“Before I see the lights, make sure you’re recording this one properly” , the mic screeched like a drift car on a NASCAR track. Sure it was loud enough, “shut it down, NOW!” Before Jackson could hear my voice over the shrill and disturbed tone, I grabbed the jack and pulled it out of the socket disconnecting the mic eventually.
“Man I thought you said hit the lights”, Jackson’s baffled tone was another one of his cluster bombs upon my ideas. “Plus we don’t have that much time man”, I looked at my watch 8:30pm Jackson was right after all. Before I could sum it all up and make rags to riches storyline, there was always that gloomy feeling of being caged by the orthodox society, the so-called ‘wise guys’. “Alright man I’ll see you in the morning, got some tuning to do in this”, the ink-stained paper had every emotion of mine imprinted on it, “and do me a favor please”
“Just keep the volume low next time, cause my eardrums ain’t that friendly to the screeching stuff”, Jackson climbed down the stairs with that evil smile every best friend gives. He surely was one painful guy for your lyrical desires but above all he was my friend. “Done with your noise?” the gloomy days haven’t passed yet, obviously my parents weren’t supportive to the idea of expressing what’s inside. Just like all other college going students, my name was already registered in the list of guys with decent salary packages and lives.
“I’ll uh…… wrap this up pretty quick, just lemme try one last time”, I requested. “Had there been good grades on your report card, I would’ve happily accepted every accolade of yours but it’s already enough son”, now that was something really depressing. Since the beginning of my 8th grade I was into literature, started writing stories on different dark characters I could imagine, the hip hop music already infected me so literature seemed to bond well with my mind. But when I stepped inside my house, the same fear would always prowl over me. I looked at my trophies and then changed the focus on my mother. Those trophies weren’t shining anymore.
Being the elder son from a middle class family was never easy, and I guess it never will be.
Before you open your eyes to see the rainbow, someone or the other would claim your future in the hands of the one and only hunter of all your creativity, the family relatives. It was like an epidemic, “my friend from the division told me about his son’s job. He’s a lawyer” my father broke the silence while we all were having dinner. It was obvious that it would all dawn upon me in the end “but here people show interest in blatantly showing themselves off among some cheap friends” he rattled again “you know his salary is nearly the same as his father….” he turned to mom and she gave him an attentive ear, that was a long night.
The next morning when I was packing my bag for the college lecture I got a message from Jackson. GOT SOME INTEL ON THE NEARBY HOOD, IT’S OPEN FOR ALL. STARTS TONIGHT AT 8, BE THERE, a seriously juicy opportunity. An open for all event happens only once or twice annually, but judging the course the family squabble had already taken. I wasn’t certain that I could see, let alone take part in the battle.
Later that evening at 6 I got a call from the emcee saying “your friend Jackson has put your name in the battle, last call. Are you in?”
“I’ll be there man”, somewhere amidst the tempest, my rhapsody’s boat was still afloat.
Finally when I heard the familiar honk of a car at 7:30, I understood it was time. I opened the door only to receive greetings by an old Mazda, “hop in, you probably don’t wanna be late for this”
Before I could open my mouth I heard my father asking who was it at the door, I looked back at him.
“Uh…..my friend, I’ll be back in 5”, I rammed the door shut and ran towards Jackson’s ride, “DRIVE
DRIVE!” I wasn’t planning on coming back in 5 minutes though.
Upon reaching Biggy’s Lair, that’s what they used to call the hood, I ran a curious scan over the people who were busy jumping to their own beats. Ambient lights coupled with slow riffed hip hop in the background was pure cocaine for me, Jackson was busy telling me all he knew about the hood while I was still scanning for serious competition.
Clouds of confusion started to diffuse into thin air when the emcee in his deep voice greeted everyone over the mic. “How’s y’all doin’ tonight, now we got some good competition here folks, you know the rules. I’ll flip the coin between the homies here, the one who wins grabs the mic in the first place. Alright here we go, the first battle tonight is between….” and the show started. The first battle erupted like a fireball, both the rappers spun verses dissing each other off, the crowd would shout “Owwwwww man” for every good rhyme, to my surprise, one of the contenders was a girl in her 16s I guess. Now that was some sort of dedication, that pumped me up with adrenaline. “And now women and gentlemen, for the next battle we have Dr.Razor up against Battle Borg”, I gave a final look to Jackson, his eyes were hoping to see something ballistic that night. The coin was tossed, I called my turn but unfortunately lost to Dr.Razor, the guy was a hunk of muscle. The beats finally filled the arena, even I couldn’t stop myself from grooving, “on and on I see some weird people off the floor……” Dr.Razor dissed me as much as he could, even the emcee laughed hard.
Finally he handed the mic to me with that “I’mma punch ya on the face” look. The beats rattled again but this time it wasn’t me but my anger spitting rhymes over the mic, I could hear people saying “man he’s good”. Jackson was shouting “my man my man” with the crowd until I gave a hardcore chorus and the crowd went wild. That was my first major evening, results were announced a day later so we had to go back home. It was already late, when I reached home I got bombarded with questions from the family but for the first time in my life I wasn’t paying any heed to them.
At 11:45pm I got another call from the same emcee I had met earlier that day “man is this Battle Borg”
“Yeah that’s me”
“Oh good, I’ll tell you what man you were fire, people had already declared you the winner so I guess you already know it, congratulations man. And um…if you’d like to hit the crib sometime, I got my studio open for ya, we can make good music man.” you don’t come to hear this easily, unlike all other stories that single battle against those inner demons of mine only gave me the strength I needed the most, I rang Jackson up “man I’m in, big time. He says, he wants to collaborate with me” what followed was a thrilling journey I’ll be telling y’all shortly.
