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.
What is your idea of happiness?
When, at the end of the day, I feel I couldn't have worked harder. I can hear it in my music sooner or later, and the happiness continues.
What is your greatest fear?
That we are getting used to mediocrity; to doing things just because they need to get done... fast. Whether it's simply painting the walls or the way the curtain seams are stitched or even planning holidays, why not do it better?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would relax a bit on my insistence on promptness and orderliness. Yes, I like to have things under control, and I genuinely believe it's okay to be this way.
If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
I believe that my being there makes it a perfect picture. So no changes desirable.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I don't believe that any single achievement can be considered “the greatest.” But I have loved life always, whatever the case, without regrets, without complaints. And my achievement is that this sense of being came to me naturally.
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
I'd like to be me again. Maybe a little more vivacious and gregarious. I am an introvert, but sometimes you have to be loud for people to understand what you're doing.
If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be?
What is your idea of misery?
When a friend or someone who has known me for a long time doesn't understand me.
What is your favourite occupation?
What is your most marked characteristic?
I go silent when I'm angry. I don't know why I do it, and it annoys the people around me. But no, I don't want to change it.
What is the quality you most like in the opposite sex?
Quiet and sharp demeanour, and subtle humour. I appreciate people who can look at a row of books and notice that one book is turned the other way.
What do you most appreciate in your friends?
Complete loyalty. The ability to give affection always, along with honest opinions. They should tell me if I didn't do well in a concert.
Who are your favourite authors?
Arundhati Roy. Orhan Pamuk.
Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
I really don't know what to say because I haven't really read all that much. I've been reading a lot only in the last three or four years. As a child I was never allowed to read as my mother thought that books would be a distraction.
Who are your heroes in real life?
We all play multiple roles in life. I admire anyone who plays every role in his or her life convincingly, with flair, even if a bit of pretence is involved. Yes, I have met a few such people and I am in awe of them.
What are your favourite names?
Shive (wife of Shiva), Utpala (lotus), Kusuma (flower).
What is your present state of mind?
I am happy. I am also a little worried that I am giving away too much.
How would you like to die?
Listening until the world shuts down to the smallest nuance. Being able to hear it, every fragment of the emotion of the best music, my guru's music, as I hear his voice telling me why he created it so.
What is your favourite motto?
One day at a time. It's a song we used to sing at school. Live each moment the best you can.
Where would you like to live?
Kerala. By the water, with lush coconut groves around. The air filled with a few voices speaking Malayalam. And in the distance, the quiet sound of a temple bell. As a schoolgirl, I spent my summer vacations in Vandazhi, a small village near Palakkad.
Bombay Jayashri is a Carnatic music vocalist who trained under Lalgudi Jayaraman. She gave her first concert in 1982, and has evolved into one of the foremost musicians of our age. She has worked and performed with renowned musicians, dancers, film-music composers and authors in India and has crossed borders for exchanges and performances with musicians across the world.