Suzanne's Perfume Journal

At the Moment, Summery Things: Love Coconut perfume,

a Beach Boy, and a French film with perfume & Charlotte Gainsbourg

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Here there are no sunburnt bathers, no striped umbrellas, or paperback novels. This sea is gray, sweating, polluted, flapping against the rocks and walls of countless reclamations. Lapping against the sodden foundation of apartment blocks, leaking into hutment dwellings, bursting its shores when the rains fall down. It’s the kind of sea that nobody in the city notices, but without it they would lose their anchor in the world. Walkers and joggers in the early morning, the devout with prayer mats in hand, the fishermen dragging in their nets, the trawlers and huge cargo ships bound for the icy waters of northern countries, the squatters shitting on Juhu beach, the dhobis beating their dirty washing on the boulders of Haji Ali.

In London it’s the birds, in Singapore it’s the rain, but in Bombay it’s the sea that wakes you; the curtain-like drawing-in of a wave or the spray of an incoming breeze. Morning and evening and afternoon and night. Even in the darkness of a cinema, watching Rajesh Khanna dancing and singing his way across the stage in Apna Desh, even here in the Citylight theater, there is a sense of water, brackish, dusky, murmuring in the distance.

And in the evening, the sea brings people home. The tired thousands who traverse the city on the Western or the Central line, the overland trains, watching the water come and go below their feet, passing by the cars that creep along the curving causeways of Marine Drive, Mahalaxmi, and Mahim. The overcrowded Leyland buses tearing past queues of waiting commuters. The vacant strollers eating air, the lovers along the beaches, the vendors turning up their gas lamps and primping their snacks. Mountains of puffed rice, yellow sev, purple onions, crisp puris, earthenware matkas full of spiced water. As the light softens, fully clad families amble on the sea front. Men who might roll up their trousers to dip their feet in a wave that obligingly slides their way, pulling the sand from under their toes. Women wrapped in saris, out for a jaunt, not afraid to jump in and wet their heavy clothes. Beggars weaving around the stalls, pleading for a little leftover. Sad camels and their drivers, pony riders, balloon sellers, card-tricksters, sand sculptors, snake-charmers, and bunderwallahs with a mangy monkey in tow. Ice cream sellers and singchannawallahs, carrying their roasting peanuts and gram from a basket around their necks.

The evening sky descends on them all and the tide goes outwithout a fuss.

At the Moment, I'm...

...wearing Love Coconut eau de parfum from the 100% all-natural perfume line Honoré des Prés. Notes include coriander (seeds and leaves), coconut, tonka bean, vanilla, and white cedar. It’s a very pretty, very realistic smelling coconut scent, and maybe because it smells so natural (and not like coconut-scented tanning oil or bath products), I can’t wear it without feeling hungry for Indian food. There is just enough of a hint of cilantro (the leaves of the coriander plant) to the fragrance that I find myself fantasizing about coconut chutney and wanting to dive into a plate of dosas or samosas; however, considering the calories involved, I’ve decided to sate my desire by

...reading passages of Ardashir Vakil’s Beach Boy, his first novel, written in 1997, which I’ve read summer after summer for many years now. A picture of India, or more specifically, Mumbai (Bombay), presented through the appetites and wanderings of the novel’s young protagonist, Cyrus Readymoney—a boy with an insatiable hankering for Bollywood films, food of every delightful sort, and (what every eight-year-old kid is already starting to explore, though parents refuse to believe it) sex. The novel received praise from both Salman Rushdie and John Updike, who called it “a long ode to boyish hunger, and to the rich variety of stuffs that hold it at bay.” When he’s not calculatedly trying to cadge a meal, or a ticket to the theater, from neighbors and friends, Cyrus waxes philosophical, as in this passage about the sea—the Arabian Sea—that formed, and continues to inform, his city:

Honoré des Prés Love Coconut eau de parfum is a 100% natural and organic fragrance composed by perfumer Olivia Giacobetti. In the US, it can be purchased from, $98 for 50-ml.

Excerpt is from the novel Beach Boy, copyright © 1997 by Ardashir Vakil  (Scribner, New York, NY, 1997, pp. 64-65)

Images: film stills of the 2006 film Prête-moi ta main, can be found at various sites on the Internet; photo of Beach Boy novel is from; photo of Honoré des Prés Love Coconut perfume is from 

Reading Beach Boy makes me feel a touch of melancholy, knowing that summer is almost over. I’ve tried to make the most of mine by running (last month I completed my first 10K road race in twenty years!) and swimming, which I actually enjoy even more in the evenings when our community pool has quieted down, twilight turns the sky a deeper shade of blue, and the moon comes out. There is something so romantic about swimming in the moonlight, when the balmy evening air still holds the voices of lingerers but has mostly fallen into a hush, wrapping itself around you like a sarong when you emerge from the water. And speaking of romance, I’ve been

...watching a lot of French films on Netflix, now that they have so many to choose from on instant play. I’m currently on an Audrey Tautou kick, but awhile back, an elegant gentleman who loves fragrance and Charlotte Gainsbourg recommended Prête-moi ta main (or under its re-named English title, I Do: How to Get Married and Stay Single). This one, too, is on instant play and it’s a fun, light-hearted bit of romantic comedy starring Gainsbourg and the charming French actor Alain Chabat in the title roles. Chabat plays a perfumer—that’s right, a “nose!”—named Luis who is single and in his early forties and, you guessed it, not looking to get married. His sisters and mother, who operate as a committee, have decided that it’s time for him to end his bachelorhood, and rather heavy-handedly involve themselves in a finding him a wife. As a way of foiling their plans while appearing to be compliant, he comes up with a scheme in which he hires a woman to play the part of the perfect girlfriend, who, in his family’s eyes, becomes the ideal fiancée—and who, on the day of their wedding (per their arrangement) will leave him stranded at the altar and seemingly scarred for marriage, for life. Of course, when the perfect woman for hire turns out to be Charlotte Gainsbourg’s character, Emma—intelligent, savvy and gorgeous—Luis’s plans go awry in ways you’ll cheer for.

French charm, French romance, a bit of perfume and Charlotte Gainsbourg…who doesn’t like that?

August 10, 2011: