or free coffee or lemon tea?

No really...I never thought the day would come when cost cutting would affect the office pantry to this extent!!

I still remember my first day at work at the *free* pantry. I was your typical halli guggu (country bumpkin) who mixed milk with lemon tea, much to the disdain of my posh colleagues. It's an incident that is naratted during family functions and other social gatherings.

We were promised 'fresh and honest' coffee, and a few months later masala chai - a perfect cure for those with chronic colds. (Note: We were getting all this for free, the same masala chai cost Rs. 25 at the airport.) There was the haunted vending machine in one pantry that would start steaming and puffing for no rhyme or reason, and only the ones who were too sleep deprived to be spooked by ghosts would dare to go there.

Then HR decided to revamp things and introduce milk powder machines that were..well...not much to blog about! There were fiery email exchanges about cockroaches and other forms of non-veg coffee found in the new vending machines. After some initial irritation, we got used to the paysam like milk-powder coffee and tea, that was relatively roach free.

Then, a few years later, they decided to re-introduce 'fresh and honest' coffee, lemon tea, and masala chai - much to our delight! Finally - a pantry that (re)served good stuff!

And despite coming full circle regarding beverage decisions, HR is once again going on a new orbit - our pantries will soon function with a smart card (really? is this a way of working smarter??) Essentially, we will now PAY for our tanin and caffeine shots. What fun is it to PAY to stay awake, to chill out, to catch up on some gossip or crib about an annoying boss or client?Paying for it makes it as boring as indulging in superficial conversations - the types all the Coffee Days and Barista's are so full of!

Well I suppose one cannot crib too much - I heard many offices function this way. Moreover this might encourage us to switch to healthier lifestyles that is not so dependant on caffeine. Wonder if they will introduce green tea...hmmm.

Yet, this is a move that has left us feeling a bit upset as the atmosphere in the pantry is going to be very different. But I suppose change management is something we are all too used to, and paying for coffee will just be another activity in this office.
A week has passed and I have been reliving my childhood, feeling sad, happy and nostalgic. I did not want to write this and come off as just another person engulfed in the mania, but I write this post as a dedication to a man who almost defined my childhood. As soon as I penned this post, I came across a similar retrospective written by my cousin. He is at least 20 years older than me, and it is interesting to see how the same man influenced both of us, in different ways.

I must have been a foetus when I heard MJ for the first time. Thriller came out shortly after I was born. Having music-loving parents ensured my exposure to music started young. Having elder siblings also meant getting exposed to the "cool stuff" a lot faster than my peers. I can safely say that my relationship with the pop Gods of the 80's started when I was very, very small.

I was 7 or 8 when I heard the Bad Album (a few years after it was released). I would amuse aunty-jis who came home with my rendition of 'Bad'. When I was 9, my sister and I recorded our own version of 'Smooth Criminal' on our cassette-player-cum-recorder. She sang the bass, and screamed and howled (trivia: MJ howls 14 times in Smooth Criminal, and its one tough song to sing!). We had an argument as to whether he was saying "energy walking" or "everybody talking"…till we managed to get hold of the lyrics (a difficulty, back then.) When we finally realised he was saying "Annie are you o.k." we broke our heads wondering who Annie was.

That summer was a special one for me, for I had FINALLY learnt to do the moonwalk :) Sadly, I was only able to moonwalk that well that summer only.

I was 11 when 'Dangerous' came out. At around the same time cable TV started in India, exposing Gen X to the ever-so-popular MTV. Everyone was enthralled with the 'Black or White' video, some of us even wondered why he sang this song after becoming a white man (we did not know about his skin condition.) The lucky kids at school, who had relatives abroad, managed to get a copy of the album long before it came to India. MTV also played his older videos - and each MJ video meant the opportunity to learn a new dance step.

My 12th birthday was the best one ever - my sister gifted me the Dangerous album. Anyone who had a copy of that album was automatically deemed as 'cool'. Later that year, my classmates and I sang 'Heal the World' at the school annual day function. I'm sure it was sung at many school functions.

Two years later…HIStory was made, and we did not have to wait too long for the cassettes to come to India. Class 9 of my school did an aerobics dance to "They don’t really care about us." Weird choice for a PT dance, but it was fun. I also got the nickname of 'MJ' from my sister's friends, as I would go on and on and on about his music, dance and style.

The following commercial pretty much sums up my childhood – as I was addicted to MJ and Pepsi! Us kids would have moonwalking and break-dancing contests during lunch breaks. For all the 6 years that I was in Army School, there would be at least ONE dance to an MJ song for the school annual day celebrations.

A few years later, many truths about Pepsi and MJ were exposed. The child-abuse allegations left us confused and disgusted. It was not uncommon to see people engaged in endless discussions on whether he was a victim of detractors, or if he was truly twisted. MJ made some music, like 'Scream' and 'Blood on the dance floor', but they hardly compared to the awesomeness of 'Bad' or 'Beat It'; and with that, the euphoria started to die...

I remember college cul-week the year I was 17. We had theme based competitions the entire week. On ‘villain’ day, I wore my skull T, ripped my jeans, folded my sleeves, and put a fake tattoo on my arm. My intention was to sing a Metallica song and bag a prize. I'm not sure what happened when I was on stage, but I ended up singing Bad, complete with a howl and a twirl. I did not win any prize, but I did shock a few people, and had so much fun!

My post-teen years were mostly about studies or work. Once I got myself an i-pod, I made it a point to discover new music. I knew little about the Jackson 5 and quite enjoyed listening to their Motown hits. I had heard ‘I want you back’ as a kid and always wanted to know who sung it, and was thrilled when I came to know it was young MJ on the vocals :) (It is my current ringtone)

With each passing year, there was new music to discover. I did not go out of my way to listen to MJ, except for a few favorites here and there. There was news about his converting to Islam, which I thought was a big bad joke. Three weeks ago I heard of an opportunity to win tickets to MJ’s concert in London. Boy oh boy! Was I kicked?! I missed seeing Jacko in Mumbai, maybe I’d get lucky now. I rang up a fellow Jacko fan and we both decided to participate in this contest...

And then…it happened. I was shocked. I felt a dire need to listen to some MJ songs…and tears started rolling down my yes. The last time I cried at the news of a celebrity death was when Lady Di passed away (I was 16). No, I was never a die-hard MJ fan, I never bought his albums the day they came out…but so many fond childhood memories came rushing back and the news of his death made me feel absolutely miserable! I wondered if I was being brainwashed by all the media hype. It was only when I got calls from friends who felt as bad, and for the same nostlagic reasons, I realised how much MJ meant to children born in the 70's and 80's.

I get teary-eyed as I type this. Again, it's not so much for the love of MJ…but due to the fact that he played a HUGE role as a childhood icon and as an ambassador for peace. He made us groove, and also inspired most of us to "make the world a better place". Every album of his had at least ONE song dedicated to a larger cause. For me, he gave the best memories I could have of my sister and me :)

Sure there were the weird stories, but who does not have a screwed up personal life? Celebrities in particular, are constantly in the media eye - having to live a surreal life of pleasing the public and having no private life. For MJ, it started at age 5.

Michael Jackson - May your soul R.I.P and may your soulful music rip the world. You will not be remembered for the allegations, but for the legend you left behind; for your music, for the way you moved and the way you moved us...and with that, I hope you can find your peace.