Monday, April 20, 2009
After years of watching American Idol, sometimes more passionately than other times (loved the seasons with Kelly & Justin, Taylor & Catherine, David & David; hated Clay &.. what was his name?, and Carrie & Bo)-- this season I am not only riveted, I've actually voted. And of course it has been for my fellow Indo-American peep Anoop Desai! And he is still hanging in there, this week in the Top 7!
This kind of ethnic-based support is a result of years of hearing my parents make a big deal when an Indian has done something newsworthy outside of India. But back in the day, the names were few and far between. Tennis players Vijay Amritraj and Ramesh Krishnan; director Mira Nair (for great flicks like Mississipi Masala and Monsoon Wedding). In more recent years, Leander Paes made it big in tennis, as has Sonia Mirza. And it was a huge deal when Parminder Nagra of Bend It Like Beckham fame made it as a regular on ER -- and then she even got a gig as a spokesmodel for some makeup company and was actually in magazines!
The thing is, while I have always rooted for the Indian, most of these were people who grew up in India.
It wasn't until I read I-A author Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, the ultimate book about the Indo-American experience, written in the voice of a first-generation Indian American, and saw the movie (directed by Nair) that I started to relate to a whole new breed of the I-A celebrity. These are people, who, like me, grew up with Indian immigrant parents in this country. We are very American in the way we live, the friends we have, the way we talk, the way we dress, the way we eat. But we are inextricably tied to our parents' mother country.
In recent weeks it seems the I-As have been making a celeb splash in all sorts of fields. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was on the shortlist to become John McCain's veep candidate. Sanjay Gupta, the CNN Medical Reporter, was Obama's first choice for Surgeon General. (He eventually turned it down.) Padma Lakshmi (who moved to the US as an adolescent, so I will count her) just got naked in the recent issue of Allure and is all over the Food Network and TV ads. (I have plenty to say about her clothing-challenged magazine shoot, but will save that for another post.) Obama has even added a few I-As to his administration -- actor Kal Penn (of Harold and Kumar fame) is now Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison, while the country's Chief Technology Officer is Aneesh Chopra (who happens to be the college roommate of a former newspaper colleague of mine).
It's not that I am surprised by all this I-A success. Just pleased to see my own face looking back at me in so many high profile venues. (Ok, I am not saying Padma Lakshmi looks like me. I am not saying that at all.)
Here's to hoping that Anoop makes it through another week. Since they're kicking two Idols off this week, that would vault him to the Top Five.
And that sure would be something to sing about.