ON AN AFTERNOON IN MARCH, a small, unkempt park in Delhi’s Khirki village was packed. In one corner, towering speakers shielded a console with a turntable from which loud hip-hop beats emerged. Standing around a linoleum sheet, breakers, MCs, DJs, graffiti artists as well as some curious passers-by and neighbours stood watching three teenage boys freestyle dancing. First jumping around as if on an invisible pogo stick and pushing out their arms in quick-changing angles, they then hit the floor and spent the next few minutes contorting their bodies into a series of complicated shapes.
The trio was competing at the Khirki Park Jam, an open b-boying (a style of street dancing associated with hip-hop culture and commonly called “breakdancing” or “breaking”) contest between groups from around the city, with guest appearances from hip-hop crews Desi Beam and Kru 172 from Chandigarh. Rotating wildly on his head, legs in the air, was 15-year-old Hari; spinning during a handstand was 15-year-old LaLa; and freestyling “beat ke hisab se (according to the beat)” was Rishi, also 15.
The boys are members of SlumGods, a Delhi-based b-boying group formed at Tiny Drops, a hip-hop community centre in Khirki village that describes itself as a gathering of “fierce eight to 18-year-old break dancers, rappers, graffiti writers and artists”.