The memory of a place: Etat Libre D’Orange Rien

When I lived in Bangalore, I lived in an area called Malleswaram. One of the oldest parts of Bangalore, it still retains an old world charm. It has been, maybe, twelve years since I’ve actually lived there, but I can still see the vegetable market with the vendors lining either side of a tented area. If I try harder, I can even hear their voices loudly proclaiming the price of 1 kg of beans, carrots, drumsticks. I remember being able to see the flower market from the bus stand on the way home. And if I really peer hard, I can still see the juicy, thick strands of pink roses hanging in front of the stalls.

I walk out of a temple, holding a few jasmine flowers and sucking on orange-colored sugar crystals (kalkand). It has just rained, I can smell the damp earth. And water drips on my forehead from one of the overhanging leafy branches. I am now walking down a road in Malleswaram holding my grandfather’s hand; I carefully step on to the footpath. I can smell a mixture of filter coffee and hot vadas from the neighboring darshini. A couple of buses amble past me. I finally stop by a small shop that sells wooden objects; jewel boxes, pencil holders, wall hangings. I bend a little and walk in. There is a black dusty leather sofa in the corner of the shop. I can smell the sandalwood incense that has been lit near a picture of Lord Ganesha; kumkum, turmeric and vibhudi smeared on his forehead. The owner greets me, vibhudi smeared on his forehead too. I take a deep breath, slowly turn towards the door and sigh happily. And then I realize, I am smelling Rien.

Etat Libre d’Orage Rien is one of the most evocative perfumes I’ve smelt in recent times. It smells exactly like that tiny store and other stores (that sell wooden things) in Malleswaram. With the dusty dry leather and smoky incense, it also faithfully transports me there every time I wear it. So, I ask you, who needs a time machine?

Disclosure : sample provided by luckyscent 

Image Credit :


  1. Wow, that’s a beautiful scene from India! I love when perfume takes me to a place from the past. Well, provided it’s a place I like to revisit, of course. Rien is a powerful scent, we’re not 100% friends yet but it’s good knowing it’s out there, somehow…

  2. Tara

    Thank you so much for this wonderfully evocative post Lavanya. My mother is from Bangalore and I have never been so I must at the least, seek out Rien. I’m glad you found a scent that can take you back to this special place and time.

    • How cool that your mom is also from Bangalore! Rien smells very smoky incense-y to me and because of that it also smells like the insides of some temples. Victoria of Bois de Jasmin said it evoked the inside of sari shops for her. Here’s a link to her lovely review :

      Caron’s Narcisse Noir also reminded me of vibudhi/holy ash when I first smelled it, so I can imagine Rien and NN share common notes. Do let me know how you like Rien, when you get a chance to sniff it..

      • Tara

        Thanks for the tip about Victori’s review and Narcisse Noir Lavanya, that’s one I’ve been meaning to try for ages anyway so you’ve given me the push. BTW loved that you mentioned “drumsticks” in your post, made me smile.

  3. Pingback: My Favorite Fragrant discoveries of 2011 « Pieces of paper, squiggly lines

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