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Costume designer Niharika Bhasin Khan on learning how to live a guilt-free life

Spend some time with Niharika Bhasin Khan, and you’ll quickly realise she is not one to mince words. The National Award-winning costume designer of movies like Rock On!!, Band Baaja Baaraat, Delhi Belly, The Dirty Picture, Kai Po Che, Bombay Velvet, and most recently Shakuntala Devi, is an all-’round cool person juggling motherhood with a tightly packed work schedule in the Hindi film industry. Managing this balancing act has given her a keen perspective on how she wants to live her life. And in light of the pandemic, it’s an idea that has become even more clear.

Niharika Bhasin

Locked-down in Goa and living on a commune currently, Bhasin has been spending her days doing things she always wanted to do but didn’t have time for. Rejigging her priorities, getting back to activities she has not pursued in a while, and spending quality time with family, she says she is living a guilt-free life and ‘indulging’ every way she can.

Lifestyle Asia India caught up with Niharika Bhasin Khan to understand how the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has changed her idea of ‘the good life’.

What would you call ‘the good life’ as of today?

Having guilt-free time. I am the kind of person who constantly wants to work. I am a single mom, and if I have taken a holiday, it has been around work, because my work allowed that. I have not given myself time off, because financially, I don’t have that liberty. This is the first time in my life where I have had time to breathe. So, I am in a space where I am not guilty of thinking, ‘I am not doing this or that”. I am not worried. I have time with my kids, and I am in a beautiful commune – this to me is a great life.

Niharika Bhasin

How has this idea changed for you over the past three-four months?

The idea hasn’t changed so much for me, but if people are not learning from the pandemic, we have really f***ed up. I am hoping that people learn to be respectful of other’s time, work, and space.

Anything that you have pursued in the past three months, to create ‘the good life’ for yourself?

I like my personal space, and I have taken up a lot of things. I am doing my jewellery design again, one of my friends is teaching my daughters and me the djembe, and I don’t think I have ever swum as much as I have during this period. I have been learning how to ride the scooter. With another friend of mine, I have started Goa Talkies, a platform for all film-making talent that’s in Goa. Also, I love bugs, and my everyday thing now is to count how many bugs I have seen.

Niharika Bhasin

What does a typical ‘good life’ day like for you?

I wake up, shout at my children. I have haldi-tulsi water. Breakfast, and then I’ll check emails, followed by meditation with my friends. By the afternoon, all of us get together; we workout by the pool. Then I’ll get some more work done. I do my drawings or watch something funny. I recently saw V for Vendetta and loved it. I love sci-fi and am watching everything in that genre, including The Matrix series.

Any ‘good life’ recommendations?

App-wise, I count on Zomato, Swiggy, and Amazon. I am someone who has always supported small businesses, so when it comes to ordering out, I’d rather have someone who will deliver fresh produce home or I’ll get my cookies from a homebaker etc.

Niharika Bhasin Khan

Self-care, self-love – what does this mean to you?

These really are the most important things, but if the pandemic is teaching you this, then you are really in trouble. I don’t think self-care means to spend time alone. I believe it’s what you need as a person, at a particular time because we go through different stages where you might need more love or money. And self-care is when you are aware of what is happening to you and you can address that.

Yes, a lot of people are now having time to sit and think about themselves — a lot of the times we are on the clock so we are not concentrating on what is happening. Right now is a difficult time for a lot of people, but I’m glad the focus on mental health is big. Self-care can sound very prophetic but the truth is that we don’t teach people how to cope, or deal, or say what you need to say without being belittled.

What’s your main goal this year in creating ‘the good life’?

I have never had a goal. I have always lived day to day. I don’t think I am a goal-oriented person. Right now, my only goal is to get my dogs from Mumbai to Goa.

All images: Courtesy Niharika Bhasin Khan

Varun Rana

Rana is a freelance fashion journalist and the cook-founder of Rana Ka Khana, a food pop-up that celebrates regional Indian cuisines. He graduated from the National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi with a degree in Fashion Design in 2004, and has assisted designers like JJ Valaya, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Rohit Gandhi-Rahul Khanna, and Gaurav Gupta. Since 2006, he has worked with and written for publications like GQ India, Harper’s Bazaar India, Vogue India, Elle India, the NYT Style blog, Paper Magazine The Hindu, Verve, Reader’s Digest, and many more.

Image: Manil Gupta