During the early phase of lockdown in the US, Jersey City based chef Garima Kothari would routinely post the menu of her restaurant Nukkad on Facebook, asking her customers to continue ordering home-cooked meals as she had been forced to close down the restaurant in March.
In an ugly turn of events, on April 26, 2020, Kothari was found dead in the apartment she shared with her partner Man Mohan Mall in an alleged murder-suicide case. Kothari was five months pregnant, an autopsy revealed. The matter is still under investigation, and her otherwise buzzing restaurant remains shut.
“Since then, I’ve been by the restaurant several times. The lights are off, the tables and chairs are still turned over, and an ominous sign hangs outside: ‘Nukkad Closed’,” said Manas Jha, a New York-based musician and songwriter who was a regular at the restaurant.
As a tribute to Kothari, Jha has written an indie-rock song called ‘Nukkad Closed’. The song, which is slated to release on January 29, has been produced and mixed by Keshav Dhar, and award-winning producer, musician and songwriter, and is Jha’s first collaboration with Dhar. The visuals have been created by Delhi-based animator Dhruv Sharma.
With the song, Jha intends to make people aware of the horrific incident, which didn’t catch the attention it should have. “What I found troubling was the coverage, or lack thereof. Till date, it’s so disheartening to read every other news article as a copy-paste of the official record describing her death,” Jha says.
Dove and crows
The song captures the struggles of a dove who fights against all odds to cross each hurdles until she succumbs to the circumstances. Since the makers didn’t want to make a direct reference to Kothari, they decided to use visual metaphors to depict Kothari’s story.
In the video, a dove flies over a dark world splashed with shades of black and red, depicting hate and darkness, Jha says. “Throughout the video, we watch the superwoman-like white dove fight impossible odds. But she is, ultimately, overcome by the villainous fleet of black crows.”
Jha had the imagery of crows and a dove in mind and Sharma built the visual narrative of crows constantly trying to pull the dove down. “Crows here represent the scum of the society and the dove represents those who live in the society, but are a little away from it. When the crows see the dove flying high, they try every means to cause the dove pain. The situation is very similar to what we see around – how there will always be people who want to pull you down,” said Sharma, the animator.
But the crows, he adds, end up falling down by the end of the video, showing that there are consequences to misdeeds. Towards the end of the video, the eggs of the dove fall and break. “It is not about a single life lost, but many,” said Sharma, pointing to the death of Kothari’s unborn child.
Towards the the outro, the language shifts from English to Hindi: ‘Kya mein, ab bhi hun wahi… Raha na, khud pe hi yakeen.’
“It’s written from the aggressor’s perspective, with a feeling of deep regret and remorse towards the end. In the video, it plays after the black crows have killed the white dove, destroyed her nest and broken the eggs in it. A vile act, with the only redemption being drowning themselves in the sea,” Jha adds.
Kothari was an investment banker before becoming one of the finalists at Masterchef India, an opportunity which she said had inspired her to undertake a course in bakery at Le Cordon Bleu Paris and later start her own business.
Jha had several conversations with her during his visits to Nukkad and found her to be lively person and with a great sense of humour. According to him, she challenged negative feedback and boldly took on bad reviewers. Besides, she was also not afraid to call out large corporate bodies for bad practices.
“With this video, my hope is that people take the time to learn about her. She was a fighter and bravely took on impossible odds. She was so much more than the news headlines of her horrific death,” Jha adds.
‘Nukkad Closed’ is part of an EP called ‘Trifecta’. The other two songs on the EP which are also slated to release soon are ‘Myrooh’, featuring FuzzCulture and Siddharth Basrur, and ‘Liberate’, featuring Warren Mendonsa and Jai Row Kavi.
Featured image credit: YouTube screengrab