Living the duty free life……..

I usually carry at least 2 books with me when I travel (in case I don’t like one enough or I finish it too fast) and more often than not I buy one at the airport too. On this occasion somehow I took along only one book, didn’t find anything good to buy and– horror of horrors—the book was really over and there was still an entire hour left to fly. It was a 3 hour flight so there was no TV screen.

I proceeded to read all the safety instructions (reached down and checked if the life jacket was indeed under my seat, tried to glance over at the passengers sitting in the emergency row and deduce if I could indeed trust them to do the right thing in an emergency) and then finished the in –flight magazine too. Finally, flipped through the duty free magazine and out of sheer boredom I read the detailed description of the first perfume.


Born of the subtle alliance of the captivating rose flower and precious gold. A spell binding aura of rose and white musk signed by master perfumer Alberto Morillas, a unique olfactory creation generously set with natural ingredients of which the crown jewel is the rose.  

Consecration of white Musk and infused with rose from its olfactive signature to the blushing gold of its bottle, ROSE GOLDEA wholly expressed the seductiveness and fascination of queen Cleopatra, the magnificent muse of the jewellers perfumer.

A bath of sensual white musk , precious damask rose absolute and jasmine from Egypt and the seductiveness and refinement of white incense encased in delicately scented sandalwood. Rose GOLDEA is an adornment of female beauty that exalts the senses and anchors itself in memory.  

Huh?? Is this where political speech writers go when they retire?? What in heavens name was that spiel?! Was it a stream of consciousness excerpt?? Or an experiment on the effect of some kind of mind bending drug on Broca’s brain ?

The bottle costs 70 USD. Since the bottle is probably made in Gaziabad and the factory workers paid less than minimum wages at the bottling factory, that’s a clear 10- fold profit at least. And after all that, the combination of sandalwood, rose, jasmine and musk probably smells like any hardworking Indian woman perspiring after her walk back from the office or the temple.

Bvlgari man in black is a daringly charismatic fragrance expressing a new statement of masculinity. Dedicated to men of tremendous seductiveness.

(What?? Who are these men?? Importantly–where are they ??)

The addictive fragrance opens with luminous and vibrant spicy top notes, evolves into a magnetic floral heart, enriched by the virile intensity of black amber.

This sounds just two steps away from saying– kill that tiger for its testicles and grind them up in your tea to enlarge your penis or make you irresistible or whatever it is supposed to do.



Isn’t it a bit insane that perfume ads are so invested in seductiveness given that those who are on the flights and can afford them are usually overweight tired men with bags under their eyes and severe halitosis or women who are already pouring thousands into the beauty industry with facelifts and lasering and gold masks and under-eye serums and whatnot….( ok ok sweeping generalizations much but you know what I mean. Not to forget the fact that women need to keep up appearances of youthfulness and beauty more than the men do and consuming luxury brands is part of the vicious web of capitalism and exploitation and the sexism and the objectification and ( altogether now) the patriarchy in the pear tree…. )


Men’s perfumes are “strong as darkest rock”.

What does that even mean?? Like Amitabh in kaala pathhar??

Prada candy florals for women on the other hand is in pale pink and powdery white colours. Apparently it evolved from the concept of an imaginary flower created for Candy. The fragrances light airiness puts the sparkle in her, followed by tender powdery notes that echo her spring like grace. A final whisper of warmth and honey reflected Candy’s rich sensuality.

Excuse me, but who is Candy?? Does she live in Bandra? You know what? Never mind! Even Star Wars has strong female characters now and I doubt any of them want to smell like ‘Candy’ while waging war against the Sith or whoever it is that had them all obliterating each other’s fleets. (On another note–Why don’t people just watch Star Trek and Doctor Who instead of Star Wars?)


Paco Rabane renewed with humour the myth of the seducer and embodies it in 1 million. The perfect contrast between a fresh and sparkling note, spicy blossom heart and a sensual leather base

What in heavens name does any of this mean??


Caroline Herrera Good Girl priced at 50 ml for 67 USD says “a weapon of seduction for the women who wears it. Reveal your good side through the luminous facet of tuberose and the best quality if jasmine. Dare your bad side through addictive notes of roasted Tonka beans and cocoa.”

This sounds like a stroll through Matunga market at the corner where they sell jasmine gajras and ‘Kapi’. For 67 USD (~ 4690₹) I can get enough gajras and coffee smell every day for years.  What men actually like is probably more like this—

'Drive 'em wild with the sweet scent of net profits exceeding forecasts due to higher gross margins and cost-cutting.'

Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male (only 125 ml —looks like size doesn’t matter any more haha) says “… virile as it is sexy, it offers a non- conformist view of masculinity. The power and freshness of mint, lavendar evoking the familiar comforting scent of shaving soap, is transformed by the sensuality of vanilla.”

It is like someone saying chal yaar, Hamam sabun mein thoda pudina daal ke bechate hein. For 66 USD.


In reality the actual liquid concentrate, which includes a mixture of distilled water, alcohol and flavorants, is the least valuable part of that bottle of celebrity perfume.

In fact for those who have more money than sense, there is a new trending perfume in the market which smells of —nothingSeriously. Like nude make up which is applied to make it look as though you are not wearing any make up. (Don’t look at me, its what millenials do. You cant make up this stuff , haha)

But I digress and here we have , far and away, the best description::

Paco Rabanne Invictus 100 ml. Inhale the scent of victory with Invictus, the masculine perfume. This sensually fresh scent sets a modern vision of virility in an unexpected clash of world, powers, sensations and values; a thrill of pure freshness top notes face to the sensuality of a wood base note.

So values and power smell like wood? Like when the carpenter has just finished some repair work at home? Or is it a double meaning for wood? Or is this an encrypted code for some global drug smuggling ring or Interpol or something?

My brain is starting to hurt now so I turned to the pages extolling the virtues of insanely expensive watches, with their capacity to tell time at 1 meter below the sea level. Honestly, if you are that deep down then I think barometric emergencies are more likely to be a priority than chronological ones.

They also tell time accurately to within 0.1 second apparently. So that when you flights gets delayed by an entire hour you can be smug in the knowledge that only you know how many more tenths of seconds beyond schedule it really is.

Other pages were selling an eclectic mix of lifestyle must-haves like the ubiquitous universal adaptors (if only!), nose hair trimmers, slim power banks, designer earrings, airplane shaped brooches and such like.

Just then the flight hits turbulence and many people gasp. My neighbour grips his seat with white knuckles and starts mumbling some prayers.

Ah, well, the first class, the business class and all their duty free life is just as transient as our own in the squashed distress of economy.

None of our possessions can define the value of this fragile and one-time-only offer of life.

Duty may be free but life is invaluable….


9 thoughts on “Living the duty free life……..

  1. Too good….. If all those vacuous words are filled in a bag, it can be used to float on the deep sea in which you’re advised to fall ( in National Geographic Instagram),….

  2. 👆i. e. If you are too distressed to read on and decide to jump out… (I had read in one of the national geography travel Instagram a cautionary note about jumping in a water body being better if one had to evacuate,..!!)

    • Glad you liked it 🙂 You cant imagine how exasperated I was while actually reading it and trying to take notes while my fellow passenger kept wondering what I could possibly be doing that for 😛

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