or that, really

With no options in between

Sometimes I wonder would things

Have been different if I’d switched rooms

I lie awake and the doorbell rings

Bringing in yet another day of doom.

More Reflections Via A Block Of Text.

More Reflections Via A Block Of Text.

It’s been weeks since I’ve actually sat down to write something. Writer’s block is painfully real, you guys.

This would actually be the last month that I get to stay here, at home, before I relocate for good. Home? Wait, what? What even is that? Where even is home? I remember being in med school and feeling more alive than I’d ever felt back when I was living with family. I came from privilege – but with privilege, specially in families like mine, comes a total absence of affection and acceptance. To be elitists was all they strived to be. 

I grew up feeling unwanted and unloved. Feeling. I cannot emphasize on that enough.

My family doesn’t do hugs or cuddles or the occasional pats on the back. None of that. You get harsh critique, judgmental behavior and you get body-shamed right from the start. I remember aunts saying I had a flat head and a monkey face with frog eyes and that I wouldn’t find someone to love. This frog-eye bit is getting too old but they won’t stop. A certain cousin was instrumental in making sure I chose the science stream after the tenth boards. Nobody asked what I wanted – they made every choice for me. Given a chance, I would have taken up humanities and gone on to pursue English lit in college. I’d have actually been someone. Done some good. I’m not complaining, just talking about things I honestly regret. Yes, there’s nothing I can do about it, but I wanted to get it off my chest. I don’t have an outlet, really. My blog is public and I’ve to post safe because I can’t hurt people’s sentiments. Right?

I don’t know when clinical depression seeped into my pores but I remember being fourteen and waking up one morning actually feeling like a loser. So I took a look in the mirror and shut down. I withdrew. Emotionally. So bad, that I never actually let people in again. The walls went up. Sure, I made friends online but I’ve since avoided people in real life. This is also why I haven’t stayed in touch with quite a few people from my family and even a lot of my friends. Also one of the reasons why most of my friends are going to be absent from the civil wedding next month. People feel happy when there’s a wedding in the family. Not my family. Everyone is on edge and testy and snappy and they cannot wait to see me leave, like I’m this cumbersome abscess that needs draining.

This scares me, you know? Marriage. Kids. New beginnings. I’ve grown up around so much negativity I’ve ended up having far too much absorbed by my system. What if I make a terrible Mum? What if they hate me? What if, what if and what if. Too many ifs and too many buts and too much stress. Dude, I’m losing hair on my head. You can see my scalp now. Shiny and gross.

I have to stop worrying. People who grow up in unhappy environments sometimes try and spread happiness to their new families, because they don’t want history repeating, right? Please, God, just please.

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?

Frankennovel.

Frankennovel.

She’d gone missing one Sunday morning. Her husband had woken up to find an empty kitchen, and he’d thrown a fit and called her name, angrily, a bunch of times.

She didn’t show. Neither did she make the coffee that morning.

The husband called her cellphone and it rang shrilly, indicating it was somewhere around the house. He looked around and found it lying on the couch. And there was no sign of her.

He knew nothing about his wife. They’d been dating for two years and had only gotten married six months ago, but he knew nothing about her. He knew nothing about what she liked, or what her favorite color was, or what perfume she wore. He’d never made the effort to get to know her, really. To him, she was a waste of space, a spineless creature who only lived off his money, who did nothing constructive. But she also came from money herself, which was precisely why he’d married her in the first place, despite having fallen out of love with her months ago.

He made himself some coffee and started walking around the house. The silence was nice. Padded. Comforting. It felt so much nicer than having her yell at him constantly.

I hope she stays missing, he thought, sitting down on the couch. Something poked him in the side. It was a hard-bound leather notebook. He opened it and realized that it actually had stuff written on the inside in his wife’s handwriting. She seemed to have been penning down a story. Intrigued, he started reading. It was the story of an unhappy marriage between a corporate guy and a housewife who seemed to have a habit of cutting herself.

He winced at the gory descriptions of the woman cutting herself open and sewing herself back together. Every time the man made her feel small and insignificant, she cut herself deeper.

The story ended rather abruptly with the woman and the man in a verbal tussle. The woman seemed to be hiding something behind her back…

He was shocked when a woman – the same woman in the story – rose out of the pages of the notebook and stabbed him multiple times. The last thing he saw was the woman stepping back into the pages of the notebook and closing it behind her.