Sunday, April 8, 2007

Being "Sanjaya"ed .........

Sanjaya Malakar has brought the "Desi" (meaning "Asian Indian") face into the limelight in the USA as never before. Love him or Hate him, fans of American Idol seem to never get enough of him.

What is surprising though is the number of conspiracy theories that have started flying around to explain his continued stay on the show despite his mediocre singing talents. Well, sing he can't, though he definitely has a screen appeal for a particular demographic (pre-teen girls and doting grandmas).

The mainstream media has reported one conspiracy theory extensively - call center workers from India were calling in votes for Sanjaya. That one had me in splits. Showed the total ignorance of the media here about the "Indian as a group" psychology. They need to read about the "Indian crab" tale : when shipping Indian crabs , no lid is required on the container. As soon as one will try climbing up the others will pull it down.

I was surprised by the assumption or even more so an almost sacrosanct belief that voters always make rational choices. The "Freakonomics" authors will sure have a lot to say about that. Look at the history of general elections in almost any country and one can conclude that such a belief is a myth. People vote with their hearts and not their minds. Even more so once a wave gets created people would rather ride that wave than apply any wisdom of their own. Media consultants who are experts in creating such a buzz or wave are the part of all the presidential candidates' entourage these days.

Whenever a majority views a minority they always assume that the minority behaves like a herd - "All Indians will vote for Sanjaya". Why they would think so beats me. I am reminded of an experience from my childhood - riding through the Indian countryside and stopping at roadside farms one would see young kids tending their "herd" of buffaloes or cows. While I saw them as a herd, the farmer's kid was always able to identify each animal distinctly and more often than not have a unique name for each of them.

What bugs me the most is that this attitude gets carried over to the workplace also in many cases. People stereotype minorities and try to typecast them in particular roles . "Asians are good in math and science". "Marketing ,Sales, Communication is not Indians' forte". Every person is an individual and needs to be viewed and judged as such.

Sanjaya needs to sail or sink on his own merits and talent. His being of Indian descent has nothing to do with it. If America likes him and is willing to vote for him week after week he will win. Whether he wins or loses, the producers of "American Idol" are laughing their way to the bank. Nothing like some controversy to get those viewership ratings soaring. If none existed they would have created one.

All the best - Sanjaya !!! While you may not have the singing talent, you have shown the world how to keep smiling and fighting in the face of criticism and insurmountable odds. And America loves that.


Anonymous said...

Deepak -- Thanks for forwarding the link ... keep them coming. Saw your note to CK asking to check out if the blog is allowing comments, so here's mine.

I believe one of the major reasons for Sanjaya's survival is They want the worst singer to win in order to hurt what they consider to be a really obnoxious program (Idol).


Speedmaster said...

Good points Deepak. I'll add that she show is as much popularity contest as singing contest. ;-)

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