Back in 1996, one day in the school, a friend told me he had a couple of stickers for the Dangerous tour. What was that, I asked. It was Michael Jackson touring India and I would be stupid not to know it, I was told. The tour was called “The Dangerous Tour”. Oh, Michael Jackson. I thought his best song was “Black and White” or something but it was the grooviest thing I had ever heard and had fallen in love with the video, especially because it showed an Indian girl doing Bharatanatyam with Jackson in the middle of the road.
For a boy who didn’t know the difference between “Black and white” and “Black or white”, it must have taken some convincing to do, that this friend eventually gave one sticker to me. It was a prized possession. After much thought, I pasted it on the back of an address book which I was sure I would use forever (The “Black and/or White” confusion was because Philips electronics had used the song jingle and conveniently called it, well, “Black and White”, for promoting their colorless television set on radio).
Then in 1998, an uncle who had studied in the IIT while graduating to Jackson’s music came to visit us. When he agreed to buy me a music cassette while checking out some music at the local store, my hands went to Michael Jackson’s Dangerous. He told me not to go for it. If he were to buy me one, it would be Thriller. I resisted it (because I had never heard of Thriller and I did not want this chance to go waste by letting him buy me something I did not know about). Eventually he had me convinced that it’d be a sin to choose Dangerous over Thriller. That was my first MJ tape.
Then, three years later, one day I went to my best friend’s house. He had an impressive music collection and we had evolved to mp3s. In his CD rack, I found the audio CD of Dangerous. Not willing to lose it this time, I told him that I was taking it home. It had songs I had long wanted to hear. It also had “In the Closet”, which was and remains, till this day, the sexiest song I have ever listened to. The video with Naomi just adds another dimension to it.
Shortly thereafter, in Indore during my first few days of graduation, I met Devashish Bhatt. Quite simply, he was the greatest fan of MJ I have ever met. While discussing music one evening, I told him that “Stranger in Moscow” was a song I wish I could listen to more often. My Sony Walkman was playing UB40’s “Can’t help falling in love”. Dev sang the first four lines of “Stranger in Moscow” for me and then offered a deal – we could swap what our “Walkmen” were holding. So this way, I ended up with the Blood on the Dance Floor tape that had “Stranger in Moscow” and Dev had his UB40 with a host of other cheesy love songs in the “Now that’s what I call Love!” tape.
I was not very generous to Dev in our future dealings. I ended up taking the History Part 1 & 2 tapes and never giving them back.
Then in 2001, in Pune, I met Pushkar Krishna, my room mate’s brother. Impressed by my knowledge on books and music, he took me one day to the infamous Fergusson College road. After a bulk of books and tapes that we carried home, he put a smile on my face by a simple gesture that I remember vividly till this day. He gifted to me Invincible – MJ’s last album.
From my perspective, the best part was that MJ’s music always found a way to get to me. Call it luck, but it just happened. I never tried hard. I never had to.
I graduated to Michael Jackson much later than I should have. But it happened. I traced his music back and forth. In this journey of music, I have met very few people of my generation who actually knew what Michael Jackson was all about — for mine is a generation that has seen Michael Jackson as a fading star. What a pity would it be for those people who now are left wondering, having seen Michael Jackson for the first time on the front page of the newspapers yesterday, in his death. Would he be greater to them in death than when he was alive? Would they ever know what he was all made of? Would they realize the gravity of this loss?
Does someone see the irony in this?