California Girl

East Meets West (Coast) in Anoushka Shankar

Ravi carries the unmistakable air of an artist who has learned to see the sincerity in superficiality. When this reporter asks whether it's okay to play his music while driving, a faint frown crosses his face before he replies, "You might have an accident." But Anoushka is as unfettered as her father is guarded. Even Uncle George gets his fair share of abuse, as when I ask what she thinks of "Norwegian Wood," with its famous sitar bridge. Anoushka winces: "It's so out of tune."

America has a way of seeping into the unconscious of even the most traditional families, pleasure principle and all. Anoushka is clearly a California dreamer, and despite his pedigree, Ravi is very much a California dad. The man who had a baby sitar made for his little girl, and who spent years guiding her through the rigors of an ancient art, is no different from countless striving parents. He hopes she will take over the business, but he hastens to add, "Everything depends on her."

For her part, Anoushka says "It's going to come down to what makes me happy." She has yet to have "a gut feeling" that the sitar is her life. She thinks she might become a poet or a social worker. "Or a model," adds Ravi. Or maybe a movie star--though probably not in Bollywood. "I get offers for Hindi movies," she confides, "but I don't know. You have to run around trees for awhile, then roll down a hill and walk around in the rain in a white sari." Not exactly Evita.

Ravi Shankar's daughter could become a poet, a social worker, or a sitar master: ''It's going to come down to what makes me happy.''
Robin Holland
Ravi Shankar's daughter could become a poet, a social worker, or a sitar master: ''It's going to come down to what makes me happy.''

The test will come after she graduates from high school, when she ventures onstage with her sitar--and without Raviji. This seems much scarier to Anoushka than playing alongside her monumental dad. Even when he enters the room, her voice lowers a bit. "Oh, it's gone," she says of a thought as Ravi passes by.

He wears his achievements as distinctly as his large diamond ring, but he is fragile now, and a delicacy shows in his eyes when he speaks of the tradition he's bestowed on Anoushka: "It has been such a slow process, and it will continue as long as I am in this world."

But right now, Anoushka isn't thinking about her inheritance. She is having her picture taken, basking in the flash. And after that, she is going out for Thai food. Kewwwl!

Research: Michael Zilberman

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