screen-shot-2014-03-29-at-7-27-02-amphoto: creative commons


Monika Ghurde is a Perfumer. Recognized at a young age for her ‘nose’, and, notwithstanding the Moghul remnants of Ittar in Bombay’s Bhendi Bazaar and the by-lanes of Delhi’s old quarter, Monika is possibly the only perfumer in the European tradition in all of India.

photo: William Albert Allard | image processing: Ramesh Sundramurthy

A veritable aesthete and a formidably chic photographer, Monika is also a researcher and educator. As the beautiful ‘le nez’ of her MO LAB studio, her study is on the Jasmine. When she speaks of the white flower’s fragrance, Monika not only conjures, but also is the embodiment of the classic, sexy, hip swaying, sari-draped, kohl-eyed, Indian beauty. Even without her curling ropes of hair wrapped in gajra ropes of Jasmine, her presence is imbued with the essence of the heady, tropical flower long associated with the idea of India.


photo: creative commons


Soft spoken, elegant and quietly reserved in her manners, Monika, like the flower of her cynosure, leaves an unforgettable impression. The strength of an incredibly feminine empowerment emerges in her expertise at her laboratory studio. When speaking to the complex alchemy of oils, extracts and essences, which comprise the layers, notes and olfactory compositions of perfume, Monika is in her most divine, feminine element.

Her research is infused with history, religiosity, psychology, neuro sciences and across a whole, surprising range of interdisciplinary studies that permeate fragrance and its effect on consciousness.

“Nobody knows what the nose knows, despite the fact that for centuries human beings have used fragrant materials to pray, to heal, to make love and war. It has always been a part of our legacy. We recognise that our sense of smell plays an important role in the formation and expression of human consciousness. This is a place of experimentation, exploration and research, where we create for you a rich and diverse range of life-enhancing olfactory journeys.”

Monika was invited to present her research findings at Esxence in Milan during April, to a conference gathering of the finest, global perfume houses. No easy feat for the only Indian perfumer there, and she admits to being nervous while preparing for the presentation – but, lyrical on stage, and resplendent in a Kerala Kasavu, gold-bordered sari, she did not disappoint the rapt audience of discerning, enigmatic les nez.

When asked if we can look forward to a first ever Indian perfume from her studio research anytime soon, she offers an equally enigmatic smile in answer. As the gorgeous Goa monsoons throw up my favorite earthy petrichor, my name is entered on her elusive waiting list.

by Deepti Datt