Ssumier S Pasricha, aka the viral sensation Pammi Aunty, has made viewers across the world laugh with his videos featuring the cantankerous Pammi who, in her outlandish headgear, gigantic glasses and facemask is always caught gossiping with Sarla ‘penji’ over the phone.
However, there’s more to Ssumier who’s also a trained classical singer, theatre artiste and kuchipudi dancer. While all these activities may not leave him with much for travel, the Delhi lad manages to take off as often as he can for some relaxing holidays. A tête-à-tête with Ssumier…
Coming from a business family that had no place for the arts, how did you manage to branch out and follow your heart’s calling?
Well, it took me quite a while to realize that I wanted to become an actor but that’s mainly because options at that time were fairly limited. So, like any good son, I was expected to be not just a successful but also a shrewd businessman. And although I must confess, I was fairly good at it my heart was looking to be elsewhere – in the world of music, dance and, of course, acting. So, I found some good work and shifted to Mumbai, and now, especially after the passing on of my father, oversee the family business as well.
When you travel, does Pammi Aunty travel with you?
No, she doesn’t, and that’s only because I don’t like to work while travelling. That time is my ‘me-time’. But yes, when people recognize me, I do spend time with them but refuse to talk shop and keep Pammi Aunty away.
Tell us about some of the places where inspiration struck…
Inspiration lies in every nook and corner – it all depends on what you’re looking for, what excites you and what you’re planning to create. My inspiration comes mainly from people. I love meeting people, getting to know about their culture, language, food, etc. Observing their mannerisms and habits helps me not just create new situations and stories but also provides ideas for my different roles as an actor.
Have you been asked to do an impromptu show when travelling?
Yes, about two years ago when I was being honoured in the House of Commons in London, an organization approached me to do a show. And within just about two days, I put something together with the help of a local artiste from the BBC news channel. The show that was presented in front of a big gathering was quite a hit.
Let’s talk about the last place you visited…
That was Pondicherry (now known as Puducherry) and I was completely besotted by its calm, relaxed pace of life. I loved Auroville, walking around, having great food at the numerous French cafes, taking in the old-world charm of the place, the sound of the sea waters, etc…
Who is your best travel companion?
I often travel alone because – unfortunately, my friends’ and my leave schedules don’t always match. But although we do manage to take off, I also enjoy my own company. Travelling alone has its own charm – it gives you time to introspect, do things at your own pace and meet your kind of people.
What factors generally dictate your travel plans?
As a freelance artiste, I can’t always plan much in advance, so for those impromptu holidays, I look at places that offer visa on-arrival or allow me entry depending on the visa stamps on my passport. Here I must add that I generally head for destinations that offer good beaches and water sports. I also like to do some bit of research before zeroing in on a place – reading up on its tourist spots, culture, food, etc.
What memories do you have of your first travel experience?
I remember my trip to the US as an excited eight-year-old. I was thrilled getting into the plane and then, upon landing there, seeing those big, flashy cars, streets full of fashionable people, different types of cereals, food and even milk. And whenever I’d walk into a toy shop, I’d want to buy everything in it. Imagine my joy when I met Mickey Mouse and other characters in Disneyland – it all seems just like yesterday.
Tell us about your favourite destination
That has to be Turkey – with its warm, wonderful people. Despite being one of the most modern countries I’ve been to, everyone there seems so rooted in their culture and traditions. I remember being invited to a party by someone I’d met only once – and this was because the people there love Indians and have a lot of respect for ‘Hindustan’ – yes, that’s how they refer to India.
Tell us about places on your wish-list?
Oh there are many – starting with Bhutan followed by Iceland and Norway and many more.
How do you spend your time travelling?
That’s when I catch up on the movies I’ve missed. And while sipping some fine wine, spend time chatting with my fellow passengers. And if there’s still some time left, I sleep.
What does your travel kit generally carry?
I’m a light traveller. So, besides a few essentials, my DSLR camera, since I love photography, is a constant companion.