New York will always be the top destination and Peter Luger an all-time favourite for the Bollywood star
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Sonal Mansingh: My first international recital was in Geneva, back in 1965, where I had gone to get married to an IFS officer. From there I travelled all over Europe to perform at cultural festivals and private programmes. A couple of years later, I was invited to the Barcelona World Fair. And I have fond memories of that trip too. After my performance, there was a grand dinner where I was seated next to Maharani Gayatri Devi and Sawai Man Singh II, the Maharaja of Jaipur, who was then the Indian Ambassador to Spain. I was only twenty-three at the time. I also remember how my nose ring went flying once with my one and only sneeze on stage and promptly fell into the lap of the Indian Ambassador to Belgium, and performing the day after Pt Ravi Shankar in Luxembourg and receiving an equally deafening standing ovation.
OT: Any place in India you keep going back to?
Sonal Mansingh: Of late, I find myself going back to Guwahati in Assam, primarily to visit the Kamakhya temple.
OT: Which is your favourite city in the world?
Sonal Mansingh: My favourite city in the world remains Paris. The reasons for that would fill a small book.
OT: What is your idea of a perfect holiday?
Sonal Mansingh: When I turn a (concert) tour into a holiday somehow; and I manage to do that most times. I like to stay on my feet and explore as much as possible — even now at 68. My trip to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, for instance, made for a perfect holiday. That place is magical.
OT: Delhi's your hometown now. Any city secrets?
Sonal Mansingh: Every ‘offbeat’ place in Delhi has now become popular. Yet I would still recommend the Lodi Gardens.
OT: As a seasoned traveller — your best travel advice?
Sonal Mansingh: We travel with excess baggage — costumes, ghungroos and so on. So my fingers (toes and eyes) are always crossed in prayer for the bags to reach on the same flight. I haven't lost anything so far and one reason for that is I do my own packing and unpacking. Plus I carry a change of clothing, toiletries and a torch in my handbag. You never know when there’s a power cut in India!
OT: Your worst trip?
Sonal Mansingh: During the late 1980s, I was on a long tour of the Northeast. I travelled to Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. Everything that could go wrong went wrong on that trip. First we were delayed because the Brahmaputra had shifted from its bank. Then when we reached Arunachal, the car broke down on a lonely stretch and the driver went to look for help and disappeared. We finally got a lift from a government officer. I reached just two hours before my recital. Finally, when we were to return to Delhi, the eighteen-seater plane, which was to ferry us back, couldn't land at the Lilabari Airport as there were too many cows on the strip. It finally landed after the cows were herded out!
OT: Your favourite cuisine?
Sonal Mansingh: I’m a Gujarati and I love Gujarati food, which when prepared properly is very saatvik. My favourite is khandvi.
OT: Three things you always carry?
Sonal Mansingh: A good book, Pond’s cold cream and my red tilak powder from South India.
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