Dhruv Rathod, the only child of Manisha and Ashish, is a fourth grader at Novi’s Deerfield Elementary School who’s been singing since he was four years old. In March, the 9-year-old will have the opportunity of a lifetime: singing the national anthem at a Detroit Pistons game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. (He’ll also be performing at a January game against the Bulls). The Indian SCENE spoke to this young, award-winning singer about his goals, inspiration and love of music.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
IS: How would your family/friends describe you?
DR: My family knows me as a technology guy who loves coding and solving problems, I’m a bookworm, I love animals (zebras are my favorite) and absolutely love dinosaurs. I love building Lego architecture and have built 12 cities so far, puzzle solving is my best pastime, I have a strong passion for music and sports. I am a nature lover, I love the outdoors—I love hiking in the mountains, biking and spending time on the beach. I am a Disney fanatic kid and love all their thriller rides at all theme parks, I am a young, kind-hearted boy who leads with his heart. When I grow up I want to be a scientist and a CEO and eventually the president of our country some day!
IS: What activities/clubs do you participate in?
DR: I do karate (brown belt) at Family Self Defense Center, Novi Civic Center. I learn Hindustani classical music with Mrs. Sunitha Ananthaswamy. I learn tennis privately with Coach Keith, at Novi Sports club. I learn keyboard lessons with Daniel, at Center for Performance Arts and learning. I have now started skating in Novi Ice Arena and have graduated from Goldfish swim school a couple of months ago.
IS: How did you get interested in singing?
DR: When I was 2 years old, I used to sit with my mom and grandmas whenever they sang religious hymns at the temple back home in Mumbai (Laxmi Narayan Temple, Khar) or here at home. By 3 years old, I knew quite a few shlokas and would chant with them. At 4 years old when I was in pre-K at Novi Northville Montessori school, my music teacher, Mrs. Sunitha Ananthaswamy, recognized my potential and wanted me to pursue music. I started my Hindustani classical singing from her since then and I am still learning privately. I am hoping to have my diploma before I go to college. My grandmas gave me a keyboard when I was 5 years old as my housewarming gift and since then, I have been playing the keyboard just by listening to music. In October 2018, I started taking formal private lessons from Daniel Bachelis at Nandita’s Center for Performance Arts and Learning and I am now learning how to read music notes.
I am very passionate about music, both singing and playing the keyboard, and I just love performing whether it is for school events, pancake breakfasts, temples, charity events or fundraisers. It’s my way of giving back to our community.
IS: Have you ever felt any discrimination? If so, what did you do to combat that?
DR: Since I’m a relatively small built guy, I have been bullied several times but overcame all of it by mindfulness, a practice taught by Mrs Carol Lafferty at Deerfield. Instead of reacting and retaliating, I would just calm down, think and then act (not easy to do but eventually the bullying stopped). Music has also been therapeutic for me during such moments.
IS: Who had the most influence on you and why?
DR: Both my parents have had great influence on me, but my mom slightly more as she gave up her corporate career as an Imaging Specialist at Henry Ford Hospital to take care of me and raise me the way she wanted. My mom has been there for me 24×7, I truly admire her for all her sacrifices. I am truly blessed.
IS: What does being Indian-American mean to you?
DR: Being an American Desi kid, I am very proud of my Indian origin and all my Indian roots. I am always very fascinated by the rich culture and diversity we have. I have also read the famous Ramayana and Mahabharatha and other mythology books with my dad.
Best Restaurant: Rainforest Café in the Great Lakes Crossing outlet mall and Al Ameer in Dearborn.
Best Thing to Do with Friends: Cycle and hoverboard, play tag and any board games!
Favorite Hollywood and Bollywood Entertainers: Will Smith, Denzel, Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jim Carrey; Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Khanna, Ayushmann and the 3 Khans.