A lady sits at the center stringing jasmine flowers with the scent of the blossoms permeating the store – showcasing a live narrative of slow-living. In conversation with founder Simran Lal
Paro in New Delhi
The king of Patiala Maharaja Bhupinder Singh inherited the De Beers in 1926, the seventh-largest diamond at that time, from South Africa, weighing 234.5 carats. The diamond was sent to the House of Cartier, packed in a delivery truck full of gemstones and jewelry. Cartier then created the iconic Patiala necklace, for Maharaja Bhupinder Singh in 1928, comprising two-thousand-and-nine-hundred-and-thirty diamonds with De Beers diamond as the centerpiece.
Indian heritage and culture mark the essence of luxury. The Indian subcontinent was a collection of kingdoms owned by the royals. A land favored by the colonizers. People, in fact, came here seeking their fortune. The seeds of luxury sowed centuries ago have then germinated into contemporary-brands redefining it. Paro – translated from Sanskrit as ‘offering’ – is reciting the tale of India-inspired luxury with a focus on wellness and spirituality. The makers of Good Earth – Anita Lal and Simran Lal – a twenty-five-year-old luxury retail brand that celebrates the craft and heritage of the Indian subcontinent – founded Paro.
Coined as ‘the soul of Good Earth’, it is a conceptual space, with an emphasis on self-care, rooted in the Vedas. The wisdom of the Vedic civilization, encapsulated in the four Vedas, emphasized the primal connection between the human mind, body, spirit, and the natural world. Paro therefore urges us to gravitate back to this wisdom and talks about the alignment of the Self with Prakriti (nature). At Paro, engaging experiences precede the exposition of merchandise. «It’s not a store, it’s a space», says Simran Lal. Further, Paro promotes the notion of treating our body as a temple. Positioned as a sanctuary with an invitation to pause and flow from chaos to calm.
Simran Lal – Paro’s founder
Grown-up dreaming of being an archaeologist, Simran Lal ended up pursuing her graduation in History of Art and finished her Masters in Product Design from the FIT, New York. She spent a period in Siena as a part of her art history course where she found an appreciation for the Italian language and later pursued a professional course to hone her language skills. «My education had a lot to do with things I’m passionate about», says Lal.
In 2002, she was asked to return home and join her mother Anita’s dream. «Good Earth threw me into the retail world. My mother was handling the art department and needed someone to make the business grow». Apart from Good Earth and Paro, Lal is also helming Nicobar, a lifestyle venture, launched four years ago, in partnership with her husband Rahul Rai. As of today, she winded up a three-year online course in Ayurveda and is about to commence her next academic stint with functional medicine starting in March. «Education for me will never stop. I’m an eternal student», says Lal.
The idea of Paro emerged from Lal’s everyday struggle of leading a treadmill life in a city-scape. «The world today eulogies people who are working hard and are overachievers. It is therefore easy to get stuck in the rat-race», says Lal. The need to pause and reconnect with herself was the reason why Paro was born. «I was seeking a way to navigate through life. I chanced upon the Vedanta philosophy four years ago which opened up a world of discoveries for me and, for this reason, I wanted to showcase them».
The ancient-concepts of Saukhya, Shringar, and Svasthi characterize Paro. While Saukhya is all that comforts and soothes, Shringar is all that offers delight and beauty, Svasthi promotes the idea of health and self-care. «If you combine the three you come to the integrated state of well-being», says Lal. The standalone store at The Chanakya in New Delhi is in a two-thousand-and-nine-hundred square feet area. «We knew our Paro couldn’t fit in a small eight hundred square feet area. I didn’t want to compromise on the size», says Lal. The store also features different zones weaving a collective story. «Everything makes a whole. The sections are distinct yet interrelated», says Lal.
Lampoon review: Paro’s sections
As you enter, you walk into Mangalam – the vestibule. This section works as a segue into the world of Paro. Facilitating a moment to pause and reset as you transition from the outer world of consumerism. «Situated in a shopping mall we had to break the monotony. You see no items for sale in this section. But, this is where the Paro experience begins», says Lal.
A lady sits at the center stringing jasmine flowers with the scent of the blossoms permeating the store – showcasing a live narrative of slow-living. The beaded flower bracelets are handed over to the customers when they exit for an experience that lingers. On the left, there is Shanthi, a library space that holds workshops as well as discussions. Curated by Lal, the library offers a selection of books that explores facets of the traditions of the subcontinent, culture, and heritage knowledge. «The Shanthi section lies at the heart of Paro’s offering», says Lal.
The workshops hosted along with thought leaders touch upon topics that lie within the interest of the brand’s philosophy. Some of the talks hosted at the space include: Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Shantum Seth, Bleeding Goddess by Mala Barua, Relationships Through the Yogic Lens by Shambahvi L Chopra, The Ayurveda We Forgot by Arun Deva, Breath & Mind by Apoorva Jalan and Women and Desire by Madhavi Menon. Guests can also enjoy herb infusions to sip on as they tune into the speakers.
