Notes from 1996: Revisiting Michael Jackson’s India Tour
Posted On 25th June, 2017 @ 12:57 pm by Mihika Jindal

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Endearingly called the King of Pop, Mike, The Gloved One, and Applehead, Michael Jackson has been a true legend not limited by his physical existence. Be it his style, dance, moves outfits, quirks, way of speaking or his wide-eyed wonder, MJ was sure to leave a long-lasting imprint wherever he went.

Eight years after his death and to celebrate his forever-ness, we revisited his India tour from back in 1996, way before it was normal for international artists to perform in India. And way, way before social media ruled our lives and documented every detail of it. Here are the highlights. 

 

What? When? Where?

Jackson came to India in 1996, to perform at Andheri Sports Complex in Mumbai as a part of the HIStory World Tour. 1996, more than 20 years ago…a time when photographers had to wait for their reels to develop to see if they caught the big celebrity moments, when the only way news travelled was word of mouth, when people had no smartphones to constantly track their favourite artists through GIFs, videos and boomerang updates. 

 

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Besides Raj Thackeray and wife Sharmila, the only Bollywood celebrity who was a part of the designated welcome crew was Sonali Bendre, who traditionally welcomed MJ with aarti and tilak.

 

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Home away from home

Every minute detail was looked into as Jackson’s staying arrangements were made at the Oberoi Hotel in Churchgate, Mumbai. It’s reported that according to Sandeep Walia, his butler at the hotel, MJ only drank sweet white wine. And when he wasn’t consuming alcohol, he was either drinking Fanta or Gatorade (and those were the times when Gatorade was not available in India, except in duty-free shops).

It’s also said that Jackson was damn fond of festivities, and chocolates. And that is why the Kohinoor Suite in Oberoi Hotel was decorated with balloons and confetti and stacked with a range of chocolates of every shape and size to please the King of Pop.

 

What about food?

If current celebrity tantrums (hi Bieber!) are to be compared to those back in the day, stories have us convinced that MJ must have been a pleasure to host. Reports say that throughout his stay in India, he relished local cuisines, binged on Mughlai preparations such as butter chicken and butter naan, parathas, tandoori dishes and loved having South Indian menu for breakfast.

According to a report that quotes the hotel staff, MJ got a host of naans, tandoori chicken, various preparation in butter gravy and parathas enough for a whole army packed to take back with him.

 

…and fans?

Stories say that he took out all the time he could to meet and greet his fans. Be it at the airport, in the hotel or even at the venue; he shook hands with every possible person and more. While at the hotel, on one of the days, he requested for a high-tea to be organised and orphans be called so that they could all chill for a bit. He showered these kids with gifts, chocolates and cakes that he had brought along. 

 

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The concert!

Jackson hovered over the venue and made his entry in a rocket capsule. The concert, obviously, was a super hit and the venue was brimming with adrenaline and excitement. Not everyone could manage tickets and had to gate crash the event to witness the legend. Ganesh Hegde opened the event, after which MJ took over—both the stage and the hearts of the thousands of people who were present to become a part of this historical moment.

A commoner 13-year-old Piya Thakkar’s experience was at a whole other level though. As MJ performed You Are Not Alone, he pulled Thakkar up on the stage to dance with her. And that was the beginning of the ‘Girl Who Danced With Michael Jackson’ saga.

 

 

What did he leave for us?

Well a lot, if you ask us. He left us his legendary music, his dance, and an aura that can never see any comparison. 

He also left a heart-warming souvenir.  As the hotel staff cleaned his room after he left, they found the pillow he’d been sleeping on with a message scribbled on it.

 

“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

 

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 The pillow was later auctioned and bought by Bharat Shah, a jeweller and a film financier for an undisclosed sum. 

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