Freddie Mercury and other famous Indians


Clockwise from top left, the Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen, author Salman Rushdie, India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his mentor Gandhi, rock star Freddie Mercury, the world’s biggest steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar. They were the seven ethnic Indians featured in Time magazine’s 60 Years of Asian Heroes special issue in November last year. The feature on Mercury appears under his real name: Farrokh Bulsara. He was a Parsi born in Zanzibar to Indian parents, according to Wikipedia.

My son was surprised when I told him Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen, was an Indian. Yes, he went to school in Bombay, I told my son, before going to Britain with his parents. 

I was chatting online with my son, who is in college in America. My wife, in Calcutta (Kolkata), also joined us. She was telling us about the Indian School Certificate exams now on. A girl she knows is sitting for the exams. One of the essay topics for the exams, she said, was “Money”. “Money?” asked our son. “I would have written about Pink Floyd,” he quipped. I was amused. Since going to college, he has been listening to music I loved.

That’s how I got around to telling him about Freddie Mercury. I happened to come across the Time special earlier yesterday and was telling him about the Indians mentioned there. He was so surprised to hear the Queen lead singer was an Indian that I forgot to tell him his favourite cricketer, Tendulkar, was also on the list. He would have been elated.

I am not a great Queen fan though I like their song, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, where they sound a bit like Elvis Presley. Mercury made a deep impression, though. I can’t forget seeing him on television as he peformed at the Live Aid concert in 1985. The picture here shows him at that concert.

Mercury and Rushdie

Was Freddie Mercury the model for Ormus Cama, the rock star in Salman Rushdie’s novel, The Ground Beneath Her Feet? Cama’s great love, of course, was a woman: the ravishing superstar Vina Apsara. Mercury was gay and died of Aids. But he also had a long relationship with a woman, according to Wikipedia.

I don’t know much about Mercury and it’s been a long time since I read the Rushdie novel. The thought just came to my mind when I read the Time article. After all, Mercury did go to school in Bombay, where Rushdie was born and which is vividly described in the novel. I had read that Cama was based on Elvis Presley and John Lennon. But he could have also been partly inspired by Mercury, who did have Indian roots.

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