Paro’s sleepwear and yoga apparel
Next to it is Nidra, the area dedicated to sleep. Sleepwear and a range of deep-sleep accessories, in fact, including a pillow menu for sound sleep can be found here. Further, yoga accessories are developed in tandem with Mini Shasti, a seasoned yoga guru with over two decades of teaching experience. From biodegradable yoga mats and cushions that help align the spine in seated asanas to incense made with gum, resin, and dried flowers.
Yoga apparel crafted in cotton, essential oil blends that help create a calming ambiance for meditation, and accessories that aid rituals, Paro offers an assortment of products in the yoga section. Then there is Botanica – a fragrance pharmacy. It houses all-natural essential oils, blends, seed carrier oil, emollients, resins, herbs and spices as well as face-masks made of clay.
Paro’s aromatherapy offer
The products here are used to perfume and cure. An aromatherapist, in fact, is present at the store at all times to educate the customers about the different healing benefits of the oils. This section has been curated through years of research by Lal’s mother and co-founder Anita Lal. «My mother is the queen of aromatherapy and our resident alchemist», says Lal. She reminisces her childhood years when she’d spend days with her mother at their farm bottling rose water infused with the roses they grew. «Botanicals run in our family. At this point, even my younger son can decipher the difference between ylang-ylang and patchouli», says Lal.
The Shringar section also keeps limited edition jewelry and clothes focussing on Indian textiles and gemstones. Lal defines Shringar as the radiance that lights you from within, a celebration of the senses, «the feel of a fabric as it slides against your skin, the perfumed rituals of beauty, the glimmer of jewelry, music that fills your heart». While studying Lal realized that beauty is well-rooted in the concept of wellness. «Most people think beauty got to do with well-being? They are wrong. Indians have celebrated beauty in a spiritual concept since millennia».
Studio Lotus’s design for Paro
For the interiors, Lal approached her friend Ambrish Arora of Studio Lotus. Founded in 2002, the architecture studio is acknowledged for its work in the domain of spatial design. Their work looks at sustainable design through its impact on the environment, society, and culture. Elements of the interiors recite the heritage India story at this store. Vineet Kakkar’s art installation of ceramic hand-sculpted prayer wheels greets you upon your entrance. «He was one of the first potters to work with us when we launched Good Earth twenty-five years ago», says Lal.
Curtains with hand-embroidered crescent moon motifs in silver foil suspended from the ceiling. «The color of the curtains changes with the seasons. In spring it’s yellow, while in the winter it gets hues of purple», says Lal. Further, beyond the curtains lies a closet-like structure with a facade made of Pichwai artwork. «The idea was to create a divider that hides the clothes catalog behind it», says Lal. A variety of thin bricks adorns the walls at the store, procured from a dilapidated palace in the town of Kannauj. «We sourced them from the perfume capital of India», adds Lal.
Ayurveda science at Paro
Moreover, through its communications the brand celebrates seasons. It, in fact, encourages you to align yourself with the frequencies of Mother Nature. By pushing content around the cycles of the moon and the sun, it encourages us to inculcate rituals of beauty as well as spirituality in our daily lives. «Creating rituals for self is a rewarding exercise», adds Lal. They also have a music playlist dedicated to this sentiment called Lover’s Moon with Paro on iTunes and Spotify.
Commenting on the revival of eastern medicine and Ayurveda as a healing system as compared to its western counterpart of modern medicine, she says, «resurgence of holistic ways of approaching health is becoming a part of the zeitgeist». Ayurveda science looks at the body as an integrated whole. Staying in tandem with the elements of nature, it reflects a change in the body constituency with a change in the seasons. An individual-based approach, Ayurveda uses the pulse of the patient as the diagnostic tool to examine symptoms.
Western medicine, on the other hand, views the body as different parts and works on a disease-based model. It advocates a myriad of blood tests to diagnose the problem. Emphasizing experiments and studies. «The future of wellness lies in marrying the integrative wisdom of the east and experiment-based western model. Functional medicine could therefore be an answer for this», says Lal.
Future development at Paro
The pandemic affected the brick-and-mortar offering, yet there was a surge in sales through their social media channels. «We sold a lot of gemstone as well as semi-precious jewelry through our Instagram». The team is also working on an e-commerce website to take the Paro experience online. «We are at the throes of launching our website», says Lal. For the future, they want to build an international Paro community while recognizing the brand’s global potential, but at their own pace. «Paro is about being slow and we are not jumping into anything with a rush».
For people entering the world of mindfulness, Lal has the following recommendations from her library: The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra, The Intelligent Universe by Fred Hoyle, Yoga Darshan by Niranjanananda Saraswati, Vedanta Treatise by Avula Parthasarathy, You Are, Therefore I Am by Satish Kumar, The Textbook of Ayurveda by Dr. Vasant Lad.
13a-16d, Tikendrajit Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, Delhi 110021, India
Paro is a conceptual space, with an emphasis on self-care, rooted in the Vedas, founded by Simran Lal.