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Even as I write this Justin Bieber is yet to land in Mumbai. Sources suggest the pop sensation will arrive in maximum city only at 1.30 am. Phew! I feel bad for the scores of photojournalists who have been put on duty at airport since the last two days ever since speculations of Bieber’s so called plan to arrive well in advance in Mumbai broke out. While there is no denying that majority of youth especially girls are quite excited about the Canadian singer’s arrival, the hysteria is nothing compared to what it was when King of pop Michael Jackson performed in Mumbai in 1996. Bollywoodwallah decided to take a trip down the memory lane.

MJ’s 20-car convoy had to reach Oberoi hotel from Sahar airport in a stipulated time-frame

“Michael Jackson was to land at Sahar airport in his private jet on October 30, 1996. The person who was in charge to ferry Jackson and his team to Hotel Oberoi had been handed down a strict time frame within which Jackson had to be transported to the five star. So there used to be a lot of trial runs that used to take place at odd hours so as to ensure that everything went along perfectly well while driving Jackson to the hotel,” says journalist Neeta Kolhatkar who had then covered Jackson’s concert in Mumbai.

Festivities at airport:

There were a number of dignitaries present from Raj Thackeray to Sonali Bendre draped in traditional Mahrastrian sari to give MJ a cultural welcome with the traditional aarti. There were a group of lezim dancers waiting to perform. Ofcourse millions of people lined up at the aiport just to get a glimpse of the legend. Neeta was one of the lucky fews who got a chance to be within sniffing distance with Jackson. ” When Jackson was at the centre of the lezim formation, I made my way inside and found myself  standing next to this person – white as milk, pink lips, black sunglasses- Michael Jackson,” recalls Neeta.

A People’s Person:

People loved Jackson and Jackson loved them back. He greeted his legion fans who had arrived to just get a dekko. He even made an unscheduled stop over at Dharavi and met its residents. The king of pop loved kids and even held pool party for kids of an orphanage. In the pre mobile phone era, it was autographs that was much in demand and Jackson did give it out to many who sought them. The hotel staff too got an invite to join him on the tour bus.

Special luxuries made available at Oberoi for MJ

MJ was ensconced in the plush Kohinoor Suite. Many changes were made inside the room as per Jackson’s tastes. Extra mirrors were put up and so were chocolates. The room was also decorated with flowers, balloons, confetti and bowls of sweets and chocolates. The singer also apparently slept under an oxygen tent and air-conditioning was kept at a low level. In an old interview given by then butler of Oberoi, Sandeep Walia, who was attending Jackson with a team of three butlers revealed how MJ had asked for sweet white wine. ‘That is probably the only kind of alcohol that he consumed during his stay at the Oberoi. Apart from that, he loved orange drinks, Fanta being his favorite and a special German orange drink, Gatorade, which he carried with him.’ Jackson was so impressed with the hospitality he received in the hotel and Mumbai that he left a handwritten note on the pillow cover of the bed he slept in.

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“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”

The girl who got lucky:

MJ was famous for dancing with one lucky female fan on stage at every concert. In Mumbai, it was Piya Thakker who turned out to be the lucky one. And the girl remained in daze for two full days after the almost 10 minute long dance with MJ.

Let’s wait and watch the frenzy that Justin Bieber will unfurl in Mumbai tomorrow.