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Vetiver Oil, New Delhi


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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Vetiver Oil, New Delhi

My favorite purchase in New Delhi was this small bottle of vetiver oil.

The gentleman created the entire package for me while I waited. It seemed so old-school cool especially since it only cost $600 rupees which is about $15.

Later that day I was interviewed by a woman from The Times Of India.

I told her about my purchase which she thought sounded like a lot of money. I guess she decided to take things into her own hands and the next day she quoted me in her paper as saying.

" The only thing that I have picked up was an attar bottle ( do you really think I knew it was called an attar?), which was hugely expensive and yet value for the money."
Basically she quoted me as saying the exact opposite of what i actually said. I confronted her about that the next day and she said "no one will read that anyway" and something to the effect that she made it sound better for me. She didn't seem embarrassed at all by this and never said sorry.

The rest of the article is made up of bits and pieces of things I said, taken out of context, and jumbled together as one long quote.

Most of the time I wouldn't care about something like this but when it is done in one of the biggest papers of Dehli and done so outrageously incorrect I get a little miffed.

rant over.

I still love my new vetiver oil though

Comments on "Vetiver Oil, New Delhi"


Blogger pretty kitty publishing said ... (10:48 AM) : 

As a former journalist, I feel your disappointment after having your words taken out of context by that irresponsible reporter. I find that today many journalists have been seduced by the glamorous celebrity culture that makes it seem as though everyone should be living this luxury infused lifestyle 24/7.

Instead, there is so much joy in a bottle of vertiver oil. No matter the cost. The pleasure is the thing. The appreciation is what is lost when all that is focused on is the cost.

Thank goodness that you have this blog which is also read by millions so that you can tell your stories in your own words.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:02 AM) : 

I am sorry about your experience with one of the largest newspaper in India; it indeed is irresponsible journalism.
I am glad you found the attar. My favorite is "Mitti" which is the smell of rain falling on parched earth. Only someone who has lived through the long, hot summer and experienced the first rains of the monsoon season will know what I am talking about. Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi is where you need to go for this.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:12 AM) : 

May I know her name, please?


Blogger Laguna Beach Trad said ... (12:02 PM) : 

Congrats on the article, Sart, but sorry to hear about your experiences with the Indian hack. Chalk it up to experience. You can't control these people. The only thing you can do is, stop talking to the press. After numerous misquotations, I have decided the only remedy is to ban journalists. They no longer pester me. Let your work speak for itself and your natural brilliance shine through.


Blogger Sadia Bruce said ... (12:07 PM) : 

I feel your pain, Sart.

Last December I was grossly misquoted in a Wall Street Journal article on "High IQ Decor." To make a long story short, I was made to look like an empty-headed poseur who keeps her apartment filled with books in an effort to "appear cerebral."

To boot, literary critic Harold Bloom was quoted as saying that he found such a tactic "too absurd to stimulate [him] to any comment."



Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:18 PM) : 

Hey Sart
Yeah, I read your interview.
A little glad to know that it
was jumbled. I felt a little
sorry after reading it you know,
being an Indian.
Wonder where you went to get
the Khus bottle?
I know a really good place in
Old Delhi.
and see you soon again


Blogger sockrocker said ... (12:20 PM) : 

What is Vetiver Oil?


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:24 PM) : 

I'm sorry, but you've really made me laugh - not to be unkind, but in recognition of my own experiences being misquoted in national publications. Culturally, the reporter is trying to do you a favour by preventing you from suffering any "loss of face" as a result of being ripped off by the oil man. Bad journalism? Perhaps. Are we any better in the USA? Absolutely not. We just choose not to see - cough - read it.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:48 PM) : 

i think it's a mix of (unprofessional) journalism and a cultural gap and I think it is wonderful that you still get upset from those things.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:12 PM) : 


The ToI is known to be the Tabloid of India, for this very type of behaviour. Don't fret, as it's not like they are anywhere close to the NY Times in terms of caliber or ethics.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:14 PM) : 

This would appear to be the article, if anyone is so inclined to see:

I just can't imagine this being ... true. At all.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:17 PM) : 

Beautiful bottle of vetiver oil, one of my favourite scents.
"Mitti" sounds amazing too...


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:18 PM) : 

What is vetiver oil?


