Culture: 376 posts

Art, travel, books, history

How to Save The Kashmiri Shawl

“On 5 August last year, I was finalising the itinerary for my upcoming trip to Kashmir. The same day, the Indian government revoked its special (limited) autonomous status, which the Muslim-majority state had held since joining the Union in 1947. The government then imposed a security lockdown, cut communication lines and restricted travel. I’m neither a reckless risk taker nor an irrepressible optimist, but I didn’t cancel my trip. I knew it was foolish to hope that the situation in the Kashmir Valley – a place whose borderland status between India and Pakistan has seen it become a violent battleground over the decades – would stabilise in time for my journey a mere month away, but I was obsessed. The reason? A piece of fabric so weightless and yet so warm that it seems to defy all laws of science. I wanted to meet the artisans and learn how real Kashmiri shawls were made. The escalating conflict only increased my resolve for a glimpse of this rare art that is under threat of vanishing.”

The article “How To Save the Kashmiri Shawl,” which appeared in last week’s issue of Financial Times magazine, is the result of my journey to India. I was determined to use whatever means I could to talk to the artisans and to understand why this craft is so meaningful to them. As I’ve learned, weaving has a venerated status in Kashmir. As a crossroads, Kashmir developed its culture through interactions with other people and traditions, and the Kashmiri shawl is the perfect example of this intricate synthesis.

Continue reading →

Mir Taqi Mir’s Jasmine Pilaf

While reading the memoirs of Mir Taqi Mir, a great Indian poet who lived in 18th century Delhi, I came across a charming anecdote about a jasmine pilaf. Once you read it, you’ll know right away why the description captured my attention.

“They used to prepare a fine jasmine pilaf at the house of A’zam Khan Sr. They would put jasmine flowers in some oil and let it sit for a few days so it would absorb the fragrance. Then they would use the oil to cook the rice, which gave it a fine aroma. Burhan-ul-Mulk heard its praise and made a request to A’zam Khan Sr., who then had some prepared and sent over in several big platters. Burhan-ul-Mulk ate it with relish, then remarked in a jocular vein, “It’s not a platter of pilaf; it’s the blessesd grave of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya.” The remark was greatly enjoyed, for people in fact used to bring jasmine flowers in great quantities to cover that revered person’s grave. It would then look like a heap of flowers, and their fragrance would transport passersby even at some distance.”

Continue reading →

Cultivating Creativity : Perfumer Dora Baghriche & Victoria Frolova IGTV

Firmenich Senior Perfumer Dora Baghriche and I recently met on @FirmenichFine’s IGTV on Instagram to talk about cultivating creativity in today’s world, from our own perspectives. Many of you already know Dora through her beautiful creations, but what you may not know is that before becoming a perfumer she studied journalism. So, we have a lot in common.

Here is the recording of our conversation. Many of my IG viewers enjoyed it and requested the full version, so here it is. (You can also watch it on IGTV here.)

In the course of our conversation, Dora recommended a documentary called The Possibilities are Endless about a lyricist Edwyn Collins who suffered a stroke that deleted the contents of his mind. The documentary is about his recovery and journey. Among the things that inspire me, I mentioned a book by Ismail Kadaré, The Chronicle in Stone as well as a poem by Boris Pasternak, Let’s Drop Words.

Continue reading →

Celebrating Spring and a New Century

Happy Nowruz! نوروز مبارک ! Nowruz, the Persian New Year, is celebrated on the spring equinox, which March 20 this year. It will also mark the start of a new century according to the Persian calendar. 21 March 2021 will be the first day of 1400. I wish all of you health, happiness and joy. May it be the start of a beautiful new year.

And to start the new century on a positive note. Yesterday I met on Instagram Live with Firmenich perfumer Dora Baghriche–whom many of you know through her beautiful perfumes, and we talked about cultivating creativity in today’s world. We discussed our difficulties with facing uncertainty over the past year, ways of coping creatively and emotionally, and why perfume retains its power. We also shared our favorite books, documentaries and poems. Dora’s energy and passion were palpable. The Live was hosted on @firmenichfine and they will provide a video, so that I can share with all of you. In the meantime, you can go to firmenichfine IGTV and see the recording there. I hope that you’ll enjoy our candid, warm discussion.

The image above is of haft seen, a special spread of symbolic items that have deep significance on Nowruz.  I’ve already written about the tradition of haft seen before, so please check my article.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

5 Books about Dance and Resilience

Dance, like all arts, is about making a connection with others. I was thinking lately about Gelsey Kirkland, a dancer with whom I was fortunate to study when she gave her much beloved classes at Steps in NYC. Kirkland was one of George Balanchine’s star dancers and an American ballerina with a striking style. I will never forget how she told us that when dancing, we should remember that we are holding our beating hearts in our hands. That image solved the problem of dropping the wrist even during the most complicated movements, but it stayed with me even when I changed into street clothes and put my pointe shoes away.

These days I also think about Kirkland’s comment often, whether I dance or write. Making a connection with others is much more difficult in this time of Zoom and social distancing, but being genuine and honest and not being afraid of being vulnerable towards others is still important. My ballet training has influenced my attitude to life and shaped my personality. I admit that not all  such influences have been entirely positive–the relentless push for perfection comes with a price, ballet taught me what resilience means. Reading about other dancers and dance has always inspired me, and I would like to share my list of favorite books with you.

Continue reading →

From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Old Herbaceous in What Makes A Perfume Great: What a clear explanation of this technique! I especially appreciate the analogy to Balanchine’s choreography. September 17, 2021 at 10:02pm

  • Nancy Chan in Corsican Eucalyptus and the Scent of the Maquis: Hi Cornelia, Oh do try these soaps. The Imortelle (uplifting range) soap was on my next shopping list, but Diptyque’s Tam Dao soap beat it to the front of the… September 17, 2021 at 5:19pm

  • Cornelia Blimber in What Makes A Perfume Great: I love your descriptions of these iconic perfumes. I smelled all of them; Vent Vert was one of my first perfumes. No 22, Cuir de Russie, Bois des Iles, and… September 17, 2021 at 4:38pm

  • Fazal in What Makes A Perfume Great: I love vintage Vent Vert. Since this article focuses on Roudnitska, too, I would take the liberty to ask if you have ever come across a properly preserved vintage Eau… September 17, 2021 at 10:24am

Latest Tweets

Design by cre8d
© Copyright 2005-2021 Bois de Jasmin. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy