It’s sardonic when someone claims that they love backpacking while they lounge around in a sprawling mansion.
Something on those lines played out when Gulf News tabloid! caught up with Bollywood singer Sonu Nigam recently for an exclusive interview at his friend’s supremely posh home at Emirates Hills. Your first instinct is to disbelieve his claims of being a no-frills traveller, but Nigam persists.
“I can totally backpack. I am not into luxury travel … This friend, who’s like my brother to me, happens to be rich and this is his home. That’s all,” said Nigam, looking around the huge living room studded with rare art and plush leather sofas.
He was in the UAE with his wife Madhurima Nigam for a close friend’s celebratory bash recently and was about to leave for Dubai Airport pick up his son Nevaan for an extended family holiday after our chat.
“What’s the point in life, if you can’t be happy? Look at me, I don’t even wear a fancy watch. I lead a peaceful life and I work with people I want to work with,” said Nigam. He’s a singer who has famously rejected songs with lewd lyrics and believes that a life well-lived is what’s truly worthy.
The singer with an estimated net worth of $50 million (Dh183.6 million) is not into acquiring tangibles either. Experience gained through life and people is priceless, believes the singer.
While he loves to travel, the self-made singer confesses that he didn’t go on many vacations during his childhood.
But he has made up for lost time as he found himself bitten by the wanderlust bug as he grew older.
While the pop idol — who has thrived in Bollywood for several decades with chart-toppers in films led by Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan — spends a good part of his life touring for concerts, he doesn’t shy away from mixing business with a bit of pleasure. He extends his tours for a few days so that he can explore the city that he’s performing in. He often finds a good travel companion in his father, who loves old music. They spend their evening catching up on classic songs and singers loved by his musician dad.
While Nigam’s songs are often on our lips, tabloid! ventured out to explore the traveller inside him.
With Eid Al Adha holidays springing up in August, we asked the age-defying singer a string of travel-related questions. Here’s what he came up with as we discussed his favourite holiday destinations, his chilled-out attitude towards life and how karma is a real thing in his life ...
TRAVEL TALK WITH SONU NIGAM
Q: What kind of a traveller are you?
A: I am an avid traveller. When I go for a concert to a particular country, I make sure that I stay back another four or five days to explore the place. Recently, I had a concert in Baku in Azerbaijan. I took my father and my best friend along. After the concert, we stayed back for five days. We partied and we saw a lot of Baku. I also took my father to Shanghai and Beijing. We also saw the Great Wall of China together. Unfortunately, my son had school and therefore he and my wife couldn’t come along.
Q: What was your recent holiday with your wife and son like?
A: Last year, Madhu and I went to Canada. We also visited Lake Tahoe in the USA. For the first time in our lives, we went to Las Vegas. Although I keep travelling to the US for concerts, it was great to explore it like how tourists would.
Q: Have you met anyone interesting during your travels?
A: I met Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi while we were holidaying in Goa. It was sweet of Rahul to come to my table. I didn’t go to them because I saw them sitting and having a personal time together at the breakfast table. But Rahul was so sweet to my son. He helped him park my son’s cycle and spoke to us. We discussed music and how we need to have thick skin to survive in our worlds.
Q: What was your most memorable vacation as a child?
A: My parents never took us for vacations. But we made up for all that time lost when we grew up. When my father and I go on vacations, we sing a lot. We listen to music and we enjoy each other’s company.
Q: When were you the most adventurous on a holiday?
A: We went skiing in Switzerland. It felt good to teach myself something new. I think I did a good job.
Q: What’s your favourite holiday destination?
A: There’s no favourites as such. India has dozens of beautiful places that I love to visit. Outside India, Baku was amazing because the people were so lovely and there was a lot to explore in that city.
Q: Have you always been this grounded?
A: I don’t like criticising people because it doesn’t do justice to your soul when you look at everything with objectivity and cynicism. For instance, there are a lot of people who are rude saying they are being mere critics. But if you are being a critic, then criticise me positively. Do not insult me with your criticisms. If you have something to say, then give your point of view without making that person feel small … I learnt this my own way. I will never judge people and it has worked for me … I believe in good karma. I believe in being open and humble. I believe in learning from everyone. Once I heard this wonderful singer Dimash Kudaibergen from Kazakhstan. He’s young and he’s got this amazing voice. But I still wanted to learn from him. You must have the humility to learn. Lots of people waste their lives by being cynical and writing off other people.
Q: What’s your work ethic like?
A: I work on my own terms, but everybody is my friend. I like to work with people whom I like … I feel my life is too special and shouldn’t be about counting money and the number of songs I do. Life well-lived is truly worth it.
“Is it somebody’s fault if they are born to Jackie Shroff or to Amitabh Bachchan? If they are talented then they would sustain. Naturally, a person born to an affluent family will have better access to better colleges. But what’s the point in swearing at them ... A rich person’s kid is likely to get into Harvard ... Who are we to be judgemental about it?” — Sonu Nigam on nepotism.