Friday, December 17, 2004

Have to go and see the advisor in an hour's time. Was researching on the net for an effective sunblock. I grew up in India, where fair skin remains an obsession for many women. Was so disgusted by the fair skin worship that I actually tried my damndest best to tan my skin several shades darker. Which means I eschewed any kind of sunscreen when I was in Delhi. Later in LA as well, I would be the only one on the beach without a bottle of sunscreen and would proudly state that my melanin would take care of all the sun protection I need. When I went to Greece, I refused to put on sunscreen and was tanned a dark chocolate brown. The look on my Ma's face when I went to Delhi afterwards was priceless.

But then, Suzy, my source for all cosmetic and health info, sat me down and gave me the skin cancer talk. She told me of the very real risk we run when we go out in the California sun, with its ozone hole and frightening UV ray index scores. I was suitably chastened and ran to the store to get the first sunscreen I could lay hands on, and then proceeded to lecture everyone else about the importance of a good sunscreen. I soon found out that my sunscreen was not worth much, and since have been looking for a good sunscreen. I think I might have found it in La Roche Posay, problem being they don't sell in the US which means I'll have to order online. I guess this is the only cosmetic product for which I'm willing to pay good money.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Attar of Persia

Yipee! Another batch of perfume samples yesterday. So far the standouts are Douce Amere by Serge Lutens and Jasmal by Creed. There is something very strange and yet pleasingly familiar about Douce. It smells like attar, vanilla, burnt sugar, frangipani all at once. Remarkable. But the dry-down had a slight quease inducing quality to it. Will apply again to see if this recurs. Jasmal is just a wonderful, vibrant jasmine. Just the kind that blooms in my mother's little balcony garden.

Yesterday I was sending out emails to the Yalda party being thrown by N and I. And I realised once more what an unabashed Persophile I am. My fascination with Iran began when I started learning Urdu and read of the raptures of Ghalib for the Persian language. How he thought his Urdu Dewan was never good enough, and held his Persian poetry in higher esteem. Strangely, Ghalib is virtually unknown in the Persian-speaking world, and in South Asia..well, he is iconic in Urdu poetry. And then I read about Iran. About the Safavids, Qajars, Reza Shah, his son, and then the Islamic Revolution. Gosh, this year is the 25th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. An entire generation grew up to adulthood in the Islamic Republic. Wonder how long they'll have to wait......The hope of change runs deep in me, don't know what fuels this optimism, probably the fact that I've had so many Iranian friends here, all young, intelligent, dynamic. Probably this is the generation to reform, after the baton has passed on to them.
But I digress. I was talking about how much I love Persian aesthetics, the fragility, the sophistication of it. The fine artefacts, carpets, attar, pottery . The food, so appealing and subtle. The literary and poetic traditions. Music. Architecture. And most of all, the refinement of day-to-day exchange, that elusive quality called tehzeeb. I am always amazed anew when I encounter the politeness of Iranians, their civility. Which is not to say that they are incapable of terrible wrongs, the last 25 years are ample proof of attempted collective harakiri. But I have faith that a nation so civilized cannot fool itself much longer. Check out this website for a little bit of Iran savoured in the hearts of the Iranian diaspora -

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

In days yonder, which means around 3 years ago, I was very eagerly exploring the dating scene. I had been in the US for about little less than a year, had been dating sporadically but with not much success and was feeling a bit constrained for choices. My brief relationship just before leaving India was not substantial enough to warrant a long distance relationship. I was very fond of Saad, but he had been a bit of a jerk occasionally and used to get sentimentality attacks and pangs of remembrance for his ex-girlfriend at the oddest of times (think after we've made love). So I was single and looking, and yet felt peculiarly constrained. I was in a new country and did not understand much of it. All the cultural references, at least the pop culture ones completely eluded me, since my childhood and adolescence had been mostly Hollywood and American tv-free. So I decided the safest route is to stick to Indian men. This didn't work. Most of the Indian men I encountered were engineers and unidimensional. Which is not to say that all engineers are unidimensional, but the ones I met were.

In the meanwhile, I had been acquainted with a Spanish Fulbrighter who was in LA for a year to study film. He was interesting and funny, and a bit cute (though my friend who looked at his picture later said he looked like a bear). But I wasn't thinking of going out with him, and he didn't indicate anything either. And then, in the summer when he finished with his coursework and had some time we went out for coffee. It was a lot of fun and we decided to meet up for a movie. After the movie he invited me over to his apartment for coffee. It was a small apartment in Hollywood, and I remember that the building had a lovely art deco style fire escape. Nice, if ever the need arises to escape, do it in style. So we sat drinking coffee and at some moment he held my face in his hands and kissed me. After we had sex, for some strange reason I didn't want to stay over. I wanted to be dropped back home. I think I figured out later that deep down I didn't want him to see me in my ghastly underwear (pre-Victoria's Secret days). At night, I had insisted that lights should be off. Of course he never called me up. I, the silly being that I am actually called him up twice thinking it could be just the same as before and we could go back to the same asexual vibe. That's precisely why I didn't see such textbook seduction techniques coming (my friends had a laugh about it later, yeah right "just a cup of coffee").

