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This Visakhapatnam-based attar seller has a fragrance for every occasion

From mild to strong, S K Rahim will surely have an attar that is just perfect for you

As I struggle my way through the crowded lanes around Macca Masjid in Jagadamba Junction, a fragrance guides me to SK Rahim. The 32-year-old Rahim with eyes lined with kohl sits under a huge cashew tree with rows of transparent bottles filled with attar in different colours arranged in front of him. I eavesdrop on a conversation Rahim is having with his customer. “If you are one of those who feels nauseous around strong fragrances you should pick an attar that is flower based, they are light yet their mild fragrance lingers ,” he advises, applying a dab of of a mogra-based attar on the customer’s forearm.

Rahim’s shop is no larger than a study table where he does business with his 35 odd varieties of attar. He knows each one by name and the ingredients that go into each one. “I have spent my entire childhood playing with these bottles and getting acquainted with the attars. It was my great grandfather who started this business and since then successive generations have carried it forward. We are six brothers and all of us do the same thing except in different cities,” says Rahim who belongs to Hyderabad.

Rahim recalls how three decades ago, his father would make frequent trips to Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh, to buy various scents. But today the scene has changed. “There are several dealers in Hyderabad itself who get attars from Kannauj, Mumbai and Kolkata. So it is easier for smaller traders to source them from a single place,” he adds.

Rahim moved to Visakhapatnam seven years ago and says his customers are many and varied. “People wrongly assume that attar is for elderly people; but there are so many youngsters coming to my store. People of all religions come to buy attar that can be applied on wedding cards to camouflage the smell of ink. People also buy stronger attars for their dead. There is a fragrance for every occasion,” he says.

Once the customer chooses their fragrance, Rahim then transfers the attar from the main jars to tiny crystal bottles that measure 10 millilitre (ml), 25 ml and 50 ml. “The price of attars range from ₹100 to ₹1500 for 10 ml depending on the ingredients. Flower-based fragrances like mogra, shahi gulab and naga champa are cheaper as flowers are not that expensive. However, fragrances like sandalwood is ₹300 per 10 ml asit is more expensive,” he explains.

The mogra and theghargusi which is made from the roots and stems of several medicinal plants are the bestsellers, says Rahim. “The fact that attar does not have any chemicals and is extracted mainly from plants is what makes it stand apart from deodorants and perfumes.”

Though the business has been impacted by the inroads of foreign perfumes, Rahim says that attar has a loyal following. “Attar is not everyone’s cup of tea, but those who know it’s value will keep coming back to it,” he declares.

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