When Michael Jackson came to Bombay in 1996, he stayed at the Oberoi Hotel. Sometime in between sleeping and heading out to Andheri to wow his fans in concert, he grabbed a felt pen and scrawled this across the face of a full-length mirror in his room: "Idia, I love you!"
Yes, that's "Idia", not "India". The scrawl went on: "In your children I have seen the face of God. You are my special love. I truly admire you with all my heart."
Now if it had been some lesser mortal -- you or I, for example -- who had done this to an Oberoi mirror, the hotel would have come after us, and not for misspelling "India". But Michael Jackson was no lesser mortal. Because he wrote this, the hotel removed the mirror and spirited it away into some secret vault. In all the news about his recent death, I thought I saw a mention of someone who had bought this mirror, though I can't find that mention any more. If true, I have to wonder what he paid. And why.
Mirrors are one thing. In an "exclusive" front page story then, we learned about Jacko's real "message to India", and how it took intercontinental phone calls and two days of frantic searching to unearth it. This one was several whole sentences longer than the mirrored one. This one even spelled "India" right. Best of all, this one was inscribed on ... his pillow.
The King of Pop seems to have had no use for more ordinary writing surfaces, like paper.
Nevertheless, many hearts skipped beats at what nearly happened to that pillow: it was about to be sent to the laundry! Horrors! What a tragedy it would have been to lose what the story called "Michael's heartfelt outpourings to his pillow". (Really). Luckily, it was saved from that sudsy fate and photographed for the front page of the Bombay Times: "One more gift of love from Michael", it was called. One sentence in it: "Continue to love, heal and educate the children, the future shines on them."
Apart from all that, Jackson graced Bal Thackeray's home with two visits. Apparently, the two men agreed that they were both crowd pullers. Jackson expressed admiration for the the Shiv Sena's "welfare activities". He crowned the visit by presenting Thackeray his hat.
No, I nearly forgot: Thackeray also told us that Michael both used and autographed his toilet.
A pathbreaking trip, all round.
Let me say it here: I never liked Jackson's music. In 1984, at the peak of Jackson-mania in the wake of "Thriller", I lived in Dallas. Jacko was on a concert tour, and was coming to Dallas. $75 a ticket, if I remember right, though of course I wasn't planning to go anywhere near it.
Then I got a call from a woman I knew slightly. Her two college-age daughters, big-time Jackson fans, wanted to go to the concert. She was worried about them going alone. Would I go with the girls? She would even buy my ticket.
I mean, if I said yes, I would be at this concert with not one, but two attractive young ladies on my arms -- and with the full approval of their ma. I'm listening to her talk, thinking, have I died and gone to heaven?
But I said no. Which is a pretty good measure of what I feel about Jacko's music.
Another measure: Even though I've seen it plenty of times, I didn't know till recently that this is a take off on "Thriller".
Whatever it is, it is hilarious. (Gosh my old calculator ain't got no bow).
Please read: My apologies to all who feel this post was in bad taste -- as two commenters whom I count as friends have indicated. It was a mistake on my part to treat this as lightly as I have.