Growing up in a generation where all the kids my age had access to various forms of entertainment other than just playing around my apartment complex, it wasn’t as much of a luxury to sit in my room and switch on my tv. But in a place like India, where most of the electronic media entertainment is dominated by the Indian music and film industry, its quite hard to think about anyone else who might even compare or even attempt to reach the standard that we as Indians made. Most of us desis enjoy a good spot of music, dancing to popular bollywood dance numbers, played usually at weddings, award functions, or on the radio. The arrival of MTV in India wasn’t quite at the same time as it did in the USA, and so exposure to the ‘western’ world to a normal average kid was very limited, except to those who had rich uncles settled in the states who could get them expensive music cassettes or whoa a CD!!! There were a few select places in Mumbai where one could get all this music, set up by some dedicated music connoisseurs. But cmon, as a 6 year old kid, all you care about is watching what you can on television and the local store. The Indian film industry was evolving and adapting to the television revolution, exploiting it even. The concept of the music video gathered momentum...Introducing a novel way of watching our film stars more regularly than just on the movie theatre screens. Amongst this barrage of material being pumped in, if you asked me or any of the kids my age or my generation’
‘Hey kid, apart from Hindi film stars whom do you like? (Please don’t say Mahatma Gandhi..I mean amongst entertainers)’ I can guarantee you there was probably a 99% chance that this kid wherever he came from, and I mean wherever ever, was bound to put on hand on his belt buckle with a thumb inside, one hand outstretched rising up, legs bent and head slightly tilted, and then reply in a cheeky voice’ MAAAYYYYY CULLL JAAAAKSON’ .. I admit I was one of those kids myself.
In between all the bollywood item numbers, amidst all the communal riots, the moral policing that the ‘western culture’ was trying to take over India and its culture, there was just one man who managed to penetrate all the levels, and he was the one who everyone knew, even if they had never heard his music, they knew his image, if they had no idea about this image, they knew his songs, if they dint know either, they had heard about this phenomenon from a friend, rich kids had his poster on their walls, ‘black or white’ blaring out from their expensive stereos, servants working in their homes stopped cleaning the floor to watch the strange flexible man on the television with looks of amazement ‘ Sahib, kya hilta hai ye aadmi, kya naam kya hai?’ (Master, look at the way this man moves, what is his name?). These servants went to their slums that night and told their kids who had just come back from playing on the street, who in turn went to the vendor in the city who was famous for distributing illegal ‘imported cassettes’ at throwaway prices, heard ‘Billie Jean’ or saw the man gyrating like no one else before, and instantly a new world altogether was opened up by one man to millions of people who till then believed that the universe began and ended with Amitabh Bachchan.
You remember those costume contests that are arranged just for us kids, either by the local community club or by your grade school? I can vividly see myself entering many of those (being entered by my mother, to be precise), and at every contest, seeing at least half of those kids with curly long hair, aviator shades, black leather jackets with glitter on them, and just one white glove. Eventually I realized that I should take advantage of this situation, and I never went in a famous MJ outfit instead choosing to be dressed as an Indian God, cuz honestly there HAD to be one person who had to be different right? If all the kids were gonna be influenced by the famous man, let me at least win for trying to resist his popularity! … I never realized at the time how much an effect Michael had on me, on all of us, till now. Later when I discovered the music of Elvis and loved it, I became convinced that he was the ultimate king of music and there was no one better. I went to ask my grandmother whether she knew the famous Presley…Unfortunately my hopes were shattered when she revealed that she only had ever heard of Michael Jackson.
I cannot believe the amount of excitement that was in Mumbai in the winter of 1996, when the king of pop dazzled at the Andheri Sports complex to a packed and overflowing crowd. We may have had several people who have held the world captive with their persona and energy, mostly being country leaders, military generals etc. But never before, had we seen one man see his name become synonymous with music and entertainment as much as Michael Jackson, and he certainly cemented his position on the stage every single damn time with his unmatched voice, his dance moves, and energy oozing off to the crowd, infecting everyone with the virus compelling the muscles to move along to his beats. No wonder then that he was treated like a God and all the other people felt his aura. As Jackson departed Mumbai, the staff at the Oberoi hotel where he occupied the Presidential suite decided to clean the room for the next guest. They found a pillow where Michael had left a note for India
“India, all my life I have longed to see your face. I met you and your people and fell in love with you. Now my heart is filled with sorrow and despair for I have to leave, but I promise I shall return to love you and caress you again. Your kindness has overwhelmed me, your spiritual awareness has moved me, and your children have truly touched my heart. They are the face of God. I truly love and adore you India. Forever, continue to love, heal and educate the children, the future shines on them. You are my special love, India. Forever, may God always bless you .
— Michael Jackson.”
Everyone in India was shattered when we realized that this promise was forever going to be unfulfilled. But Michael will always be remembered not only in the dirtiest slum, but also in the most palatial mansion, having touched everyone and proved that one man can indeed talk to all the people in the world through one language, music.
Don’t blame it on the sunshine
Don’t blame it on the moonlight
Don’t blame it on the bad times,
Blame it on his boogie
The world forever knows you through your music and dance and will always.
You cannot come back, because you never left us