Posted by: Poonte June 26, 2009
Michael Jackson and Me
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I was in Sajha Shout Box when the news broke. Megalomaniac
(hey, Mega!) said, “Michael Jackson died.” At first, I thought he was only
joking, so I ignored his comment. Then he provided the link to the news, which
I opened pretty rapidly. After I confirmed the news, my initial reaction was, “Maros!
I don’t give a shit about him anyway!” I think it was SONA 1 (hey, SONA 'baini'!) who
commented, “Poonte ‘dai’, don’t be so mean!”

Huna pani ho…Michael Jackson’s recent distasteful
eccentricity, and the numerous scandals he became infamous for, or, perhaps,
just the fact that I am getting a little too old for his kind of music, provided
me with ample reasons to care less about Michael Jackson, dead or alive. Even my
wife, when she came to know of the news from me, was glued to the TV for more
news. I was like, “What the heck? What’s the big deal?,” and busied myself with
something else in the other room.

I really thought I didn’t care…until I was bombarded with
the news of his death, and his songs, on NPR, BBC, and a number of my other
favorite radio channels all day at work. Then the emotions slowly started to
creep in. I think it was the tune of “Billie Jean” that started it all…Oh! The days
of yore! The memories!

I was in high school, in my prime teens, when Michael Jackson
became a phenomenon in entertainment. Thriller was released. The world was
ghastly mesmerized by his moon walk. “Kaale ko bachaa le ni garnu garera
dekhaauna laayo,” even my dad would be “wowed”, though perhaps with a hidden
wish of “mero chhoro chai yesto "punk" nabanos!”

He couldn’t have helped it.

One would not have been “cool” in those days if one didn’t know
who Michael Jackson was, or if one didn’t want a red leather jacket like his,
or his finger-cut gloves, or at least did not try his moon walk. Leniency towards
acting even remotely like a “punk” was unheard of in my house, so I had to satisfy
myself with a pair of gloves that I wore once ensured that I had left the house
invisibly behind me every time I went out.

I’d hook up with the guys. Try, Try, and try harder the moon
walk. Break dance, anyone? I could never even dream of doing a head spin, but I
did try the “wind mill” numerous times. “Saalle! Michael Jackson ko new video
heris? Kyaa harip foot work chha yaar!,” would be the talk of the “gang”. Yes, the
video of Michael’s stage performance of Billie Jean would then be my secret prized
possession. I’d watch it over again and again and try to imitate the foot work
equally hard whenever I got the opportunity, i.e., when the parents were not
home. “Khub ke ke na garumlaa bhaneko Michael Jackson le jasto? Eeeeeeeeees
sapanaa maa!,” dijju and bahini would tease me relentlessly.

Then there were the girls to impress, especially at an age
when one certainly would walk that extra silly mile to grab the attention of
the opposite sex. “She said I am the one!,” in a high pitch, would
inadvertently be released from the vocal chord whenever one came across a group
of girls waiting for the school bus, with seemingly trying to “break” the hands
and create a “wave”. I even offered a poster of sober-looking Michael Jackson,
sitting on a stool, as a gift to my sweetheart then, signed, “I love you! –Poonte,”
just below Michael’s signature at the bottom right corner. Girls were as crazy
about the man as the boys were, perhaps even more. And one would have had to do
anything to make them go crazy over him instead.

“Eat it! Eat it!!!,” we’d yell at lunch time, to the tune ot
“Beat it!,” even before whoever was it that came up with the song “Eat it!” I
think we should have sued him for a copy right violation! “Man in the Mirror”
was my lip’s routine everytime I “fullaawo-ed” my sukeko chhaati in front of
the mirror. Michael Jackson’s duet with Lionel Ritchie, another sensation of
the time, “The Girls is Mine,” was, of course, a song to be lipped when another
friend would hit on the same girl that one thought would be his. “We Are the
World,” as purposeful and as meaningful as it was soothing to the ears, was
what I tried to teach little children at a vacation camp for their parents’

Oh! Who can forget those “autographs”? We used to call them “TC”s
(the meaning of which I still don’t know!). They used to be fat “kaapies”
turned into autograph books for friends. Almost everyone’s TC would have
Michael Jackson’s picture cut and pasted (literally, in those days!) from
various magazines onto the pages of the TCs! Nattra ta keti harule TC
nabharidelaa bhanne pir! One would be expected to paste one’s photo along with
the message in those TCs. Side comments from the girls would be “Michael
bhandaa handsommmmeeeee! Waaahhhh!” or “Chyaaaa…timi bhandaa ta Michael nai
handsome!”. Or the guys would paste Michael’s picture claiming “This is me” or
write “Michael jastai laagyo?” besides their own.

Michael Jackson is gone now. I literally wept today, perhaps
more due to personal nostalgia than with any feelings for the dead man. Nevertheless,
despite all the controversies and reasons aplenty not to care about him, I
realized Michael was certainly an epic that made a tremendous contribution to
the lives of my generation in particular. He was a socio-cultural phenomenon. I
cannot deny that.

Michael, rest in peace!

PS: Also, “Chhee”, Yubae, Maamaa, Juli, Chhedup, Ranae, Dahree,
Kumbhe…and, of course, Binita, Poonam, Samjhana, Kishori, Anupama, Taj…..wherever
you guys maybe now, and whatever you might be upto, I am thinking of you today…..same
goes to Sangeeta and Sushmaa too, whose souls are already resting in peace. I love
you guys!

Life has moved on, and it still should.

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