The Proust Questionnaire is a fortnightly feature that alternates with the Saturday Interview. These questions were most famously answered by the French writer Marcel Proust whose personality-revealing responses came to define this form of celebrity confession. This questionnaire was administered by Priyadershini S.
What is your idea of happiness?
That's a huge question covering a vast portion of the universe. In one word, it is love. But in a sentence: to hear my grandchildren's voices on the telephone.
What is your greatest fear?
I am scared of everything — of the dark, of water, flying, ill-health of my loved ones….
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Gandhiji because of ahimsa and his capacity to prioritise, notwithstanding public opinion.
What is the trait you deplore most in yourself?
Being too possessive. I am learning how to be detached. I hate myself for being so possessive, not of material things, but just of love and people.
What is the trait you deplore most in others?
Dishonesty, artificiality and double standards.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Buying things for my family. I have no material desires. I have lived a lot more janams. I came to this stage a long time ago. If somebody wants something I ask them to take it….leh lo, leh lo…dil mera leh lo… mein layein hu nazrana pyaar ka… (Take, take…take my heart…I've brought the gift of love…)
Who is your favourite painter?
Anando from Kolkata, but my all-time favourites are Michelangelo and Vincent van Gogh. I may be biased because I have read their stories.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Fidelity is an overrated virtue. I feel so because people hardly follow it and so it becomes overrated.
On what occasion do you lie?
When it is the lesser of two evils.
What do you dislike most about your appearance?
So many things. I hate my nose. I hate it…my finger nails…see this.
Which living person do you most despise?
I don't despise anyone. Why should I?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Wonderful, amazing … I am a compulsive optimist.
What is your greatest regret?
I don't have many regrets. I regret that there is no connection between the action of your loved one and the pain you inflict on yourself as a consequence…
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My grandchildren. Totally. They have changed my whole life. I have learnt so much honesty from them.
When and where were you happiest?
Now. I am happiest now. ‘Where' is immaterial. You learn to make your home wherever you are.
What is your present state of mind?
Exhilarated that I won the Filmfare Award.
How would you like to die?
I want to die singing on the stage or in my sleep.
What is your favourite journey?
To Kochi to see my grandchildren, and on my way to an exciting show.
What is your favourite motto?
It's a very old one: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I have made my own mottos and philosophies in life. As long as you are not hurting anybody, it's okay.
Usha Uthup is the swinging, singing grand dame of Indian pop music, having introduced the genre with her unforgettable English numbers such as ‘Jambalaya'. It was the iconic song ‘Dum Maro Dum' for the Hindi film “Hare Rama Hare Krishna” that turned her into a celebrity. She sings in over 16 Indian languages and several foreign languages. Her trademark bindis, bangles and Kanjeevarams have made her a style icon. She was made Honorary Citizen of Kenya by President Jomo Kenyatta for singing the popular number ‘Malaika' in Swahili. She received the Padma Shri in 2010-2011.