Somewhere I Belonged

It was a week or so before Teacher’s Day at St. Ann’s High School, the catholic convent school for girls I attended. The students had to pitch their ideas for the programme to the principal, Sister Tresa, and so I found myself awkwardly standing before the usually stern Sister, who was seated on a metal chair in her perfectly pleated beige sari, her hair tied in a severe bun. I rubbed one damp-chalk whitened Bata canvas shoe against the other. I don’t remember what we, my friend Aparna and I, told her about my idea. But I remember what the idea was. To perform In the End by Linkin Park for the teachers. Both the Chester and Mike bits. By myself.

Looking back, what was most surprising wasn’t that I thought this would be a good idea (a year earlier I made my friend perform stand-up bits of what we’d later learn was stoner comedy in front of the whole school), but that Sister Tresa listened to the entire song and nodded her head in approval. It was listed as a “special performance” on the programme itinerary, but there was no special performance that day. I chickened out at the last minute thinking of rapping in front of my Telugu teacher Mrs. Mangatayee.

That was how dedicated I was to Linkin Park. It was the first band I was a “fan” of. Their albums were the first ones I’d bought with money I’d saved up and listened to obsessively. Mum berated for listening to “yelly” music, but in my pre-teen angst, listening to A Place for My Head at near-full volume on the portable stereo was catharsis.

I had stopped listening to them by the time I went to junior college. Perhaps it was because my taste in music changed, perhaps it was because I’d been saturated with the two albums. But they’d slipped out of my mind, and even though years later I heard that they’d got a few new songs and albums out I didn’t make the effort to listen to them.

Today, I woke up to the message that Chester Bennington, the lead vocalist, had died. I was aghast, but it didn’t really register. But now, at 10:04 p.m. as I press play on the first title of Hybrid Theory, I know instinctively the words that will come next, the hooks that will come next, how the songs segue into each other, the lurid neon greens in the video of Papercut, and the icy blues in Crawling. I remember I liked the B side of Meteora more, and the frayed edges of the lyrics sheets that came with the cassettes.

I just wish I were remembering all this under different circumstances. Thanks Linkin Park for making 12 year-old-me somewhere she could belong.