Wish I could perform at the Qutub: Nikhita Gandhi
The ‘Raabta’ singer takes a trip down the memory lane, and shares her special connect with the Capital city.
She hails from the city of joy, Kolkata, but singer-composer Nikhita Gandhi confesses that most of her summer holidays have been spent in the heart of India, ie Delhi. “My maternal grandparents used to live here, and also a lot of my cousins. So Delhi became like a second home for me,” says the artiste who is popular for tracks such as Raabta, Qaafirana, and more recently Jugnu.
‘Delhi is my second home’
In the city, recently, to perform at a function she took off some time to visit the Qutub Minar, and memories of her childhood came rushing back to her. She recalls, “I was very little when I visited. I’ve been to all iconic monuments in Delhi, and it’s great to make new memories here as an adult now. Qutub’s a place that my mom used to love to visit, so there’s a special connect... I used to stay mostly in the Delhi Cantt area since a lot of my family members are in Army and Navy. My mom is from Ashok Vihar, and back in the day my grandparents were professors so I used to spend time with them around North Campus. Half of my school in Kolkata ultimately enrolled in Delhi University. I didn’t pursue college from DU, which has a campus life that would have been good. But much later I did perform at a DU college fest. And even now as I return to the city, it feels pretty incredible to revisit the place I call my second home, as a singer.”
So much so is her fondness for the city that “Every time I’d travel to Delhi and one of the songs playing at the airport would be Raabta — when it had just come out — it would be such a cool feeling for me that my song is playing! It’s nice to come back to this city as a professional singer now. I wish I could perform at a cultural setting like the Qutub, in the city that I’ve a deep connection with,” says the 30-year-old.
‘There’s a thrill in shopping from Sarojini’
A self-confessed frequent visitor of some of Delhi’s best-known markets, she’s very well clued in to what’s available where. “Sarojini is a big tradition. Of course, I’ve shopped from Sarojini, who hasn’t? If anyone says they haven’t, they’re lying,” quips Gandhi, adding, “It’s more like a nostalgic memory now. My elder cousin was very fond, and I was quite young, so I copy what everyone else was doing. And there was a thrill in buying so many things in just ₹100-200. It’s so funny that there are still those things in my wardrobe that I shopped 10 years ago from Sarojini!”
‘Pollution leaves me with kharash’
But what concerns her whenever she’s returning to the Capital, is the city’s rising pollution. “Each time I visit Delhi, I return with a little kharash in my voice. I’ve so many cousins, nieces and nephews here who have respiratory problems due to the pollution... In fact the winter before the first lockdown, I had already started wearing masks because I used to come to Delhi quite often, and before going out, I had to think twice since the pollution is bad here. I don’t know if it’s ever gonna get better. I think I’m going to stay with my mask on, even when everything (Covid situation) goes back to normal.”
‘We are to blame if the next lockdown happens’
But mention to her the words ‘Omicron variant’, and she is quick voice her concern: “Every time I’m at an airport, I’ve to tell at least 10 people, to maintain social distancing and wear their masks because they all cramp up against each other. I really wish to see this change. Else we are to blame if the next lockdown happens because people are not just maintaining the basic Covid etiquette.”
Emphasising the negative impact of Covid-19 on the music industry, Gandhi rues how it has been a “very rough time for everyone, especially during the second wave”. She’s happy about the improved condition, and adds, “Though many of us are vaccinated, we should continue to wear masks because we don’t want to head in that direction again. And I don’t want to see another lockdown, because it’s affected the livelihoods of so many musicians and people from all walks of life. So many musicians left Bombay because they couldn’t sustain! It would break my heart to see that happen again.”
Author tweets @siddhijainn
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