'Turbanator' Gurpreet Singh Sarin happens to be luckier than Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty. The young man of Indian origin, who made it to the top 40 on the "American Idol" reality show, says he didn't face any racial discrimination on his journey to achieving a fusion of Indian classical music and western music.
"I am very thankful I did not face anything like that (racism) from the judges or any other people," the US-based Gurpreet said over the phone from New York.
"I was conscious that there must be people who might be ignorant and racist and did not understand where I come from, but I was just focussed on my singing, and moving on to the next level of competition," added the singer, earned the 'Turbanator' moniker thanks to the colourful turbans he sported on "American Idol".
This is quite unlike what Shilpa Shetty faced in Britain when she was a part of "Celebrity Big Brother" in 2007. She was bullied by the other contestants and the racist attacks attracted a furore from several quarters. Ultimately, Shilpa won the competition.
But even while Gurpreet is now out of the show, he is happy he has been "able to educate people about myself through my passion and dream, and that has been a blessing".
He left the judges, global celebrities like Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban, with his talent and even made "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest do the bhangra on the show, which airs on channel BIG CBS LOVE.
A trained classical singer, the 22-year-old belongs to a family with an inclination for instruments like the tabla, sitar and flute. Through the music platform, Gurpreet wanted to show how the two worlds - Indian and western - can be brought together.
"One reason why I wanted to be on the show was to show everyone how I can incorporate Indian classical music into American music. There have been artists like Norah Jones who have incorporated Indian classical influences and I got an opportunity to do the same," he said.
A student of Computers and Information Science at a university in New York, Gurpreet has Bollywood in mind too. However, his influences include artists like tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, sarod expert Amjad Ali Khan and late sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, who expanded India's presence on the world map with their talent.
Gurpreet admits that as a contestant on "American Idol", he served as an inspiration and encouragement for other Indian-origin youngsters in the US. He says he received immense support through the online medium.
"I would get messages from my fans saying that being an Indian, I am encouraging them and I am their role model. For me that was a wonderful opportunity. I wasn't even conscious how large a role model I had become," Gurpreet said.
He, however, wants to finish his studies first before giving himself completely to the music world and is thankful about the exposure he got through "American Idol".
(Yashika Mathur can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)