Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Day The Music Died

Friday 26 Jun 2009 was going to be just another hectic day. Month end was at hand - those who are in Retail Financial Serivces selling loans, accounts, credit cards, et all will know what significance it holds. There are targets to be met - the numbers that are logged could save or sink you and thus Working till the wee hours is the norm. Weekends are non-existent during a month end and thus dreaming of a break on a month end Friday is living in a fool's paradise... reasons for gloom are thus apparent. There was an ocean of work awaiting me...

But on this particular Friday, two months ago to the date, a certain sense of loss gripped me - it was the sense of loss that one has when a near and dear one is no more...

As I gulped down my hurried breakfast, hoping against hope to make it on time to work, I could hear strains of the television blaring in the neighbour's flat. The news that I heard was impossible to believe. Michael Jackson had died. Time was the essence but I didn't care - I had to confirm whether my ears were playing tricks on me - I rushed to switch on the TV. It was true - Michael had died. I sat down for a second of stunned silence. My mother had heard the news and rushed out to hear what was going on. She was stunned too. The sound of my cellphone ringing broke our trance of disbelief- it was my Mama calling...

"Have you heard the news?!" - This phrase was oft repeated / heard in the next 48 hours... amidst month-end mayhem, while waiting for the bus to go back home, through text messages, over chai - wherever I went, I saw a shocked junta. Never before had a man died so many thousands of miles away and left so many grievers in my world. Every 24x7 news channel gave it tons of airtime - for once, the hysteria was justified...

The world mourned the loss of an icon and a genius. What about us Indians? Who would care if such a person had died - how did it matter to the panwallah in my neighbourhood? You might imagine that a western pop star in India would be known only amongst the urban tweens and teens. So why was Michael different? Why did so many people around me talk about his demise with a palpable sense of loss?

Michael Jackson was the "King of Pop". Never before had a man's charisma captured the imagination of so many people around the world. Today, every third person is a "celebrity" - think Palak of Roadies "fame"! With the idiot box and its reality shows with rising TRPs, our world was saddled with too many of this ilk. This is why the death of Michael Jackson was such a loss. The world had just lost a true icon. Someone who made news because he was the news.

Tribute to Michael Jackson on Puri Beach

Michael smiles on a wall in India as labourers go by

Ever since he danced and sang his way into our hearts with "Beat It" and "Thriller", India was hooked to the fame and talent of this sensation. We adopted him as our own and spawned a million "Mai-ka-lal Jaikishens". Think of any dance show worth its salt on TV till about 3 years back - it would be impossible to think that it would be complete without at least one Michael wannabe! (video) From Prabhu Deva to Govinda, everyone has tried to copy the man - Chiranjeevi (the Telugu megastar) has even done a song in movie that was an exact frame-by-frame lift of the Thriller video complete with Michael's red jacket! This has added to the Michael's popularity in India. And so we cared...

Prabhu Deva copies his inspiration
(Click on the photo to see the video)

Chiru Jackson
(Click on the photo to see the video)

I practically grew up with Michael Jackson. India in the 1980s was an era very different from the current globalised times. Today, the hip youngsters know about the latest "cool" (or whatever the current word for "cool" is) music sensation the day his music hits the stands in USA - This is why Pritam cannot do a Bappida or Anu Malik and get away with it... Damn, he can't even get away with copying from Malaysian or Arabic bands! Anyway, back to the 1980s. My Mama was a cool and hip youngster back then and he, like the millions around the world had just being hit by Michael magic with Thriller and Bad being runaway global successes. I still remember Micheal's poster he had up in his room - it was of a strange lanky man who looked as if he would start gyrating anytime! That was the time Micahel was cleaning up the Grammies (I remember watching the Grammies on TV back then, awestruck) and burning the music charts across the world.

The Olodum Shirt
(Click on the photo to see the video)

I was still a schoolboy when Dangerous released in 1991. Each song of this album was played and replayed on our casette players till we couldn't dance no more or till the tape snapped, whichever came first. I would have given anything to have seen anything to see him live in concert in India (1996). That year, during the Pujos, I pestered Ma to buy me an "Olodum" t-shirt - the same one Michael had worn in "They Don't Care About Us" - after days of scouring every shop in the locality, we finally found the T-shirt in A/C Market on Theatre Road. My friend's mum bought one for my friends too - lucklily for me he didn't like it very much and she gave it to me. From that day on, I had both these tees for over a decades and had become my second skin. It was a sad day when I "lost" them a couple of years back. (To say that they had become gray and threadbare would be an understatement - they had more holes that a mosquito net! No wonder Ma (I think) threw them out when I was away...) Speaking of Ma, her personal favourite was the "You Rock My World" video from his last released album "Invincible". He truly was invincible.

How to master the Moonwalk!!
(Click on the photo to see the video)

The Style Icon

He was a style-setter in every which way with his red jacket, sequined glove, arm band, black aviator sunglasses and short pants. He defied gravity and laws of physics with his trademark moonwalk that all of us tried to copy but never quite managed to master. And he was genius with his range of songs - from pure pop to rock - all of which his unique sound... all in all - he was the complete entertainer.

MJ had a fan in every demographic!

Michael had the charisma to awe people across demographics. In my family, from my grandmother to my sister, we are all fans. We don't care what the news folk say about his personal life (hey no one's perfect!) and the zillion conspiracy theories regarding his death. We don't care about who or what killed him. All that we care about is two months ago, the Music died... God Bless you Michael. Thank you for the entertainment and the joy you brought us. RIP.