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:49 PM) : 

Don't worry Sart, everyone who has ever lived in India knows that The Times of India is a bit of a joke. It really isnt what it used to be.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:19 PM) : 

"Vetiver is also known as the 'oil of tranquility' because of its calming properties. Vetiver oil calms and soothes the mind, thus helping with nervous tension and stress. It settles the nerves and establishes a feeling of balance and grounding."


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:26 PM) : 

vertiver oil sme, like moss in a wet forest. it smells earthy ang woodsy. i have it in a mist bottle and i spay it (its mixed with water) on my face to remind mre of my cabin in the minnesota woods. it is also said to firm the skin when diluted with water and sprayed like that. love it. i got it at Body Time in Berkeley Ca, they mix the bottles for you. dont do it yourself , because too much of essential oils on the skin can burn/harm you. never apply essential oils directly to skin, they always heve to be diluted with something.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:01 PM) : 

i'm with anon 12:24. you got ripped off; she was trying to spare you the embarrassment of looking like a sucker. per capita income in india is $700 - you just spent 2% of that on -- what, an ounce? -- of oil made from a common grass. equivalent to spending about $870 here in the U.S. it happens to every wide-eyed western tourist at least once -- but it's too bad your incident got published!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:05 PM) : 

Vetiver is a tall, dense, wild grass with long narrow leaves and a strand of underground white, yellow and brown roots. It is sought after for its calming, protective, soothing and uplifting characteristics. It can be found in Java, Haiti, Japan, Indonesia and South India. Vetiver is used for its antiseptic, sedative, stimulant and tonic properties. Vetiver’s essential oil is extracted by steam distillation from its roots. Vetiver essential oil’s aroma has a smoky woody scent. It is often blended with geranium, jasmine, lavender and rosewood - there that wasn't so hard was it.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:31 PM) : 

I have a patchouli from the same place that I purchased at a small store in Geneva (the owner goes to India regularly to stock up on oils from Jain Super Store). It's stunning. They have amazing scents.


Blogger Alfacharly said ... (3:48 PM) : 

What do you do use the oil for?


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5:10 PM) : 

Funny. It all comes out in the wash.

FWIW, pretty good quality vetiver in the states will set you back about $15 a half ounce.)

-- desertwind


Anonymous e said ... (5:44 PM) : 

one good way to protect yuorself in interviews is record your interview yourself. very openly, put the recorder on the table, press play, and with your most beautiful smile say: "do you mind? only i've been so misquoted in the past...".


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5:49 PM) : 

You do know that you got ripped off baaaad?! Attar oil doesn't cost that much for the locals.. Usually it's around 100-200 rupees. :/ She didn't want you to sound like "a dumb american", that's why she wrote the thing opposite way.. Give her some credit for that. :)


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5:57 PM) : 

You're a celebrity now, and you should know the rules: don't talk to the media without a publicist. All in all, an inexpensive lesson.


Blogger The Sartorialist said ... (6:07 PM) : 

for Anon 5:49

she doesn't need to do me any favors


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (6:49 PM) : 

Oh man.

Lag Trad is back with his unique blend of foppery and delusions.

Welcome back!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:28 PM) : 

The new link to the article


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:37 PM) : 

Agreed, Scott. She doesn't need to do you any favors. It was not the appropriate journalistic response. If she didn't want you to lose face, she could have omitted the entire topic.

That said, I'm a loyal reader, and when I looked at the article I didn't seem at all similar to your speech pattern or commenting style. AND, the photo was also a bit misleading . . . . You are SO hot, and that photo is just . . . not.

Still, all press is good press!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:59 PM) : 

Can you use vetiver oil in a salad?


Blogger Le Bouton said ... (8:25 PM) : 

almost always catastrophic.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:28 PM) : 

A very Indian approach, indeed: improving reality according to one's taste regardless of whether it's truth or dare. Looks like that's how the culture works in general. And, of course, ripping off foreigners.
Tiny bottles of oil are very cute though. I have one, too.



Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:02 PM) : 

Culturally, she was probably making you seem less like a duped foreigner by having you acknowlege that you had "overpaid" by Indian standards, but saying that it was okay so you didn't seem cheap.
-desi reader


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:20 PM) : 

This happens at any level, even hometown newspapers. Anyone who ever makes it into a paper learns that they will be taken out of context, misunderstood, deliberately misquoted to make a more entertaining story and that the editors will further mangle the story and the lead. This means that we all know that there is more than one side to the news. And insanely bargaining when one can afford it is repulsive, so who cares if you spent too much.


