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26 May 2021

Anoushka Shankar’s Q&A: “What would make my life better? Socks staying in pairs“

The musician discusses Sophie Walker, the founder of the Women's Equality Party, It's a Sin and her knowledge of curly hair. 

By New Statesman

Anoushka Shankar was born in London in 1981. She was taught to play sitar by her father, Ravi Shankar, and signed her first record deal at the age of 16. She is a seven-time Grammy nominee.


What’s your earliest memory?

Staying in Chennai with my mum at her girlhood best friend’s house. I developed a crush on her friend’s son. I remember watching my mum’s dance teachers with their students. I can still hear the click click click of the wooden block used to beat time, and recall the smell of fragrant flowers we’d buy to weave into our hair.


Who are your heroes?

My mum then. And my mum now.


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What book last changed your thinking?

The Overstory by Richard Powers, which has environmental themes. Everything is connected; we are all connected.


Which political figure do you look up to?

Sophie Walker, who founded the Women’s Equality Party in the UK. She’s sharp and suffers no fools, but her compassion shines through when you speak to her.


What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

Curly hair. If you know, you know.


In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

Provided I had the “right” gender, skin colour and social class, I can imagine many periods and places I’d love to experience. It’s easy for us now to romanticise certain periods while ignoring what it must have been like for people with less dominant histories, who perhaps didn’t have their stories recorded due to their socio-economic background or education level.


What TV show could you not live without?

The past year would have been much harder to navigate without I May Destroy YouIt’s a Sin or Normal People.


Who would paint your portrait?

I wish Amrita Sher-Gil could have been the one to do it. She was a wonderfully talented Hungarian-Indian painter who died at the age of 28 in 1941.


What’s your theme tune?

“Ricercar” by Penguin Cafe.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

To live life just one day at a time and not wallow in the past or project into the future.


What’s currently bugging you?

Too many to list: American cops killing black people; Britain’s government saying systemic racism doesn’t exist; Indian political rallies and religious festivals in the time of Covid-19. Some naive and idealistic corner of my brain still thinks governments are meant to be answering to the people and fulfilling their roles as elected leaders by actually taking care of their citizens.


What single thing would make your life better?

Socks staying in pairs in the laundry.


When were you happiest?

Whenever I close my eyes and feel the warmth of the sun on my face. I could be anywhere.


In another life, what job might you have chosen?

I’d love to be a writer.


Are we all doomed?

Well, we’re all dying one day. But in the meantime we have the chance to experience something pretty wonderful here on Earth.


Anoushka Shankar will perform at the Southbank Centre in London on 30 May. Her new album, “Love Letters PS”, is released on Mercury KX on 4 June

This article appears in the 26 May 2021 issue of the New Statesman, The new Toryism