Not lonesome tonight: Pragnya Wakhlu says she has never been happier
Alone need not mean unhappy, says singer-songwriter Pragnya Wakhlu
Award-winning independent singer-songwriter, composer, and guitarist Pragnya Wakhlu remembers how her grandmother would often ask her to find a ‘rajkumar’ (prince), marry him, and settle down. Living by herself today, Wakhlu says she has never been happier. It’s been a time of growth and nourishment for her, she claims. “I love the time I’ve had to self-reflect, meditate, work on my music, and just be with nature.” And that’s what her latest Hindi single, ‘Akele hi sahi’, is all about. To her being alone doesn’t necessarily mean being lonely. “One doesn’t ‘need’ to be in a relationship to feel happy. The sense of fulfillment needs to come from within,” she says.
While Wakhlu had initially planned a themed photoshoot for the song and the forthcoming album in a studio, it had to be canceled when her photographer tested positive for COVID-19. For the music video, which releases on November 20, she plans to do an outdoor shoot—a fun, exploratory day in Delhi. Over the next few months, she will also be releasing more songs from her upcoming EP—Lessons in Love—featuring a collaboration with Australian guitarist Marcos Villalta.
Born in Srinagar, but brought up in Pune, it is Wakhlu’s mission to bring Kashmiri culture to the center-stage. To that end, she recently released an illustrative and paper-cut animated music video for her Kashmiri-English fusion song ‘Katyuchuk my Love’ on International animation Day (October 28)—part of the album Kahwa Speaks. The video portrays the love story between the 16th century Kashmiri poet Habba Khatoon and King Yousuf Shah Chak of Kashmir. Wakhlu says her intent was to recreate the state’s rich history and make it come alive for viewers. She had earlier run a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the video and the album’s visual piece.
The last few months have been a busy time for this musician, who quit her corporate job in the US to focus on her passion for music. She has been busy facilitating workshops on wellness using sound and movement-based practices with her company, Mousai. Self-funded, her startup offers workshops and exercises on ‘Tibetan Bowl sound meditation’. During the lockdown, she took a few virtual group sessions on Instagram and Zoom and is currently working on creating a virtual programme for organisations worldwide, which will give people access to a toolkit of methods using sound and movement for personal wellbeing. Simultaneously, she is also working on developing an online course.
Recently, Wakhlu—who has performed at over 250 shows globally—was also elected council member of the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (WICCI) Holistic Health and Wellness All-India Council. She feels that society puts undue pressure on people to fit into their definition of ‘normal’ or ‘happy’. Often people end up being uncomfortable in their own company, she says, as the lockdown proved with its rising mental health cases. Her aim is to facilitate public-private initiatives in the wellness industry, work towards the holistic wellbeing of communities, and also provide recommendations to the government in this area. After all, unless the mind is healthy, the heart cannot sing. Can it?