DU student Saloni Gaur as Nazma aapi.
Nazma aapi's Twitter bio reads: “I stare at people and make them feel super awkward”, but in reality, she releases videos on Instagram and makes them laugh. From backbiting about her friend and neighbour Salma to dealing with the antics of her children or giving instructions to her husband, her rants are extremely relatable. But that is not all. In between these rants, she talks about the political and current issues in news at the moment — from the ongoing protests against CAA/NRC to the controversy around Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Hum Dekhenge and actor Deepika Padukone showing up at Jawaharlal Nehru University to show solidary with the students.
What makes her stand apart is that her humour is not at the expense of anyone or any line of thought. For instance, in a video, she talks about how she went with her children to the book fair and asked a shopkeeper for a copy of the Constitution. But she changed her mind when the latter said, kya karoge Samvidhan lekar, value toh rahi nahi? Or in the one on Deepika, where she says: Waise mazze toh tab aate jab woh Ranveer ke saath aati, woh banda aisa hai ki pedh par chadh chadkar kar naare lagata.
But who is Nazma aapi? She’s actually Saloni Gaur, a 20-year-old student of Delhi University, who is pursuing her graduation in political science and economics. “Dono hi kharab chal rahe hain aaj kal,” she scoffs.
“I had created the character of Nazma aapi over two years ago. I used to go to old Delhi and noticed how women speak there. I’ve always been good at mimicry, so I started copying them. At that time, I didn’t have any intention of making videos on the current issues, it was just about a woman and her daily rants,” says Gaur. Her first video was on the confusion about which day would Eid eventually be, depending on the moon.
Though she had been regularly posting her one-minute videos as Nazma, it was the one on Delhi’s pollution last October that made her viral. “I had been posting videos only on Instagram, this was the first video on Twitter. It went viral and people found me,” says Gaur, who hails from Bulandshahr. Since then, she has been using humour to voice her opinion on various issues such as the Maharashtra elections, high prices of onions and the cold wave in north India. “Reading the newspaper has always been a habit since I was a child and I always had these thoughts, but it is now through Nazma aapi that I have found a medium to express myself,” says Gaur.
Assuming the role of a Muslim woman was never uncomfortable, says Gaur. “It was as normal as anything else. And people have been supportive. I haven’t received any hate comments, I’ve only received love,” she says. Language is one of the factors that has made Nazma aapi so popular. Her signature style includes the greeting “As-salamu alaykum Instagram ke bando” and repeatedly saying “arrey bhaiye” in between sentences. “When I was making these videos, I had not given this much thought, I just picked up some commonly used words from the streets, but later people told me it was similar to the way people speak in old Delhi. Some say there are hints of the Hyderabadi accent too.”
Daughter of a homemaker and a businessman, she says that her parents are happy and supportive, but her extended family was a little shocked. “They always thought of me as a shy girl and were surprised to see the videos,” she says. However, mimicry has always been a part of her life — at home and in school. “What people see on social media now, I used to do it at home all the time. In school, I just needed an audience of three or four people,” she says. “Since my parents won’t allow me to go for the protests, this is the way I am registering my protest,” says adds. But she takes no pressure of staying relevant. “I will stop making the videos on my own will, and if I don’t support any issue, I will not make one. It is not essential to speak on everything,” she says.