Flipping through the channels, I noticed some of the craziest of visuals on MTv. A creeper growing out of a barren land created with excellent CGI while an Asian man rapped his way to glory. This seemed interesting.
The music video soon cut to a singer standing on a ledge screaming his heart out in the rain. The song and the visuals were incredibly powerful but what caught my attention were the lyrics and that catchphrase In the end, it doesn’t even matter.
2003: High school, Muscat, Oman
‘Hey man, which one is that?’ I asked pointing to the audio cassette in Shrung’s hand.
‘Meteora’ He replied.
‘That’s a weird name for a band.’
‘That’s the name of the album. The band is called Linkin Park. These are the guys behind the song In the End. Have you heard it?’
‘Isn’t that the one where they have cool CGI, rap and this guy singing from some big building? Are they any good?’
‘Yup, the same. That one was was from their album Hybrid Theory. This is their new album.’
‘Man, these guys look werid. And what kind of band name is Linkin Park?’ I said eyeing the cassette cover.
Shrung saw me checking out the cassette in his hand. He thought for a bit, smiled and said:
‘Why don’t you listen to it over the weekend? You can return it to me on Saturday.
‘Are you sure? This looks new man. Also, I don’t think this is my type.’ I really wasn’t sure if I would like Shrung’s taste in music.
‘Firs,t listen to it, then decide your type.’ said Shrung as he handed over the cassette.
That evening, as I listened to the tape in my Sony walkman, unknown to me then, my life had changed forever.
2004: College, Durgapur, India
‘Chal shuru ho ja beta (Alright begin then), you said you like English songs right!’ She said.
A bunch of boys and girls stared at me. Many of them seniors and some my batch-mates. We were first years and we were being ragged in the college cafeteria.
Some of us were told to propose seniors and promise to be brothers to our female batch-mates. Neha, one of the female seniors, had asked me to sing a song for her.
As I stood there, in my formal shirt and trousers, sweating in the humid climate of Durgapur, with my head bowed down, looking at the third button on my shirt, one of the seniors stood up and placed his hands on my shuddering shoulders.
‘Either you sing for her, or we’ll get it out of you back in the hostel’ he ordered.
As my batch-mates stared on, wondering whether I would break down or be thrashed in public, I took a deep breath and began:
I wasn’t going to stop but was cut short when Neha signalled me to. ‘You sing well kiddo. These guys won’t whack you tonight.’ said she before calling on the next junior.
2008: First job, Bangalore, India
This was getting awkward. We had spent weeks in the same room next to each other and I still did not have the guts to ask her out.
My first job out of college, everything seemed great except for the fact that I had a crush on one of the girls who joined along with me and I couldn’t get over it. We had the same training sessions and and while she just smiled and said Hi, I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. She thought I was funny and had even picked me to pair up with, during one of the group activities. And now, there she stood a few feet away from me, sipping coffee, along with the guys from her college while my mind buzzed with questions. ‘What if she says no? What if she has a boyfriend? What if she doesn’t like me?’
‘Fuck it. I’m gonna ask her out’ I said to myself, gulped my coffee and walked up to her.
‘Hey… so I was thinking…’
‘Hi’ said she with that killer smile.
‘umm… What kind of music do you like?’
She looked confused, thought for a second and said ‘I love Taylor Swift. Have you heard her?’
This was a bad idea. I had no clue who Taylor was and what kind of music she played. Say something smart, I thought to myself.
As though seeing the awkward expression on my face, She quickly added ‘But I also like this new song. What I’ve done I think it’s so good.’
I smiled. I could make this work.
2011: Some pub in Bangalore
‘It’s been a year since we’ve broken up but this shit isn’t getting over man. She dumped me but now she isn’t letting me move on.’ I said before I emptied my fifth glass of whiskey.
Life was tough. Work wasn’t great either. I figured I had been spending way too much time indoors and had come out alone for a drink and some advice. That seemed to work for heroes in the movies.
‘Listen’ said the bartender as he took away the empty glass from my hand. ‘You have been sitting here for so long whining about her and that doesn’t help you or my bar. Everyone’s having fun and you should try too. Go, look at the ladies.’
I looked around. It was karaoke night and everyone seemed happy. This place sucks I thought to myself as I got off the bar stool and made my way through the crowded floor towards the exit.
And then, a familiar tune played from the speakers and within seconds, I was back by the bar, this time with the mic in my hand instead of the glass. I heard Chester’s beautiful voice in my head as I sang into the mic with others.
That night, I did not drink again. And I met someone else.
2017: Here and Now
As a kid growing up in the 90’s, it wasn’t easy discovering music. I listened to everything from Backstreet Boys to Limpbizkit to Metallica but I didn’t relate to any one of them. During that awkward phase, discovering Linkin Park was pure joy and something I instantly connected with. I remember rapping along with Mike but not singing along with Chester. His voice, that man and the way he sang those lyrics almost transformed the song mid-way. Even today few artistes do justice to the songs, the way Chester did. While many of his songs spoke about the insecurities and our issues, they also taught us to stand up for what is right and why it was important to have our own voice.
Linkin Park was my generation’s voice and I have always been immensely proud about that.
Chester Bennington died two days ago. I have never experienced such sorrow for an artist’s demise. I cannot count the number of hours I’ve spent in my childhood lost in the worlds created by Linkin Park. Thank you Chester for helping me and many like me through the difficult phases of our lives. In the end, it did matter.
Rest in Peace Chester. We’ll miss you. real bad.