But that apart, I think I really enjoyed my one night stand. I think at that point all I was looking for was some physical intimacy, and I was trying to garb it up with pretty sentiments. It was good to come clean. What it also peculiarly did was get over my hangup about only dating Indian men. And then several men, several dates, and another one night stand later, I met my S. But that's another story.
Great. Received a new consignment of perfume samples from lusciouscargo and have tried out about four of them. The one that seemed quite striking was Philosykos. Supposedly, it is supposed to evoke the fig-scented summers on Greek islands. The fragrance most certainly does not smell of figs. At least not like any fig I've ever smelt. But it smells like freshly cut grass, and not your average lawn grass, but wild grass with a dozen wild greens growing amidst it. I loved the smell.

Been wasting a lot of my time on the most absurd pursuit ever. To be aware of the lunacy of something and to persist in it, is this about avoiding something else (like dissertation work, for example) or just utter fascination for a certain quest. Let me explain. I am trying to dig information about my boyfriend's ex. I know other women do it (a few certainly), but I am supposed to be the enlightened one. The one who does not walk down the shallow path of snooping around for info and possible dirt on an ex that the boyfriend seems to be rather fond of. Still. He can't possibly have her though. She's married, and lives in another country altogether (not the one the boyfriend comes from, otherwise his long visits home would be quite contentious). But all his talk of her over the past two and a half years have left me with morbid curiosity. That's just how I am, denial of first hand encounter with someone really piques my desire to know of the person. I did manage to track her phone number down and spoke to her twice, but now I cannot seem to get a hold of her. It really isn't so easy, she lives in a country where comprehension of English is poor, I've had to master a few sentences in the languages just to get across on the phone. So now I'm trying to track down her friends in hope I'll get some information about her, and also be able to get through to her eventually.

Whatever my motives are, and I cannot say that even I fully understand them, I think my quest has yielded me with some great insight into Indonesia, where this woman happens to live. I've picked up so much trivia about the country that I manage to shock bona fide citizens of Indonesia into thinking that I'm some kind of an area studies expert. But the original premise aside, it has been quite fascinating knowing about Indonesia, especially about the Indian influence on its languages (specifically Bahasa Indonesia), art forms, literature, architecture, etc. I find the cheesiness of Indonesian pop culture amusing and find parallels with Indian pop culture. I genuinely wish to travel to Indonesia (independent of any desire to see my boyfriend's ex) and explore the place. Now if that isn't serendipity, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Ishq aur Mushq (Love and Musk)

It's been such a long time!! Let's see, what happened in the meanwhile? Nothing much, except my existence is edging towards more indolence. Need to take care of that. Discipline's never been a friend of mine, but I guess now I need to reach out. Otherwise, I'd never get anything done. Maybe I should be disciplined in writing the blog as well. An entry every few days. These days, I'm obsessed with perfumes. Yes, I know it is kind of indulgent, but I guess I've always had an affection for them. In India, one of my favourite things to do was go off to Gulab Singh Johri Mal in Chandni Chowk and douse myself with the fragrances. And then of course, I'd sniff myself and never be able to figure out what fragrance came from which glass bottle. But Gulab Singh mostly sells perfume oils, so I guess the blending on my skin produced a new perfume every time!!! My absolute favourite was (and is) Attar Gil (Mitti) which uncannily manages to capture the smell of damp earth, the kind of smell that appears after the first showers of monsoon.

When I first moved to the US, I carried some of my beloved perfume oils with me, but I soon ran out of them. And then, the only option seemed to be to go to a mall and pick up a generic smelling mall fragrance. Which I did proceed to do and purchased a giant bottle of j'adore, which lasted and lasted till I gave it away to my mother. And was so busy that trip that I forgot to stock up on perfume oils. Back in the US, back to another department store fragrance, this time, Poeme. And then, about a month ago I discovered
I discovered an entire world of perfumes out there, made by small specialized perfumeries, that I hadn't known of before. I discovered Serge Lutens. And Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier. And many more obscure names that I would have never known of. This is when I fell into sample mania, ordered a bunch and haven't stopped sniffing myself since.

I know it is all frivolous at one level, but to me there is no difference between perfume appreciation and wine appreciation, with both devoting considerable attention to minutae. Somehow wine appreciation seems to be taken more seriously and held in higher regard, and I have a feeling that this might be a gendered assessment. But anyway, I love wine as much as I love perfume, and as much as I love savouring Kettle chips to the last flavour bite (got to stop the last one if I want to keep my pounds in check). They are all different fascinating aesthetic experiences.