Among the few singers who have touched dizzying heights despite no formal training in music, Kailash Kher stands tall, taller than most. Although concerts and creating music- his latest hit, Bharat Ke Veer, was released just before Republic Day- form a major part of his schedule, the 44-year- old manages to take time out to visit new places, especially those off the beaten track. Here’s a tête-à-tête with the talented singer.
Music, we know, is your passion….
Oh yes, it’s my life. But not many know that I am passionate about travel as well. And I’ve been fortunate that my music performances take me to different places- not just abroad but also across the country- each more fascinating than the other.
But, considering you’re such a known face, do your fans let you even leave the hotel for sightseeing?
(Laughs) That’s a bit of a problem there- given the fact that everyone has a camera-phone and insists on taking a selfie with you or any celebrity. But, I love meeting genuine music lovers anywhere, especially those who understand and enjoy music. But getting back to whether I can take off for sightseeing- yes, even though I am generally rushed for time, I do try to find the time and manage to move around.
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Tell us about the last place you visited
It was to the North East- to the Dzukou Valley between Nagaland and Manipur. And other than the warmth of the people, I loved the root bridges that are such beautiful creations of nature there. I had seen these for the first time and was completely enthralled. I also visited the Loktak Lake, the largest freshwater body in the region. When we were flying into Manipur, even from the aircraft- from that height- it looked beautiful. Later, sitting in one of its floating island huts was such an unusual experience because you’re neither on the ground nor in water. I must say that this natural park is truly worth a visit.
Then, other than Imphal’s Ema Keithel, the only market I have come across which is run entirely by women, I must also mention the Dailong village that has been declared World’s Biodiversity Heritage Site. Looking around, talking to people, one realises that there’s so much to learn from places like these because, as I was told, in this village, no tree has been cut in the last five centuries and no plastic is allowed to enter its vicinity! Eating in plates and drinking from cups made out of bamboo leaves makes you feel completely one with nature. This part of the world sure was, in my opinion, a ‘Lovely Planet’.
Anything special that you carried back from Manipur?
Besides a number of craft pieces from the Ema Kaithel and other places, I also carried back what the region is famous for- world’s spiciest chillies. These are supposed to be good for health, of course, if eaten in moderation.
Who is your best travel companion?
I, me, myself. I am my best travel companion and that, I feel, is the best way to enjoy your travels. If you have other people with you, they have their own choices, agendas and experiences. When I travel alone, I seem to become one with the surroundings- they become me and I become them.
What is it about a place that first captivates you?
It’s the history of the place- how far back does it go, how did it get its name, etc. I like to know more about the people, their life and culture. And if a place is famous for a particular craft then I like to visit the craftsmen and see how they work. Recently, when I’d gone to Firozabad I saw the way bangles were being made- and it was amazing. Then, when I visited places such as Chanderi and Patiala, and even Kashmir and Lucknow, there too I visited the craftsmen to see them work on their beautiful textiles and crafts. All this makes you so much more appreciative, and then, buying their wares becomes all the more appealing and meaningful.
What memories do you have of your first travel experience?
The first time I climbed on board an aircraft was to travel to Singapore. Given the fact that it was my first experience of air travel, I was fascinated by just the thought of flying. I felt like I had got wings too.
Despite having travelled across the world, there must still be many places on your wish-list?
Of course, there’s so much to explore in this country alone that, should one decide to visit each of its different regions, it will take four lifetimes. Here, I must say that there are places that you feel connected with despite not going there even once- like, for me, there are many in the Uttarakhand region alone- villages along the River Ganga that I would like to visit soon. And among the countries abroad, it would have to be Japan. Other than its big cities, I am keener on visiting its smaller and lesser-known destinations.
Tell us about the place you enjoyed performing in?
Music lovers abound across the world, but the one place I enjoyed performing at, recently, was this town of Moodabidri, near Mangalore. The stage was decorated with a mammoth set that seemed straight out of Baahubali, and despite a 60,000 plus crowd, there was no hooliganism, no chaos- everyone was dancing, enjoying themselves thoroughly. I was so impressed- bahut gazab ka experience tha.
How do you spend your time travelling?
It’s in nidra-dhyan- not sleeping, mind you- but in meditative sleep that rejuvenates me. And yes, drinking warm water. I eat very little on any flight.
What does your travel kit generally carry?
Other than a flask of warm water that goes right up to the stage, I also carry a lot of dry nuts like flaxseeds, almonds and walnuts. And yes, given my penchant for silver jewellery- my bags contain a lot of those as well.