Tanvi Trivedi (BOMBAY TIMES; July 12, 2018)

The earliest memory of Mumbai that Bollywood singer-musician Sonu Nigam holds close to his heart is that of walking to school in his gumboots. And the rains always conjure up those images from his schooling years, which were spent partly in Mumbai, besides Delhi. He says, “We could never wear gumboots in Delhi because it never rained so heavily. But here, we used to walk to school in our gumboots and I quite cherish those childhood memories. It was fun turning them upside down and laughing over the water that came pouring out!”

The singer, who’s also known to be a terrific entertainer on stage, tells us how Mumbai became home, ever since he came to the city in 1991. Says Sonu, “At that time, Mumbai was called Bombay. From early on in childhood, I had decided I wanted to do something fruitful in life, so when I came here, I was focused about work.”

“There was no time time left to explore the city. I saw the iconic Gateway of India only after four years of being here. Woh kehte hai na, mullah ki daud masjid tak, which is how my schedule went — it was always about going to studios and recording my songs. Also, I did not have a friend circle as such at that time, so I never went to beaches or discos. But I do remember spending late nights at Nariman Point. Madhurima and I used to sit there and have tea for a couple of hours and chat; Babul Supriyo and his wife would also be there with us. Those were some fun times that we spent in South Mumbai,” reminisces Sonu.

Since he mentioned his wife, is there any particular place, beach or restaurant in Mumbai they used to frequent before tying the knot? “Romancing Madhurima was never about walking by the sea because by that time I had come in the public eye and people would recognise me. Even when I was dating my wife, we always chose to sit at one place and converse than go out and eat at restaurants."

It’s not surprising when he says that today, Mumbai is synonymous with his house. “Relaxing at home in Mumbai, is how I love to flirt with the city. My house in Versova, gives me the comfort and peace of mind, like no other place. I always feel that it was my destiny to make a house in Mumbai and there is a supreme power who makes us do all these things. Even the name, Namah was given by my manager, so I can’t take credit for it,” says Sonu.

Making an exception this time, the singer steps outside his bungalow to take a stroll in the lane to soak in its beauty with its glistening green and lush trees. “I used to record 11 songs in a day, but instead of staying back in the studio to have lunch I preferred to go home. Had I stayed in Bandra or SoBo, I would never have had the luxury of spending time at home or be with my loved ones while I was working hard. Besides, Versova is where the whole industry is based, so I feel my house is ideally located,” he says.

The city has always been home for the singer, except during the years he relocated to Los Angeles in 2009. “I was trying to do something different then," he recalls, adding, “We also found a nice place to stay in LA, but then my mother fell ill and I felt it was important to return to Mumbai.”

Sonu, who has many chart-busters to his credit, believes that Mumbai does not belong to lazy people. “A lazy person cannot survive in Mumbai,” he states, elaborating, “The city is all about hard work and even more hard work. You need to be on your toes to achieve your dreams. No other city has that buzz, which Mumbai has. A certain energy seeps into you the minute you are in Mumbai. Despite the traffic and the madness, I have a lot of respect for the city, its work culture and the people here.”