Meaning ‘merciful’ in Arabic, Leen is a beautiful story of how a group of people from different walks of life, united in their empathy to create a unique product in support of those who are battling with cancer and those whose lives – as a result of it – are changed forever.
It all started at the Qout market last October, when Mallika Kaul stopped by the Asama Perfumes booth and had an epiphany. She was so impressed with the work of the Al Refai brothers, that she decided to use their skills to create a customized perfume in Kuwait, which would not only boast the notion of local manufacturing, but also support artistic talent, as well as offer an alternative means of self-sustenance to local NGOs.
When asked “why perfume?’’, Mallika replied, “Because it has universal appeal, and appeals to one of our main senses, the olfactory.”
Marketed under the tagline ‘Made in Kuwait, for Kuwait’, Leen is blended, bottled and packaged with great attention to detail by Ahmed and Abdulwahab Al Refai (founders of Asama Perfumes). Both of them are knowledgeable about aromatherapy and are particular about using high quality authentic oils. “We discussed the purpose of the project, its grounding in elements of aromatherapy research for cancer patients and the spirit the fragrance should embody. We discussed how patchouli, amber, oud, black orchid, lavender etc. oils have calming, antidepressant and anti-anxiety affects,” explains Mallika about the process that ensued. “The mandate for the Al Refai brothers was to come up with an intense, subtle and calming blend without spicy or floral tones.”
Bader Al Mansour, the brilliant Kuwaiti artist known for his upcycled creations from scrap materials, has conceptualized, designed and hand-carved the limited edition Sidra wood boxes from an 80-year-old Sidra tree log that he recused from the desert. “When I approached Bader and told him about my initiative and how he could help, it took him all of five minutes to respond with ‘yes’!” recalls Mallika, who later on learned that Bader had lost his younger brother to cancer.
Within the span of three months, the perfume was blended, perfected, and ready for marketing. Leen was launched February 7, 2015 at the House of Butterflies (HOB) booth at Qout market, exactly where its seeds were first sown. “The aromatic oils used in Leen are high quality and selected specifically for their soothing properties keeping cancer patients in mind,” Mallika explained.
Leen for a cause
During my interview with Mallika, I learned that an astounding number of women in her family were either battling or had survived cancer. Mallika, who is an investment professional, co-founder of Business and Professional Women Kuwait, a MEPI Alumni and a fervent voluntary worker, has experienced firsthand the agonizing trauma family members of cancer patients undergo, when someone they love is diagnosed with the disease – or tragically succumbs to it. But Mallika believes that when a woman – a mother, a daughter, or a sister – has cancer, she has to fight a dual battle, one with the disease and another for the sake of those that look up to her. In her own words, “In such times, a soulful strength of these women and the entire family is revealed – the pain is intense at the beginning, gradually becoming subtle as they come to terms, and eventually, a perkiness characterizes their personality as the soulfulness permeates.”
These were the very three-elements Mallika was seeking to embody in a special blend of soothing oils and lingering fragrance. “They [Al Refai brothers] managed to get the intensity and subtlety I was looking for…so, Leen is dedicated to the soulful strength of all women,” says the smiling lady.
Apparently, every aspect of Leen is an expression of artistic and altruistic belief. Hanouf Al Juhail (founder of House of Butterflies) is yet another fervent supporter of causes, and has lent her time and platform to launch and distribute Leen. Lulwa Al Terkait (founder of Je La La Jewellary) agreed to donate her time and efforts as the media consultant for this project. Mallika credits the name of the perfume to artist Reem Al Hajiri, an investment professional by day, and an artist by night. Reem not only came up with the name, explaining that “mercy is the essence of spiritual sustenance,” but also donated the Arabic calligraphy for the product.
“I have known these women for a while now,” Mallika said, “But I’m still touched by the fact that they all came to my support so selflessly, and the Leen project took off without any hitch.”
Bader’s use of Sidra tree is symbolic in itself, as it has a special significance in the Kuwaiti culture. It is called the ‘tree of life’, as it grows in extreme arid environments, yet bears edible fruit, leaves for medicinal purposes, while the shade of the tree provided respite to travelers and scholars for generations. “Bader proposed to keep it natural…so no wood varnish or lacquer has been used, keeping the original graining of the wood and its smell intact.”
In sports, there’s a saying: “The great ones play hurt.” This interview just made me realize how true that was, that no matter how daunting or painful life is for some people, they continue to do what they have to do for others, in spite of their personal pain and injury.
Leen will be donating all profits to Al Sidra Association for Psychological Care for Cancer Patients.
You can order the limited edition of Leen perfumes through HOB, Instagram: @hobq8 or drop a line to [email protected] Contact: 9911 1217.
Al Sidra is the psychosocial support center for women, and their families, who are living with cancer. For more information, follow them on Instagram @alsidra_kwt.
Images courtesy of Lulwa Al Terkait and HOB.