Today is Michael Jackson’s Barsy*

Sudarsan Pattnaik's Michael.jpg

As a child, when my father “celebrated” my grandparents’ death anniversaries, I felt even weirder and more out of place than I usually did. None of my friends at school did it; it seemed odd to observe such a sad occasion. As I matured in to a somber teenager, I grew to embrace what I once thought morbid, especially when I realized that it brought comfort to survivors. (That’s the biggest reason why I am prone to insulting half of my family** by joking about how Marthomites have no respect for the dead; I’m only half-kidding.)

As an adult, I didn’t just celebrate a single death anniversary; I couldn’t help but relive a death “week“. It’s strange how measuring time by the absence of someone in your life can warp your perceptions. In the beginning, I couldn’t believe it had been one, two, three years since I lost my father. Now it feels like it was a lifetime ago.

I didn’t realize what was significant about today until I fired up my browser and my Facebook feed declared that 31 of my friends had changed their profile picture. Kindly forgive me; I hadn’t had my kaapi yet so I wasn’t really paying attention. “I wonder if there’s a new fb game,” I mused. Then I noticed that two-thirds of those profile pics were of the same brown person, sporting an afro, and it wasn’t Sai Baba. Why were so many of my friends honoring “old” Michael Jackson? The next tab which loaded contained news and immediately provided me with an explanation for updated Facebook pages.

It was the first anniversary of Michael Jackson‘s death.I was shocked. Had a whole year actually passed since an alarming rumor spread like fire over Twitter, since the non-stop news coverage started emanating from Southern California? Where the hell had I been? It felt like it had occurred a few, not twelve months, ago.

But it has been a year. Twelve whole months have passed since a musician whose sound and style undoubtedly informed our childhood left this green and blue ball of confusion. People all over the world are remembering him; as you can see from the picture accompanying this post, in India, sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik even created a memorial to Michael on a beach (Click the image to enlarge it.) I remember visiting Kerala in 1989, bang in the middle of my Depeche Mode obsession, and discovering (much to my disappointment) that my cousins only had Michael and Boney M tapes. The world loved Michael Jackson, and it still does.

Today, my thoughts turn to his family, specifically his three young children, who are under the care of their Grandmother, Katherine. It was recently disclosed that his kids would be attending school for the first time, ever. Meanwhile, their grandfather filed a wrongful death suit against Jackson’s physician, Dr. Conrad Murray today. Did you realize that it had already been a whole year? Did you listen to “Off the Wall”, on this anniversary day? I’m not going to compile a top ten list of the best Jackson joints EVAR because such things are too personal (and my own feelings about Michael are a bit too conflicted), but if you want to share your faves, please feel free to do so in the comments below. Instead, I will link to this post at the always-exceptional Post-Bourgie, which has a list of ten covers of MJ hits***. What? I may be torn about Michael, but I have no reservations about my love for SWV. That group was seriously under-appreciated.

But uh, back to the lecture at hand…if Michael inspired you, moved you, helped mold you…you have my condolences.


*Special thanks to Sid, Navdeep, Brian, Julie, Adriana and the amazing Annie Paul for their help with this post.

**There’s serious intermarrying between Marthomites and Jacobites within the Malayalee community, so half of my family regularly ignores the dead and disrespects the Blessed Virgin by not Hailing her. I hail her as often as I hail cabs, which is to say, daily. I love praying to a woman.

***Post-Bourgie is a group blog on race, class, the media and more! Whether suitable or not, I always think of it as the African-American version of SM, except the comments there are nowhere near as nasty! Go! And thank me later!

14 thoughts on “Today is Michael Jackson’s Barsy*

  1. i listened “Bad”, classic album, the song was meant to be a duet with Prince. Crazy. RIP.

    and yes SWV are one of the great sounds of the 90s.

  2. still weird that he’s not part of the background of my life. i was out and about when i was called and told about the death, and i noticed everyone on the street was talking about it all of a sudden. probably none of us listened to his music anymore, but it was strange that he wasn’t all of a sudden.

  3. Yup, death anniversaries are weirdly honored in India.

    I’ve seen my granny honor grandpa’s death anniversary by preparing dishes in odd numbers (3,5,7,9 etc), (since even numbers are for “happier” occasions.)

    After laboriously preparing all the dishes, we had to wait, coz you can’t eat until : 1. A cow has been given a share of the food. 2. A crow has been given a share (yes, a CROW, who apparently has a direct-line to heaven)

    Now, it is fairly easy to find a cow in India. but a crow?! How do you find a crow?

    Gah! I still remember standing at the roof, doing “caw caw caw” to attract a damn crow to come and chow down, so that we could then eat our lunch! Some years, we’d just give up, leave the plate on the roof and imagine a crow would come and eat it at his own leisure.

    Weird rituals, but the food was so yum.

  4. in indian mythology it is claimed that a person’s soul arrives on the earth in the form of crow on his/her death anniversaries.a remnant of this ancient belief has survived into modern times. so feeding crows on death anniversaries is like feeding the souls of dead kerala there is a special day karkkadakavavu and on that day hindus feed crows for their dead is a public holiday in kerala.

  5. You irreverent Anna!

    Sude: the first trip to India that I really remember, I’ll never forget being woken up by a murder of crows caw-ing. I thought it was so cool.

    the odd number thing is interesting, thanks for sharing.

  6. I still remember standing at the roof, doing “caw caw caw” to attract a damn crow to come and chow down, so that we could then eat our lunch!

    given mj’s weird obsession with color, i guess he is a honorary desi after all. but in terms of scavenging birds, he’d probably prefer a gull to a crow.

  7. murder of crows caw-ing

    hahaha. (more amused at your choice of words, just after blaze explained that they were dead souls.)

  8. i’d forgotten about the crows! my dad told me they would take the food by the riverbanks, where crows tended to congregate. you couldn’t leave until a crow approached the plate of food and started eating. it is thought that if the crow(s) are reluctant to approach/eat, it means the departed soul is unsettled about an issue on earth. the loved ones at the river bank will announce (to the crows) promises to help settle the inferred uneasiness of the departed soul (i.e. provide education for kids/grandkids left behind, take care of the widow, etc).

  9. Anna, I hope you’re not conflicted because of all that anti-MJ propaganda! MJ is Desi, you know…

  10. more amused at your choice of words

    But that’s the word for a group of crows. . .

  11. Is it wrong to say that the last 365 days has been good for Michael Jackson estate bank account.

  12. I’ve been honoring with my collections MJ mashups and covers. The scope of his influence remains unbelievable. When I hear him, I get so weak in the knees I can hardly speak. I lose all control and something comes over me.

  13. so half of my family regularly ignores the dead and disrespects the Blessed Virgin by not Hailing her. I hail her as often as I hail cabs, which is to say, daily. I love praying to a woman.

    Anna, my comment has nothing to do with MJ, but more to do with your interesting asterixed notes… As an agnostic/cultural Hindu… this is one aspect of Christianity that’s a bit hazy to me. Is this not a violation of the Commandments?