The choice for the topic this week was between a real-life fairytale and the parliamentary elections. I would rather opt for the feel-good story,even if it is from another country. A dream come true,captured live on Internet. The election on the other hand,is a feel-bad story. It appears we are heading for a messy,unclear verdict. A sizeable section of the Indian public seems to share my view,and is either bored or turned off by the poll campaign. Apart from the politicians,the ones who are reveling in the vitiated,petty political circus are the TV news channels who subject us nightly to discussions and dissections of every stupid statement made by the sparring politicians and their parties.
So back to my feel-good story. It was my daughter in New York who sent me the link,which I ignored until she practically ordered me to open it. And this is what I saw. A frumpily dressed,middle-aged woman,Susan Boyle,who could have been cast for the part of Miss Marple in an Agatha Christie story,walks on to the stage to take part in a British talent competition. She is a complete misfit among the trendy,good-looking youngsters competing in the show,the slick,smart aleck judges and the sadistic audience waiting to tear apart the contestants.
Boyles answers to the judges reinforce the image of a mousy loser. She is a 47-year-old,unemployed,single woman living in a faraway village in Scotland with a cat called Pebbles. She spent much of her youth looking after her elderly mother who died a few years back. Susan,who sings in her small parish church,confesses her dream is to be a professional singer like Elaine Page. The senior judge raises a supercilious eyebrow at her presumption,the audience titters loudly and everyone waits with malicious glee for the old biddy to make a fool of herself.
Then Susan starts to sing the song ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ from the musical Les Miserables. Her voice is pure magic. One sees the jaws of the cynical audience drop,the crowd is on its feet,followed by thundering applause. The judges look shell-shocked. The modest Susan is not even aware of the spell she has cast and starts walking off the stage,until the judge calls her back.
It is difficult not to be moved when you witness what looked like the impossible dream of a lonely spinster coming true before your eyes. My daughter tells me that every secretary in her law firm wept when they saw the clip.
In less than a fortnight — she sang Saturday before last — Susan has become something of a legend. Long before the talent hunt show is over,she has been offered a fat contract to make records. Elaine Page wants to sing a duet with her. Her story has been splashed in the American media and talk show hosts are vying with each other to get her on their programmes. Feminists and commentators have cited Susans case to decry the false value system in society,which prejudges people on the basis of their looks,packaging and age. Isnt it just the same in India? At last count,more than 20 million people had watched Susan Boyle sing on YouTube. In case you havent,here is the link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lp0IWv8QZY.
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