Blogger Blue Floppy Hat said ... (12:01 AM) : 

The Times of India is just a tabloid masquerading as a broadsheet, utter and complete trash. I'm sorry you were misquoted, Sart- but at least you like your vetiver oil (I love vetiver too! Good job with the purchase).


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:36 AM) : 

I don't see why a tourist should expect to pay the same price as the locals, especially when there is such a huge gap in income between the two. How can only $15 be a "rip-off"? I'd probably pay it mostly for the experience of buying and owning an interesting souvenir. After all things that are nothing special to the locals may be very special to a visitor.

The tone of the whole interview is suspiciously nasty. It makes him sound like Sart. is whining that he hasn't had much time to get outside and yet those of us subscribed to the blog have been getting great pics from India all week!


Blogger Kathia said ... (1:04 AM) : 

Indeed I must agree with Sart that the journalist need not do him any favours.

Being a journalist from a South East Asia where such behaviour is common, I think the TOI has overstepped their boundaries. It seems to be common practise for people in these parts to think they are doing someone a favour by putting them in the papers for whatever the reason.

Most of the time, the journalists, having been bred on bad habits think nothing of such actions and neither do the person featured. When approached about such behaviour you normally get an excuse of how 'we' are unlike 'westerners' etc etc. it is existing in this stupid binary that makes us look a little dense being a journalist.

with such behaviour, it is no wonder then that there is hardly a single credible newspaper in most of South and South East Asia.

i completely understand where you are coming from sart (without any hints of angry tourist complex). haha. stuff like this makes my blood boil. i could make a living just writing letters of condemnation to editors in my country alone.

hope you have a better experience next time.


Blogger pikake said ... (1:29 AM) : 

I think this is one of my favorite photographs yet. Love the simplicity and elegance of the vetiver bottle.


Blogger Pratishtha Durga said ... (2:26 AM) : 

Hi Sart... The TOI, as mentioned earlier, is a bit of a joke. But all said and done, this lady should not get away with this so easily. No journo should. I have already written a mail to the editor of the paper, directing her to this post.

You have a large following in India, and it is quite justified to feel upset about being misquoted. And for her to say that this won't be read anyway, is a tad over the top.

It's unfortunate that the reputation of TOI has been damaged by these journos. It used to be a good newspaper. I am hoping that after the note I left on their site, someone will have the decency to get in touch with you.


PS: As for your comments about the collections, most of us have a similar grudge.


Anonymous Ken said ... (4:11 AM) : 

Actually, if the journalist wanted to save Scott from looking like a dumb American tourist, the decent thing to have done would have been to not even mention the "value" of the vetiver oil.


Blogger filoderba said ... (5:07 AM) : 

you payed too much, that's way she lied. the old man fooled you and she was embarassed for you. sometimes you cannot stick to the truth like if you were in NY, because truth is that you were numb seeing a the death dancing girl and you cannot tell it into a public newspaper, the same as saying that 600 Rs for an oil bottle is a little price.


Blogger Hilda said ... (5:58 AM) : 

Welcome to Asia and Asian sensibilities. I know that was mighty frustrating for you, but if she wrote that you found the attar so inexpensive, many people really would have been offended. That's how most Filipinos would have reacted too. Sigh. I just hope we catch up with the rest of the world soon.

I hope the rest of your experience was good though. I'd love to be able to go to India one of these days.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (6:09 AM) : 

appalling. what's even worse are the people leaving comments on the blog agreeing with her; the unprofessional indian journalist.

i am not indian, but i lived there for many years. you should be angry. you dont need to take a publicist or a tape recorder or whatever else people have recommended. it is not your fault that she misquoted you and twisted the facts. its just a shame. i would be furious.


Blogger Alya said ... (6:47 AM) : 

I agree with the Sartorialist. $15 is nothing if its something i am truly enjoying. Compare it with the profusely expensive mass-produced perfumes we buy in the 'West' and this would seem like peanuts.

Whatever the journalist did, she should have let things be, not 'make them better'. The journalist has to capture the essence of the interviewee, not glam him up!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (6:55 AM) : 

lol.. actually it is disappointing but it happens a lot in our part of the world..

about the attar, as a matter of fact it is so not expensive!
Where I come from -Kuwait- they are mostly called Dihin Oud or Mkhallat.
anyway.. the Mkhallat costs less than the Oud - however, the average small bottle of Mkhallat like the size shown in the picture is around $75 :)


Blogger Maria said ... (7:48 AM) : 

the ever present local vs global clash. She is def. talking to a local audience who probably things of that type of purchase as "attar bottle". But is in those differences were the richness in cultural interexchange exist. Hope you enjoy the purchase.


