david cook, the 25-yr old american idol aspirant frm blue springs sang his heart out tonight in a completely novel, audacious & brilliant rock-with-guitar-twang interpretation of the classic lionel richie pop number 'hello'. if the the accompanying applause was anything to go by, cook is a contender for one of the top spots in the competition. what makes this interesting is the fact that he isn't really one of the guys with the best vocals, or the best screen presence, or electrifying moves. not a michael john or carly smithson or danny noriega in short. what he exhibited tonight was the daring to take risks, which often don't pay off (as they didn't in the case of david archuleta whose ultra soulful version of phil collins' 'another day in paradise' sounded insipid, immature & unmelodious); that important mix of guts & talent which alone delivers a sucker punch.
as i was watching cook, i tried to cast my mind back to any episode of sa re ga ma pa or indian idol where a contestant had dared to interpret a popular song in his unique fashion. i don't even know that it is within the prescribed rules of the contest & herein lies the biggest difference b/w the american & indian way of life. out here, the right to differ, to question, to be irreverent, are considered as sacred as the right to breathe. often i'm stunned by the way i hear students address their tutors or at the way contestants often cock an eyebrow at a particularly obnoxious judge & i still haven't decided whether i like/comfortable with it or not. i guess i am the sort who thinks irreverence is best reserved for 'serious' causes but maybe i have got it all wrong.
p'haps this is what we need, urgently. to train our children to think differently & take the onus of their choice for that alone is the path to true liberation. i shudder to imagine the apoplexy that'd be sure to assail the eminent javed akhtar would a contestant on indian idol even presume to try to sing 'sandeshey aatey hai' to the sound of fast, drum beats. by the time akhtar is finished with him, every indian blogger worth his salt would accuse the poor contestant of being unpatriotic! despite every kind of criticism that is levelled against the u.s., i still believe that it is the most democratic nation i know of & we have light years to travel & several jodha akbar bans to revoke before we can even hope to come close. now more than ever before it is imperative that we teach/encourage our children to accept nothing at face value, to relentlessly pursue unimaginable goals & applaud their efforts to do so. this has to start at the school level.
every desi worth his salt who has lived in the u.s for a while echoes that familiar claim that has taken on the worth of gospel truth thru endless repetition that 'our education system is superior & indian kids are smarter than their u.s counterparts.' of course, it is another matter that they are largely comparing indian graduates & post graduates with u.s college drop-outs on the same scale. all my 3-yr old does at school is play, scrape her knees, tear her clothes, identify marine, wild & domestic animals, colour endless pictures of barney & his pals & learn to eat everything from celery to cereals. in contrast, my nephew who attends one of mumbai's best icse schools is already struggling with writing, colouring & counting the lower case a, b, c's & numbers. there is a kind of manic desperation i detect in my SIL's voice every time we speak that is eerily reminiscent of bush in the aftermath of ahmednejad's iraq visit. well, for all this nonsense that i'm writing, when it actually comes to the crunch, will i be any different with my kid? i don't know for sure. what i do know is among the 6 indian kids who attend school with d, she is the only one who still hasn't any idea how to hold a pencil & whenever anxiety grips me at her poor state of advancement, i comfort myself with the thought that the early vedic scholars made excellent use of the the oral tradition to pass knowledge from one generation to another.