Getting into Gloria Jeans in Gulshan 2 on a rainy Thursday evening, one is instantly reminded of the shadow of the attack on Holey Artisan a year back. Security checks, more in line with what you’d see at an embassy in a conflict zone than a coffee place speak, volumes about the fear that still haunts us. But I’m not here to brood, I’m here for a long overdue meeting with Elita Karim.
I find her in the patio area with husband Ashfaque Nipun. He’s lounging in a red tee and jeans. She’s dressed simply in a kurti with flowy palazzo, not a lick of makeup, a gorgeous waterfall of wavy hair tumbling down her shoulders. The singer/journalist/RJ. I’ll stop here embodies an approachable girl-next-door brand of charisma. She waves off my offers of treating them, and stalks off to get us both something to drink.
Rich, marshmallow topped hot chocolate in hand, we spend a few minutes catching up. The director and singer duo have been travelling extensively the past year and half, from meeting family in Canada, to multiple concerts in Los Angeles, and Australia to a trip to Kolkata to attend the WAN-IFRA India Conference last year, to a Eurotrip this year, it’s easy to imagine them running out of pages on their passport. Ashfaque is quietly funny as he shares anecdotes about their luggage, and the European approach to travel. Favourite place to travel? “Prague!” she shouts, pumping both fists into the air. “It was AWEsome!” Her husband smiles and nods in agreement. “She’s always at her happiest when she’s travelling and discovering new places.”
The conversation turns, as it invariably does with us, to books and reading, and we all took a moment to commiserate the gradual disappearance of bookstores, and the decline of the reading habit amongst young people today. Ever the optimist, Elita was quick to reference Facebook groups that promote book exchanges, and fan fiction, pointing out that the market for literature is still there, just waiting to be catered to.
[caption id="attachment_171442" align="alignright" width="300"] Ashfaque Nipun
In the midst of our reminiscing, we are joined by another celeb – Dilshad Nahar Kona, her lovely young niece in tow. Introductions exchanged, Elita and I move to a quiet table so I can subject her to a rapid fire round of questions.
Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Arethra Franklin, Sunidhi Chauhan, Aditi Mohsin, Runa Laila, and Shahnaz Rahmatullah
Video or song by another artist that you liked
Pritom Hasan’s “Jadukor”. It was catchy, and different. Not really something I would do, but that’s probably why I liked it.
One of your own songs that you’re really fond of
“Bhenge gelo jorota”. I worked with a lyricist (Abdar Rahman penned the words), and Shaker Raza did the music based on my tune. I love the empowering message of the song, about finding yourself, and approaching the world with confidence.
Book that made you stop and think
It was a Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked, and it made me think about how we so often give up on things
[caption id="attachment_171429" align="alignleft" width="200"] Courtesy
Settling into a window seat and spending a few minutes grumbling about traffic making it harder to meet up more regularly, we get into interview mode.`
What do you want to be remembered for?
My music, I hope. That’s such a big part of who I am. A few reports and pieces I did as a journalist; it would be nice to see them make an impact. Hopefully my writing, my creative writing, which I haven’t been able to work on much, but would like to.
A question that came up when I was interviewing another female author – do you feel that women are judged more harshly?
If you mean social pressures, sure. Of course. But before I criticise the system or something, I want to address this thing where women put so much pressure on themselves, and aren’t confident about their achievements. From a young age, we’re told about the value of modesty, and taught how to keep a low profile, which is fine, but when it comes to professional lives, or creative work, it makes us extremely reluctant to promote our work. Men, for some reason don’t have this awkwardness. [Picks up a bottle of water] You could have a young guy bottling this water and telling people he’s created something brand new – a bottled water no one has seen before! And he’s so confident that he’ll pick up believers in no time. But a seasoned female artist will probably feel really awkward about promoting herself, and those that do, are criticised. That’s why I have a connection to “Bhenge gelo jorota”. It’s about breaking down your inner awkwardness to bring your unique talents to light.
Speaking of darkness and light, there’s been a lot of conversation of late, on the subject of depression. What’s your take?
I think it’s a good thing people are talking about this, breaking the silence. It’s important to pay attention to the signs. Usually a person who’s really depressed won’t come out and announce it. As a friend or relative, you need to watch the person’s behaviour for telltale signs, take a minute to reach out and just touch base, to let the person know s/he’s not alone.
And on that note, I think there has to be more outlets for young people to express themselves. We used to have, not only bookstores, but concerts, and melas and interesting clubs, bowling...creative endeavours that you can lose yourself in and forget your problems while creating beauty. And the fewer of those we have, the more frustrated people get. A support system is good, outlets also help.
And on the note of support system, one last question: what’s married life like?
It’s good – it’s great! My husband is in many ways my polar opposite. I’m high-energy, and all over the place. He’s quiet, intense and focused. He grounds me, centres me, makes me stop and think and spend my energy wisely. We balance each other very well.