Blogger pika said ... (10:00 AM) : 

wow! it seems your trip to india has turned out to be rather controversial judging from the comments so far.


Blogger Rollergirl said ... (2:03 PM) : 

V interesting post actually. For what it's worth I have also had experiences with TOI. I thought it was a respected paper, only now I find out it's 'a bit of a joke'! Yes, it is, this is extremely unprofessional behaviour, not dissimilar to the unprofessional practices I witnessed myself. What a shame. I'll read it properly later and may well send an email to the paper. "No-one will read it"? Pffft....we will!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:31 PM) :

Check out this story on a famous ittar(aka. attar) shop in New Delhi.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:40 PM) : 

"A very Indian approach, indeed: improving reality according to one's taste regardless of whether it's truth or dare. Looks like that's how the culture works in general. And, of course, ripping off foreigners."

How exactly can you generalize about an entire culture?


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:05 PM) : 

Sart what makes me smile a bit about "Attargate" is that the journalist is engaging in the oldest local versus tourist game in the world (or, maybe, second oldest - 'cause first one is rippin' off the tourist!)--

"Oh! You paid what? You ate where? You saw what? You went where? -- You should've let me guide you, ya poor sap."

Of course, in this case, this game is enveloped in a culturally-based desire to be polite to the stranger. In the tourist area where I live, we're not so "kind"...

-- desertwind


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:43 PM) : 

Newspapers in India are less reporting and more opinion. There is very little distinction between the two.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:52 PM) : 

She was trying to protect you from looking like a fool both for spending to much and you think that it was good deal. She said the truth in a very polite way that you spent too much but that was ok with you which would be considered a compliment. Being thifty is not a sign of class in India.


Anonymous AD said ... (8:47 AM) : 

Haha, being an Indian (and one in media, at that), I seriously doubt the reporter was trying to spare Scott coming across as a culturally inept foreigner as much as writing up another meaningless article to fill up space and meet deadlines.
Don't you worry about a thing, Sart; TOI is full of yellow journalism anyway, and like many before me have already stated, opinionated beyond belief.


Blogger Law of Attraction said ... (10:58 AM) : 

I love vetiver. It's such a nice scent on a man. I'm glad you are still loving it even with the bad reporter experience. I guess it was just your fate that you were misquoted. Maybe your karma had to balance out after such a great deal on the vetiver.


Anonymous concupiscence said ... (11:39 AM) : 

hm. this was all very interesting to read. i must say though, the picture is pretty wonderful. the clever play of light and its colours, blur and focus. very nice.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:17 AM) : 

I'm sorry you had to deal with the inefficiencies of TOI. I interned there and was appalled at the lack of professionalism shown by everybody from the editor to the junior writers. I interviewed a model once for an article who told me not to label her as a model anymore in the write-up as she had branched out into different ventures. I briefed everybody in the office about it, wake up the next morning, and what do I see - the article with her labeled as a model. Nobody in the office seemed worried about it, so I personally called her to apologize - needless to say she wasn't happy. I left TOI within a week.

Rant over.


Blogger mail said ... (7:09 AM) : 

If you had been quoted saying it was cheap, it would have come off as a condescending flaunt of the dollar's strength over the rupee, even if you hadn't meant it that way.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:58 AM) : 

It is not pleasant to be misrepresented in the press. It is not until people have this experience that they realize how commonplace it is, whether done purposefully or unintentionally in editing. If the journalist was trying to spare Scott, it could have been done in better ways. Every new interview I give is a learning experience. It can be even worse on film, as there is no denying that it is you standing there speaking, but sometimes the way things are edited doesn't reflect what you had intended to convey.

When I am on the other side of it, I typically send people questions to answer via email, because that is how I prefer to be interviewed myself. Then, if I can, I edit as little as possible and try to be pretty sensitive. However, in print media the deadlines and available space sometimes dictate the shape of the piece more than the writer would like. At times someone else is editing (and re-writing!) your work and it is out of your control. Another form of misrepresentation. Online, you can sometimes re-edit, but in print, what's done is done.

On another note, I just started working with a girl from India. Now 5, she was abandoned at the age of 2, but now has a new home. To me, she is light in that she just shines so brightly. I appreciate that I have this work that balances out the fluffier side of life and reminds what it is to have real problems. All the little things just fade away after that.

