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!

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.

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.

A Month Gone By.

A Month Gone By.

It’s been a month and a couple days since I got married. For starters, I didn’t even imagine that someday I would be able to picture myself as a wife, to be honest. Coupled with a super low self-esteem and a total lack of reality check, never in a million years did I think I would be settling so perfectly into the role of a wife and a new daughter.

A wife. And a new daughter.

Just how crazy does that seem? Also: notice that I didn’t say “daughter-in-law”? That’s how nice my new family is. Just the other day my new pop made me upma – my favorite – he needn’t have, but he did and it was the cutest thing ever. They’ve also graciously let us stay till our house is done completely. My oh my. Let me go knock on wood a few times before I can actually go ahead and make my point.

My point being, marriage is comfortable. I’d heard a million horror stories, and I’d formed this image in my head that I would make a terrible new addition to my husband’s family too. That I would be a burden and a pain and all sorts of hell. But boy, I was wrong. Before I got married, I struggled with a lot of stuff. I struggled with the concept of acceptance and love and what both of these things really mean. But now, a month later, I can honestly tell you that it’s blissful. You’re not just sharing a home with someone, you’re also sharing headspace.

Sure, you have differences of opinions. You have tiffs. You don’t always get along, but then you don’t have to. Marriage means so much more than just photoshoots or Instagram likes or Sabyasachi lehengas or beach-facing mandaps or Pat McGrath eyeshadow – and you don’t need me to tell you this – but it’s much, much more. It’s about growth. About uplifting your spouse. About always remembering that their image is your image and vice versa. About working together to make the marriage work and at the same time, keeping it effortlessly easy.

And you thought Bengali brides look too loud. I personally think I would have easily passed as someone who were doing a gold jewelry store commercial.

This past couple of weeks have shocked me too. I had no idea my husband and I were twin souls to this extent. And that is the most amazing thing, ever. I’ve been given a whole new set of best friends – my new parents and my new brother – and I couldn’t be happier. The transition from being boyfriend and girlfriend to being husband and wife is beautiful and both my new ma and I have managed to cry our eyes out every time we’ve played the wedding and reception videos. Sigh.

So far, so good. There were very cute surprises along the way – a dreamy Gangtok trip, a Goa trip to attend a wedding, and Valentine’s Day felt super special because we both wore kurtas and went to eat at a random place and looked super boho. FUN.

Hello from my lovely mocktail.

It’s been dreamy and I just wanted to come on here and share things, while I get back to my regular blogging schedule. Hope life’s been treating you as good as it’s been treating me.

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.

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?

Three Things You Cannot Be Thanks to the Modern Economy

Three Things You Cannot Be Thanks to the Modern Economy

The economy is changing. Fast. There’s a huge growth in competition and consumerism and it’s hard to keep up at times. As a millennial, struggling with whatever demon you’re currently fighting internally, sometimes you miss your calling. And this becomes a long-standing issue. With social-media influencing becoming a growing career, here are three things you can absolutely not afford to be today.

1. Lazy: You have to hustle. Unless you were someone that would soon inherit millions, you cannot afford to be lazy. Irrespective of your gender, you need to have something that you’re passionate about. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of jealously and you often find yourself wishing what a certain twenty-something-year-old rich influencer had. But wishing alone isn’t going to give you what you’re looking for. And if you do want to be lazy, you’ve to make smart choices. Weigh the pros and the cons before you decide on taking the plunge you’ve been debating about.

This is also why you should wait it out till the right person comes along, before deciding to go ahead and saying, “I do.” Marriage is particularly difficult these days.

Which brings me to point two.

2. A Stay-at-home wife/husband: Back in the day, let’s say even a good decade ago, being a stay-at-home wife (or a husband) wasn’t really a bad thing. You could chill at home and (specially in India) with your domestic help doing most of the work, you would have a lot of time to care for your kids, you could be very hands-on, and have a healthy marriage too.

You probably can’t do that anymore. Almost everyone has a job that overworks and underpays at the same time. Now unless you were married to someone with a very, very high-paying job or maybe a very good business, you really cannot be too dependent on your partner. Plus, if you’re a woman, chances are that some other woman is going to actually shame you for not having your own finances sorted.

And I’ve seen this happening in person. And it gets worse each time.

