Living in a city where the sight of rubber dinghies ferrying people across main streets in the monsoon (and not in a romantic, Venice-y way but in a cloudburst-floods-the-roads-and-makes-life-unlivable kind of way), one is not expected to like the rains – at all! In fact, most people spend their entire year planning how they are going to escape the four-month-long Mumbai monsoon.
I, on the other hand love love love love the rains and spend all sunny, shiny non-monsoon days counting down to the dark, grey monsoon days. There is something so magical about the rain – especially as you sit on the edge of the seas, watching the sparkling raindrops fall from the distant skies above onto the sheets of water below. And I love how everything seems so fresh and clean and sparkly – there is quite nothing like the smell of fresh rain on the summer-scorched earth and the sight of stately trees turning green again. As for the jagged flashes of lightning that cut through stormy night skies – neither nature, nor humans have yet to recreate better theatre.
Unfortunately, those blissful days are still a couple of months away and we still need to get through the scorching summer in the meantime. Which I am going to do by drenching myself in a rain-inspired perfume… if I can’t have the storms and the thunder, at least I can envelop myself in a fragrant cocoon that blocks out the heat.
Guerlain Apres l’Ondee
Apres l’Ondee, which is French for “After the Rain Shower”, was born in 1906 during the Belle Époque. Which, maybe explains how such a radiant and graceful composition hides the suggestion of a brooding darkness in its opulent layers. After all, this was the time when joie de vivre and an underlying melancholy walked together – an era when the exquisite Sarah Bernhardt lit up the stage and when Paul Cézanne, the father of Modern Art, passed away after being caught in a rainstorm.
With Apres l’Ondee these two conflicting strains come together with the poignant fragility of violet and iris petals weighed down by rain drops, a dew-laden sprig of hawthorn, the gentle caress of vanilla, a soft, peppery hint of anise and carnation… it’s a perfume filled with hope. The hope that after a rain storm, the world will be swept clean and a thousand dreams will finally come together.
Hermès Un Jardin Après la Mousson
Jean-Claude Ellena, Hermès’ in-house perfumer, drew inspiration from Kerala – one of the most lushly gorgeous regions in India – for Un Jardin Après La Mousson (“Garden After Monsoon”). A delicate, soaring arrangements in cool shades, the sheer, almost-ethereal fragrance opens up on the coolness of cardamom and the crisp fruitiness of watermelon. Then emerge the floral-woody notes of pepper, ginger, ginger flower and vetiver accord, creating an overall impression of a delicately spiced citrus – to visualise, picture a large bowl of sliced watermelons, then add fresh mint, lime juice, freshly powdered cardamom and small slivers of crystallized ginger. Pure bliss!
Kiehl’s Forest Rain
This spicy, woody perfume takes us to a mountain forest covered in rain with its combination of bitter citruses, lily of the valley, vetiver, cypress and musk. It’s cool, breezy, earthy and sensual – just like the ground surrounding a forest of leafy coniferous trees that’s just been washed by the rains after a long summer.
This is one of those nice boutique-y brands that take a bit of hunting to discover but once you do try it out, you will be hooked for life. Thunderstorm is extraordinarily evocative in its ability to call up a rain storm, complete with the sparkling across-the-sky lightning and humidity hanging heavy in the air. Then comes the aromas that surround you after the storm has passed: Wet leaves, water-soaked earth and a sense of rain drying on a hot pavement. Sometimes life is that simple!
What about you? What’s your favourite monsoon memory?