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06-27-2009, 12:07 PM #1
I'll be back, India, Jackson said
Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams came before him. And Bon Jovi, Elton John and Enrique Iglesias much
only talks about Michael Jackson performing live at the Andheri Sports Complex in November 1996. It was the height of the Sena-BJP rule in Maharashtra and getting Jackson down, was considered a coup for the saffron brigade; particularly young Raj Thackeray, who was more musically inclined than cousin Uddhav, and who took the lead in ushering Jackson out of the Sahar International Airport and taking him to Matoshree to meet uncle Balasaheb Thackeray.
Political critics with an unkind bent of mind suggested that Jackson took a “loo break” on the long drive into town to where he was put up at the Oberoi. Not true. He sat and chatted with the first family of politics in Maharashtra, posed for photographs, accepted Indian gifts from them.
I remember the scene at the airport. Utter chaos. Everybody wanted a close look at the King of Pop. Especially the policemen who were on bandobast duty. It was left to Raj, accompanied by a ravishing Sonali Bendre in traditional Maharashtrian attire, to throw a protective ring around the bemused singer and take him out. He came strangely dressed, in top hat, trademark dark glasses, and a red jacket with brass buttons and epaulets, black trousers with piping, making him look like the doorman of a posh London or New York hotel.
A convoy of vehicles with flashing lights and wailing sirens rushed Jackson out of the airport. But on the highway, intrigued by the sight of lezim dancers prancing around at the side of the road, he alighted and shook hip, foot and shoulders with them. That act itself, won a special place for him in everybody’s hearts.
But there was more to come. The concert itself, beyond description for its showmanship, glitz and technical wizardry, loud and long into the winter night, some 20 spectacular and familiar songs to which Mumbai danced wildly as if in a trance, and which Amitabh Bachchan listened to sitting at JVPD. I met Jackson at the hotel before the show, very briefly, because he was the shy and retiring type.
He was here to entertain Mumbai, to give us a concert, not to do press interviews, socialise with Bollywood stars and society types. After he had gone, when the hotel was preparing his suite for the next VVIP guest, they found Jackson’s gift to them: rather mischievously the great singer had scribbled on the pillow he had slept on, “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.”
Bharat Shah, jeweller and film-financier, bought the pillow for a fabulous amount in an auction held for charity. I don’t know what he did with it. But Michael Jackson’s promise to return to India remains unfulfilled. R. I. P.