3. Generous with money: This one is a BIG no-no.

Don’t stay friends – actually it’s a bad idea to even give too many people your phone number – with a bunch of people. A lot of people won’t hesitate to take a screenshot of something you’ve said, and forward it to someone else and start a fight. And fights lead to negativity and stress and eventually, depression. And nobody understands what you’re possibly going through even in 2019.

If you’re someone that gives loans despite being in trouble yourself, you need to stop immediately. Money creates a lot of rift between good friends too. Also, don’t be a spendthrift because you don’t want to be broke at the end of the month.

On that note, hope you’ve had a wonderful and pollution-free Diwali if you’re someone that celebrates. ✌🏼

Dugga Dugga

Dugga Dugga

The festive season felt ominous for some reason. He hadn’t called. And he hadn’t let her know when he’d be home.

She’d been dolled up for hours: she’d had her hair, nails and makeup done, and she’d put on the new saree he’d got her for Pujo. But he was supposed to be home a few hours back and he wasn’t. And she couldn’t get through to him on the phone either. It kept saying that his number was unavailable.

An expert at overthinking, she’d paced ten times around the room and scolded herself for not having said the customary Dugga Dugga when he left. Bengalis do that a lot and it had been their thing too, and she was scared something must have happened to him because she’d forgotten to say it. But she hadn’t called either set of parents yet because she knew they’d worry. And they were all super old. At the same time she’d contemplated asking her father-in-law how much time it took to buy a few haadis of roshogolla and some boxes of sondesh in Kolkata on a Saptami evening, but that would have given the whole thing away and they’d have asked questions about their son anyway.

She was about to give up, when the doorbell rang, revealing a very haggard man in a now-wrinkled set of panjabi-pajama, who was panting and out of breath.

He looked annoyed and exhausted and sweaty as heck but she smiled and smothered him with kisses and hugs.

“Ah, Anu, never send me to buy mishti for baba-ma on any day of the pujo. My phone died, and the shop was crowded and I had to wait in line. Now let me go shower.”

“Cubic Zirconia”

“Cubic Zirconia”

“Look, I just got engaged”, Mel said, showing off her enormous diamond ring. “This is a five carat diamond, babe! I mean, have you seen me? I’m a solid ten. And have you seen my dear fiancé? Oh my God, fiancé. Kinda weird saying it out loud but I mean I’m WAY out of his league, so the bald old dude has to keep me happy, right?”

Taken aback by shock at Mel’s choice of words for her new fiancé, Sylvia did her best to act happy. She smiled at Mel and raised her glass to her.

“I’m so happy for you Mel,” she said quietly, feeling miserable that she didn’t even get a real ring from her fiancé. That cubic zirconia sat on her finger, almost reprimanding her. Sylvia could hear her mother’s voice telling her, from somewhere far away, “I told you not to marry Tom, you could have found someone so much nicer, let’s see how he takes care of your stupid high-maintenance butt.” She pictured her mother, fresh from a Botox session, saying no vehemently to meeting Tom for the last time. And that had been the final straw. Both women were headstrong but Sylvia was also obstinate to the point of no return. Or at least she had been.

Her mother had married young and had Sylvia at twenty one. They had been wealthy. And she grew up spoiled and then, fell in love. That was three years ago. She’d married against her family’s wishes and her parents had cut her off. She and Tom lived in a tiny shoebox apartment, barley managing to make ends meet. She worked as a teacher and Tom, a struggling entrepreneur. They didn’t have much; but Tom was an amazing husband and they loved each other. As she remembered their very, very tiny court wedding, she felt a warm glow in her heart and realized that her mother had been wrong and that Tom was indeed, the best she could ever get.

Her phone buzzed loudly; and she snapped out of her reverie and she saw a message from Tom:

“Home early, I’m going to pop into the shower and order takeout. You’re going to take ages to choose so I’ll just order my favorites. BUT you are my favorite and I want you to know that. How long are you going to be out with Mel? I miss you!”

Tom had been away the whole week, meeting a few investors and trying to pitch his ideas, but with zero success. And he didn’t want to be upset about it, because Sylvia was a compulsive over-thinker and would stay up late if she found out that he was feeling low.

Sylvia smiled at the phone and replied to Tom’s text, saying she’d missed him too and that she’d be home just in time for dinner.

Sometimes you don’t need a five-carat diamond, you only need a five-dollar takeaway meal, and love. Pure, unadulterated, beautiful, love.