While this is not the work I am referring to above, you may want to check it out, if you haven't already.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:37 AM) : 

Oh no... Looks like nobody warned you not to speak to the Times of India. They may be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, papers in the country -- but their reputation is completely shoddy. I've experienced this sort of thing with another Indian paper sensationalizing my words to the point of making me an enemy of the state in another country. I thought being able to blog the truth would protect me, but no -- most people who read an article will take it at face value.


Blogger thalassa_mikra said ... (12:01 PM) : 

Sart, first off, congratulations on that lovely bottle of attar. I wish I had known you were visiting Delhi, so I could have steered you towards Gulab Singh Johari Mal - the attar shop that everyone is referring to as "that shop in Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi".

And no, you weren't ripped off. Attar is expensive, and pure, concentrated vetiver is definitely not cheap. Those who claim you were ripped off have no bloody how much good attar really costs.

As for the reporter, she's shockingly callous, rude and unethical. But as others have pointed out, the Delhi Times is a tabloid, and they are notorious for this sort of sloppy journalism.


Anonymous Rachael said ... (2:17 AM) : 

Beautiful photograph.

But de-lurking to say that as a journo, that article was a bloody disgrace. Honestly. I can't believe they even published it. It's barely in English.



Anonymous madgeek said ... (8:46 AM) : 

oh! another anti-TOI comment thread. I think you better close Comments soon... :)


Blogger mekhala said ... (8:06 PM) : 

Haha! Back home in Madras, we used to drop some Vettiver herbs into the earthern pot holding drinking water. This would make it really cool and clean during those humid and hot months.

About the journalist, I am not all surprised. I was interviewed by a journalist who asked me what I was planning to do on Independence Day (Aug 15 in India). And I replied that I had planned a trip to a local artists' village. Two days later, my photo appears in the paper with my name below and I am quoted as saying that my peers do not understand Indian culture anymore! :)


Blogger Plain Vanilla said ... (5:07 AM) : 

so much storm in an attar bottle? amazing, good fun reading the thread of comments tho


Blogger Olimpia Liberti said ... (1:52 PM) : 

really great buy!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:42 PM) : 

was fun reading all the comments!


Blogger Bimbsaar said ... (2:04 AM) : 

The whole Indian English media is like that: it has been like that since early nineties. TV is worse.

Thankfully, the local language press, condescendingly called the Vernacular press, is much better.


Anonymous Toe Knee said ... (6:51 PM) : 

It's a pity TOI got to you first. I wanted to get a quote from you at the fashion week. I wish I had -your experience of Indian media wouldn't have been that frustrating.


Blogger Wee Beastie said ... (9:57 PM) : 

all hail the vetiver, may it take your pain of misrepresentation away with it's deep odour


Blogger PD. said ... (12:36 PM) : 

TOI sucks anyways. *rolls eyes.

I love your blog! It is so passionately written about style. I think it also reflects on the character of cities, amazing. :) It just made the world a little more beautiful. Keep up the great work!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:02 AM) : 

Hrm, interesting. I'm studying in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, at the moment and had a similar experience with the Times of India. I was completely miss quoted, and put out of context, about the recent blasts though the city. A wake up to all the misinformation in world media and a lesson learned.
Great photography though, you've captured dynamic India beautifully.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:35 AM) : 

By the way, a ridiculously good photo of the little bottle. Impeccable depth of field, sir!


Anonymous Farah said ... (5:10 PM) : 

Sorry to hear that your words were taken out of context and misconstrued. But so glad you are still giving India a chance.

:) Found your blog three days ago, can't stop visiting it everyday.


Blogger New said ... (12:17 PM) : 

that is so funny because i went through the very thing you talked about. it actually got me really annoyed reading the article afterwards because she [the reporter] made me sound like this self-indulgent, egotistic asshole... and she did that without ONCE quoting me correctly. i wonder how reporters feel, when they interview and say 'mm hmm.. i see. go on,' like they know what you are saying to them, and then go on misquoting everything and paste together a seemingly long quote from these bits and pieces. grr...


Blogger Sunshinemom said ... (8:04 PM) : 

I follow your blog pretty seriously and felt a lot of pride seeing that you were in my Country! Too bad that you got a bad taste of Indian journalism! Maybe you should make a second visit but this time to Mumbai?


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