The world and reality TV’s chronically rude critic Simon Cowell had rolled their eyes when Susan Boyle, a 47-year-old Scottish woman, a little frumpy and very chubby, turned up for the auditions to sing in Britain’s Got Talent five years ago. They had scoffed at the accent, and sneered at her appearance when she dared utter the name of their Elaine Paige, the First Lady of British Musical Theatre.
Indian sport should know what it’s like to be Miss Boyle, and looked at with contemptuous skepticism. Delhi’s Commonwealth Games were declared an unmitigated disaster even before they kicked off. It had taken the final day’s twin gold medals in badminton to finally stop the English from carping about all that was wrong, and admit their athletes had been pipped to the second place on the medals tally by the confident home contingent.
Back on Britain’s minutely scrutinised reality-entertainment show — they’re the only specimen who cop it worse than their sportspeople — after a nervous shimmy and jiggle, Miss Boyle was to give the cynical world a rousing rendition of ‘I dreamed a dream’, as Cowell & Co. were won over at the first high notes of her mezzo soprano tenor, biting their lips and swallowing their snorting words.
This ought to have been a fairytale which ended in us saying the lady with the bold and deeply powerful voice, has never looked back since.
Except, she did. Several times, and that’s where the real story begins.
Of a woman suffering from Asperger’s and prone to frequent and tearful anxiety attacks who spent close to a year wrestling with her internal demons of self-doubt, low confidence and lower self-esteem, before she could achieve what musicians world-over crave — a Live concert and a big audience spellbound by her voice alone. Boyle started out touring at Inverness in front of the kindly home folk from North Scotland, and it took her more than a year for her breakout performance where she wowed a full-house in Houston, Texas.
Good old days
Indian athletes, who hit all the high notes at the Delhi Games defying modest expectations, have suffered from a collective anxiety attack since those dazzling days of Delhi four years ago. Banned by the international Olympic body, as they fell back into the chaotic lurch, which they thought they’d freed themselves of, at the heady home Games, Indians have frittered away the gains of London, and head into the 20th edition of CWG looking uncertain, edgy and wry of their chances this time around. SuBo, as they call Boyle here, may well empathise with this diffidence.
At Glasgow, where she will once again take a deep breath to settle her nerves before she unfurls her rich, talented voice at the Opening Ceremony, India can hope that when continued…