Growing up with the ‘Moonwalker’

June 29, 2009

It was the late 80s and I was in school, contemptuous of rules and looking for a cause to rebel against parental interference. I was too young to run away and wise enough not to push it so as to end up without dinner.

I was itching for an icon, a just cause to let out my angst, when I saw him for the first time on our black and white television one night.

I could have sworn Michael Jackson was looking straight at me and I stared right back, unabashed, mesmerized. “He knows,” I remember thinking.

Back then we had no cable connection and only a single channel — the government-run Doordarshan — that like a venerable grandfather took our education in its hands, combining crop rotation with calculus and regional films with Indian classical music.

Some urbane, convent-educated, upper middleclass families did listen to “Western Music” comprising mostly Bach, Mozart and the occasional Belafonte.

But when MJ unashamedly burst into the screen during a programme on Doordarshan called the Hot Tracks, with his hip gyrations, metal-studded jacket, top hat and sheer energy — it was just too much.

“Why would any self-respecting adult declare he’s ‘Bad’ on national TV? What’s happening to lyrics?” my father seethed with righteous indignation. But I wasn’t paying attention.

I had got my icon, the man who was to be my hero for the next 10 years.

Over slamming of my bedroom door, angry bursts from the stereo, breaking into the moonwalk in the shower and lifesize posters inside closet doors.

Looking back, I know I was doing exactly what millions of teenagers across the world were doing. I do not know of any other celebrity who became as much a youth icon as MJ did from New York to Tokyo, Sydney to Alaska.

When MTV came to India, I immediately fell in love with “music videos” and Michael Jackson was the master of them.

Far from the generation of soul singers perched on straight-backed chairs, MJ exploded into the scene, shook up a generation and forced it to look at pop like they’ve never done before.

Like a million others I was unable to breathe, unable to look away, swearing to him that I will never fall in love with anyone else. Ever.

But when globalization brought with it access to western music and the entire world of rock, jazz and country opened up to me, I am ashamed to say my single-minded devotion slowly gave way to something stronger, something different. I had many suitors now. And Jackson was a school girl’s crush.

With his nose jobs and drastically changing looks, I squirmed in embarrassment remembering my juvenile dogged love for a man who was so clearly a “has-been”.

Until last week, that is. News of his sudden death made me sit up from my sleep-deprived stupor. “Michael Jackson is dead.”

As I write this I keep asking myself, how could I have not seen this coming? This is his game. This is what he does best.

Look at him, dead for three days and still able to shake up the charts, kick the crowd in the teeth and hold them spellbound in disbelief.

It’s a sappy thing to say but I just have to. Sometimes dead lovers remind you of what you could have had and what you made of your choices.

When I think of MJ, I will have to find a way to separate the debt-ridden man, mired in ugly controversies and struggling with his personal appearance from the “imperfect genius” he was, larger than life and stylish as hell.

8 comments

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Thank for sharing a perspective a half world away from me.I’m a 49 yr old man in the US and did not know Michael was my age until this week. I realized I have grown up with him. Involuntary tears appear each time I think about his death, about the beatiful talent he showed us, about the trajedy celebrity can cause. I have often doubted and hoped that hell does not exist, but now I hope there is a heaven for Michael.John in Florida

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Well said. I remember Hot Tracks (From Vimal) – they used to show “Can you feel it” and “Rock with you” most often – and I freaked out too. MJ was my favorite companion on my bus ride to work – most memorable at the time was “Off the wall’ and “Blame it on the boogie”. Yes, I can’t help my eyes getting wet at the thought of MJ no more in the mortal sense – I still love to listen to his music and I guess I always will. He was not just a favorite artist – he was a part of my growing up too – a friend I could just switch on!

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I am 50, his age … I was growing up with his music in Budapest/Hungary.When I heard of his death I lit a candle, blasted his music video and cried.

Posted by Kati | Report as abusive

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I can relate to every word of this article. Thank you. Many suitors with MTV.. ha ha ha.. absolutely true, but first love’s still first love.

Posted by Annie | Report as abusive

I heard my first MJ song the day he died — out of curiosity. But your post articulates MJ experience of millions of others, I guess.

he is GOD of music, created a revolution in the world of music……………….inspite of all the controversy he is man who will be remembered in history…………………His music still to be heard for millions of years..Your soul rest in peace MJ

I think God could not bear it anymore, so he taken back MJ from us. I feel so sad & cry everytime seeing his picture, the child in him, unimaginable energy, dance, music just cannot forget million years…

Posted by neha | Report as abusive

i am a girl of 29 years,,,,,but i remamber that from my childhood i have always heard about michel jackson,,i always dreamede about him,,,,but now my dreams can never be true