Rocky (name changed) loved to dance. The discoloured walls of his one-room house, on which he scribbled his dreams with red chalk, speak of his obsession.
His branded high-ankle dance boots, a red hip-hop cap, a pile of Levis jeans and T-shirts stand out in the tiny, dingy room. There is no fan, no lights and the bed is broken. A small TV rests on a shaky side table.
This is where Rocky first caught the dance bug. He was just three years old. He watched Bollywood heroes shake their leg on TV for hours. Today he is 17, and an accused in two cases of murder committed within five months. In one instance, he allegedly kidnapped and killed a 13-year-old boy for a ransom of Rs 60,000. In the other, he strangled a 65-year-old woman for her jewellery. He claims he committed both murders to fund his dancing dreams. He wanted to get into a popular dance show on TV.
He is lodged in a correction home and is being tried for the murders.
His father, who works as an electrician and earns Rs 6,000 a month, regrets not breaking that television set years ago. “As a child, he used to dance in every wedding procession even when he was not invited. He loved to dance. He is very flexible. People used to appreciate his moves but I never liked it. I told him that he should concentrate on his studies but in vain,” he says. He adds, “I would beat him up for dancing in the house. But that didn’t help. Had I known that it would ruin his life, I would have broken that godforsaken TV.”
Rocky never took any professional dance training and learned all his moves watching videos and dance shows on television. The moment his father left for work, he would throw away his books and start practising his dance moves. “Main bolti thi use, kya chokri ki tarah kamar hila raha hai, kaise nach raha hai, jaa kuch kama le, par woh apni dhun main rehta tha. Kehta tha, maa ek din bahut bada star banunga. Itni uchai pe pahuchuga tum dekhna. Reality show judge karunga. (I would tell him not to keep dancing like a woman and go earn some money. But he always said he would become a star one day and judge a dance show),” says his mother.
He was in Class 8 when he told his father he wanted to join a dance academy. He made his schoolteacher convince his father and promised he would study if he let him join the academy. Once his father agreed, there was no looking back. “I was a fool to have fallen for that. He left his studies. All he did was dance. He used to wake up at 2 am and practise for five hours. I scolded him, even beat him up, locked him up, but to no avail. I felt helpless,” his father says.
His mother says, “My son lost his sleep, his appetite. He just danced all day. He would work on his dance moves. He would wake up at 1 am each night for his dance lesson at 6 am. Aisa lagta tha usmain koi bhoot agaya hai (it seemed as if he was possessed).”
As Rocky grew older, he distanced himself from his family and hardly stayed at home. He started participating in dance competitions in different states, where he won many trophies and cash prizes. With the money, he rented a small room in Badarpur and opened his own dance academy. He began dreaming of going to Mumbai and becoming a choreographer. His selection in the first round of reality show, Dance India Dance and his appearance in the film, MSG2, boosted his confidence further.
“One day he came to me and asked for `80,000 to go to Mumbai. He said he had qualified for the first round. I got annoyed and slapped him. He then left home. Then I found out that he had been arrested for kidnapping and murdering a 13-year-old for money,” says his father.
For two months, he was lodged in a correction home and then released for “good conduct”. After returning home, his mother did not let him step outside the house. His parents tore up his dance posters, sold his trophies. “I didn’t even allow him to go to our neighbour’s house. He would tell me he is getting bored. But I told him I would commit suicide if he stepped out,” his mother recalls. She further says , “However, he never stopped dancing. I used to cry watch him dance.”
Rocky then started accompanying his father to work. For over three months, he learnt to fix an AC, fridge and TV. He then got no time to dance. His father monitored him closely. Then one day, he got a call from Bulandshahar and had to leave. “That day I left him alone for the first time in three months and he went and killed a 65-year-old woman. He came back home with a straight face. We found out about the murder, two days later, after the police arrested him and recovered the woman’s jewellery from his bag. My world collapsed,” his father says.
“I fail to understand how he could kill two people to fulfil his dreams,” he says.
While Rocky’s father has accepted the truth, his mother is still living in denial. “He could not even remove a dead rat from the house, how could he kill two persons? When I go meet him at the correction home now, he just hangs his head and cries,” she says.
Rocky is now being tried by the juvenile justice board. His family says he has changed. However, what has not changed is his love for dance. He has now started teaching dance to other juveniles lodged in the correction home.