Our neighbours seem to have found a new pastime: ruthlessly torturing the inhabitants of our sleepy street into insanity. Every evening - just when it's time for the throng of neighbourhood kids to congregate by the community centre - the members of a rising rock band troop into our neighbour's house. For the next three hours, they jam on apparently untuned guitars, clang about on a drum kit (poor drum) and produce an ear-splitting cacophony. Babies yowl out their reaction to the music, making it virtually impossible for the older kids to concentrate on shooting hoops.
Making threats to sue the children for aural damage, my friend and I marched into the offender's house and demanded an audience with the drummer. A proud mother assured us that we would receive half-price tickets to their first gig, but they were too shy to play us their incomplete songs now. "That's all right, we can hear them a little," I mumbled. What was surprising was that they managed to inspire people. Hannah, who is my age but knows everything about the world's proceedings, informed me that another band had sprung up a little way off. "Vignesh and Zaki and that lot" were behind it, she explained.
Hannah invited me to try out her new karaoke system. After she had demonstrated her singing prowess and finished one verse of a song, I beat a hasty retreat to the kitchen for some water, having suffered enough "musical" entertainment for the day. As I exited Hannah's house, as luck would have it, I bumped into Vaishnavi. She's a nice girl, but when she dragged me off to her house because she was "bored", the sudden realisation dawned on me that she was Vignesh's sister - the boy in the band Hannah was talking about. I followed her apprehensively and when I asked her how the band was doing, she smiled. "Viggy! Bring your guitar, will you?" she said. A rather intimidating fellow teenager clattered down the stairs and I noted, with disapproval, that he was clutching a Fender by the tuning peg.
"Play that thing you were doing last evening, please!" Vaishnavi gazed at her brother with an expression of rapt admiration. Viggy finally consented, set up an amp and plucked a few strings. "It's not tuned," I interrupted. Fifth-grade classical guitar exams had not gone to waste. After tuning it, I handed it back to him and he attempted a feeble chord. After a little stumbling, however, he managed Smoke on the Water perfectly.
Vaishnavi had meanwhile raced outside and rounded up his band mates, who were skateboarding. They entered looking as if they were used to being rounded up to perform in front of Vaishnavi's friends. One was even carrying a bass. They then set up with an electric guitar, bass, keyboard and drum kit. The keyboardist was also the lead vocalist. They began a rather ridiculous song that they had written together called Purple Moon. Even Vaishnavi decided it wasn't very good so they performed Yin and Yang, which was better but sounded suspiciously like Pop Goes the Weasel.
After I had escaped, muttering "very nice", I hurried to Hannah's. She never failed to ease headaches with her lively ideas. "Hiya," she called when she saw me. "Guess what I got the chance to be lead singer in the band with the guy who lives near the community centre! I said I would bring a friend who'd like to join, too." "Er ... great. Who?" I asked. "You!" Hannah exclaimed. I stared. You can't possibly say no to Hannah. I imagined endless hours of a noise like cats screeching away stretching before me. Slowly, I sank into an armchair.
* Lavanya Malhotra is a 14-year-old student in Dubai.