Recollections of ambivalent nostalgia

Actor-director Danish Husain talks about his memories of growing up in Delhi and how he feels about the city now

Published: 27th July 2022 08:48 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th July 2022 08:48 AM   |  A+A-

Danish Husain | Indraneil Sengupta

Danish Husain | Indraneil Sengupta

Express News Service

Over the course of more than a decade-long career, Danish Husain has donned many hats—the Mumbai resident is an actor, director, theatre practitioner, and storyteller. But, prior to his entry into the world of arts, years ago, he was working at a Korean bank in Delhi, earning a high salary with just about no satisfaction. In this week’s ‘City on My Mind’, Husain—he is known for reviving art of Urdu storytelling—tells us about his journey from being a banking professional in Delhi to a notable name in Indian theatre as well as cinema. 

A trip down memory lane
Born in a joint family, Husain—his parents were university professors and the extended family too was working with Delhi University—was brought up in and around the North Campus. He recalls the campus as a site where he experienced unity firsthand. “During the 1984 riots, there were two Sikh professors living in our colony. The residents shut the gate, protected the professors, and sent off the rioters.” Playing cricket and football at the University cricket ground—and dancing around the colony when India clinched its first ever World Cup trophy in 1983—as well as attending gatherings at his uncle’s bungalow on Eid, Holi, and Diwali, make for happy childhood memories. When his family and acquaintances would congregate at their place, Husain would perform a small skit with friends—possibly his first tryst with storytelling.  

A former Delhi University student—he was part of Delhi School of Economics (DSE), and Faculty of Management Studies—Husain mentions that his association with DSE helped him, “A lot of what I am today is essentially because of what I experienced in DSE. It was an eye-opener. There were students from many countries, and I met a variety of people. I realised how far more intelligent people there are in the world. We had an ideal faculty—it was a very erudite and intellectually-stimulating place to be in.” 
Later, Husain—he was then working in the corporate sector while pursuing an MBA degree—steered towards acting, initially with Barry John and eventually as a dastango. This career shift took him to Mumbai in 2014—a place he now calls home.

Changing relationships
Husain mentions that the capital’s relevance in his life has changed with time. “I don’t have that attachment with Delhi,” he tells us nonchalantly. He elaborates, “Delhi has changed drastically over the last three decades… It is often difficult to recognise the city. There was a time when I could say, ‘Take me blindfolded somewhere in the city, open my eyes, and I would instantly recognise the street’. I can’t say that anymore. It has changed spatially, topographically.” Pointing out issues of women safety, road rage, etc., Husain says he experiences ambivalent feelings about the city. “I have friends and family here, Delhi has its set of lovely, kind people but I think [with time] Delhi has become more ruthless,” he signs off.


Favourite place to hangout in Delhi: Khan Market

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Favourite monument in Delhi: All of them but Humayun’s Tomb and Red Fort in particular because I have performed there

A lesson this city taught you: The fact that Delhi has been uprooted several times but it continues to be the heart of the country is something to learn from


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