It was the frisbee, smeared with dried mud and casually wedged in the front shrubs, that tempered my expectations. Good thing, too. Because when you're talking to the daughter of an Indian music god in the old man's living room, it's easy to fall back on an old cliché.
This isn't about Ravi Shankar. Not specifically, at least. But unlike the musical offspring of western pop stars-who often view their elders as lead swimsuits-Anoushka Shankar is proud to be the only life-long student of "Papi," her blood and her guru.
"Any given rock star is not necessarily connected musically to their parent. It's purely natural for them to get irritated at constantly being compared," she tells me, sitting on the couch with her feet tucked under her ("In India, feet are considered disrespectful," she imparts, as I self-consciously glance at my semi-clean, bare toes).
"For me, it's not that he just happens to be a blood relative-he is my teacher . So what I play is completely connected."
True: Anoushka Shankar is Ravi's only life-long student. George Harrison ("Uncle George") may have spent some quality time, but from age 9 until now (she's 19), Anoushka has served as the apprentice to India's biggest "rock star."
Sure, she's enjoyed the benefits. The world-class instruction. The connections.
Her father even ensured her first solo gig was a sell-out. He didn't pull strings-he got high blood pressure. Too ill to go through with the final two dates of a father-daughter tour in 2000, Ravi sent his daughter to perform alone.
"It wasn't a planned thing, so I didn't have time to build it up in my head, or get really nervous... because I do do that," she admits.
She did, however, spend a frantic night and day practicing her father's compositions. After all, she says, it wasn't like she was performing her own tunes: "I was replacing him. People were there to see my dad, and they got me."
After both performances-in Spain and Italy-the audiences cheered for encores. That gave her the confidence to tour on her own after returning home to San Diego (actually, San Diego is one of three homes, along with London and Delhi).
I had expected Anoushka to possess an air of royalty. On her newest album, Live at Carnegie Hall , she is draped in traditional Indian jewelry and dress. There is a serenity in her eyes as she intimately embraces her sitar. But the Anoushka I meet today is a bespectacled, giddy girl with a nose ring-enchantingly normal and articulate. She giggles courteously during our conversation and gives me a mischievous look when disclosing her love for psychedelic goa trance music.
"Psychedelic goa trance and Israeli trance and all of that very far-removed stuff," she explains, rattling off obscure names like GMS and Infected Mushroom. "This city drives me crazy because I have no access to the rest of me."
Ravers-not "traditional classical fans"-are her people, she says. She tries to lure young music lovers to her shows by lecturing at campuses around the country. And though she disagrees, people tell her that onstage she's "more of a rock star than a classical musician."
"With my musicians," she explains, "we don't put on a classical facade. We don't sit there very stiff. I don't see the point. If I'm up there, I have to have fun."
Now that her friends from San Dieguito High School have graduated and left San Diego, Anoushka doesn't feel very connected to the city. She yearns for London and Delhi.
"It's the whole trance scene over there," she says, "and we're at raves every weekend. I think that's just the type of person I am."
So there's the rub: why not do as her father did and cross over? Why stick to the classical Indian music route when she could be collaborating with the Beatles of today?
"Most world musicians that I know who have become very famous have only done that through crossing over and working with another artist," she explains. "And there's nothing wrong with it. But I resent the idea that that's the only way that it can be done.
"Being in the West, everyone has expected me to fuse. And I just feel like saying, Look, our music does stand on its own-very well. And it doesn't need anything else, and I don't need anything else to become successful.'"
Now, after three albums on Angel Records, a Grammy award for her collaboration with her father on Full Circle-Carnegie Hall , and packed solo shows on various continents, Anoushka feels she's established herself. Now, there's latitude to merge her personalities.
"People do have an idea that I'm a good musician, that I play sitar, I play classical music and I'm upholding this tradition, all that stuff. So now I feel that if I want to do something else... it doesn't take away from my classical image. If a few years ago, had I run around and done some fusion stuff, it would have been harder to build an identity later."
Is a sitar-laced goa trance record or a "Strokes meet Anoushka" collaboration in the future?
"Maybe," she says with an impish smile. "It's only within the last year that I felt comfortable saying that."