A Taste of Mischief
Haven’t tried it as of now, let’s hope I don’t come across one.
Jackson stopped the Impala right in front of Berkley street, “Man you see that?” His index finger pointed towards a distant dark place with neon lights flickering inconsistently, “How about going in?”
“Man you serious?”
“Hell yeah I’m serious man, we came here for a tour and….”
“A tour of LA without a club! Are you nuts?”
That got me on the edge, probably he was right, Los Angeles is famous for its clubs, nasty ones indeed. “Let’s hit ’em man, just once.”
His kinky smile appeared to be trying it’s best to say yes. “Uh….okk..kaayy.”
“That’s my man”, a quick bro fist cleared all the skirmish we had in our heads and we drove towards the neon lights.
The place was all quiet from the outside, no crowd, no bouncers, just silence. “Lemme do the talking”, Jackson stepped up the stairs and knocked the door, a slit opened up showing two eyes, “How many?” The man asked, “Just me and my wingman.”
“Nah man no guns, we’re clean guys”, he opened his leather jacket and showed it to him.
“Alright hop in.”
We entered the quiet space, soon Jackson opened the real door and there it was, “Welcome to heaven man”, Jackson gave a wierd laugh as he pulled me inside the big hall which was already bathing in red and deep blue lights. I could see a couple or two busy in a random corner, but never mind! The music was what made the place look so lively, sober beats shook the dance floor where girls and their “favourable guys” were dancing like hell.
I found my type of place in a corner, a small pub, “Soda, flavoured with uh…..” my eyes scanned the place, no sign of soda, just liquor. Even though there was soda, it wasn’t what I wanted.
“Trying it for the first time?” My head span right towards the source of the sound and came across a really pretty face, pushing the blond hair behind the left ear the black eyes looked right at me with a wierd zest of what I perceived as lust.
“Ye….yeah”, I replied taking a sip of rum, bitter to the last extent “Damn, how the hell do you guys drink this?” My taste buds became chaotic, I started losing the command over my senses, images started to become blur, I blinked my eyes constantly but it was too late, all I could hear was “It’s okay, come with me” and the next thing I did was, dancing probably? I could feel the beats, heart beating out of the ribcage, pupils dilated, Jackson was nowhere to be seen. I was in a different realm. I don’t know when it all went AWOL and I cursed the DJ and picked up the mic, climbed atop the pub’s table and said “Just play the best you have……I’ll……..sing”, the people cheered, that girl was among them as well. Slow but infectious, the beats pulled me deeper and deeper, “Cold enough to, chew my bones it feels I’ve done what you wanted…….”
I could hear breathtaking woahs and he’s good till I sang the hook. I lost it completely in the end and sat on the table. The people were already lost in their world, music had taken its toll.
I opened my eyes inside the Impala, right on the back seat, right beside me was the girl I had encountered last night. “Man what the hell have you been doing here?” Jackson was at the front seat looking at me shellshocked, I looked at the girl then at him, repeated the process again, “Hell no man, I can’t!”
Best Friends Forever !!
To my lovelies — Time and Distance,
I take upon this stance to apologize to you for defeating you. You took an era to fade ‘us’ away but ‘we’ took just a day to rise from the ashes, despite your constant efforts, if I may add.
I acknowledge your authority, that your influence is quite powerful. Your consistency to wither our past was dreadful and alarming, but this girl — this wonderful person fortified ‘us’ to break your shackles and host a reunion as epic as the ‘Ram Bharat Milan’ !!
I would like to remind you that our bond doesn’t need seldom visits, or cheesy conversations to flourish. We are the birdies who donot believe in posing for cover pages, or uploading selfies with a boatload of makeup and perfect pouts. Yes, we exist!
We live by reminiscing over our little (3-4 hours long) phone calls filled with crap, over the school memories and childhood crush, over the vociferous laughter for the sulliest reason, over the ‘goodbyes’ with a smile and a promise to meet again. We endeavor to contain perfectly, all our imperfections. Yes, we exist!
So you see, we have bested you in every respect. I know it’s harsh and it makes you envy us, but let’s face it. You are merely a physical quantity that can never measure our relationship. You provoke us to grow stronger, which can’t be helped.
Love and Hate,
Best friends forever.
The Precious Gift, “An Orphan”
Streams weeping down the hill,
Mediterranean wave glistening, though still.
Continuous breeze gives unconfined care,
Mother’s manus touches Her face, sheer ardour.
Laquacious home to silent stable,
Eyes welling up as she read the deep fable.
Letter Calligraphs , “The 18th Precious Gift”
You’re an adult and its time to inquire, the ‘secret’ behind the myth.
Your ‘Dad’ left me, when you infant my womb
Society abused me with colic syndrome.
Ran out of cash and nothing left other being depressed,
I made you ‘Stranger’ for better calling you a ‘Pest’.
Cramped you up and locked you rancid,
Into the lap of an Orphanage.
Several questions will spin out your mind,
You will be beaten and hated for being alive.
Scars will grow deep and darkness shall kill you alone,
When you’ll see other children merry in their parental home.
Today on this special day I want,
Just to forgive me from all the burden, I grant.
Leaving behind this ‘Toy’ which I bought before your birth,
Now my soul can travel in heaven’s mirth.
Always live wise,
Fight bravely with your life.
Last line in the letter said, “I love You Forever”
Your Mother .
That silent night engraved the violent rage,
She knelt down and just prayed.
Eyes were moistened and heart needed pace,
Letter was wet with tears of grace.
Year back! She always got those candies from the stranger,
Which was no one but her mother.
She looked up to the sky and promised her life to grow,
The ‘Toy’ dropped from her shivering hand and spoke, “I love You”.
Picture credit : Prateek Shukla
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