If you’re wondering who we are, let me unravel the mystery. We are the untethered children of those that live rich, tethered lives. Filled with reckless desire, unlimited ambition and thriving delusions. The unwilling bearer of it all? The place we grew up in and never grew out of – Roseburn – the perfect little island, surrounded by The City on all sides. It has everything. High-rises, row-houses, commercial blocks filled with multi-national corporations, comedy-clubs, jazz clubs, chain restaurants, local haunts, internationally recognised educational institutions, a massive hospital and a few hundred medical clinics serving the people and pets of.
And a Starbucks.
Roseburn has everything. Except a lifeline to The City. And unlike The City, Roseburn sleeps at night.
And us? That’s when we wake up. Burdened by our parents’ names, choking in the nagging comforts of their homes, nearing 30 and still dreaming like we were 15.
Everyone awake can hear Tanya’s car entering the complex. Her fully restored but still noisy Contessa is a conspicuous part of our nights. She’s scrambling to meet Anita, late for their 2 a.m. rendezvous in her sprawling apartment. I’ve never been to her apartment personally, only through stories. But in a small neighbourhood like this, if you compile enough stories, you’re quite likely to reach the truth. So don’t take my word for it, but Anita lives lavishly. She is not the most beautiful, but when you come from wealth, beauty is not the most important. Her parents are rich and obnoxious, with two daughters, both of whom will inherit the rich and reject the obnoxious. Anita is the older and sweeter than she is required to be. She studies hard and is working towards a future in America. She’s fully aware of what her status does and doesn’t allow her. At her feet, are multiple boys who overlook her looks and truly care about the money she comes from. In her heart, is Tanya. The only girl who sees Anita as the most beautiful thing she has ever seen; the hard-working, intelligent, and ultimately forbidden Tanya. So they’ve been meeting in secret, over two years, and only we know. Children of the night. Honourable, lazy, stupid misfits who just want a good time with good liquor and finger food. Tanya and Anita are safe with us.
Our nights begin at 1. Each one of us possesses a second, empty apartment that our parents had the good sense to buy for our future. Each night, we gather in one of these. We discuss dreams, ambitions, and other repetitive things because when you meet that often, any outside change in your life is gradual, hardly noticeable, and not worth discussing. But the future? That is always worth discussing. The future hadn’t happened yet, so it could keep happening. A regular part of these discussions is the future of Roseburn and how we couldshape it for the better. It was on a night like this that I found myself in a deeply important conversation with Meher about the state of our country. We weren’t afraid of the bigger picture. We weren’t afraid of how little we understood it. We forged on, courageously, the ideas rolling in one by one.
‘This is what we should do,’ Meher said.
‘Exactly,’ I replied, ‘if we want what we want, and frankly, what people need, we should do this. This is good for everyone.’
‘How come no one else has thought of it?’
‘Because Meher, they didn’t spend enough time misunderstanding it. We’re the first ones.’
‘We should join politics. We should be the prime minister.’
‘We should be kings.’
‘You mean queens?’
On the other side of the room, Adam stood with his hand on the woofer, feeling the vibrations that emerged from it, running through his body like hot paint. He must have seen us talking intensely about something of grave consequence no doubt, because he came over to us, in a flash, a sense of purpose sprayed across his face.
‘Adam, tell me what you think. You know how The City stinks right?’
‘Oh yeah, it’s unbearable!’
‘Exactly. And now this stink has come into Roseburn. Roseburn is ours and Roseburn is becoming unlivable! And what do you think the authorities are doing about it?’
‘Nothing. I know because I’ve written them multiple letters about it. Honestly, not one of them has replied.’
Meher chimed in, only slightly high, ‘Authorities? Where are you sending these letters?’
‘Well actually, they’re screenshots of letters. I just tweet them @TheCityAuthorities.’
‘I don’t think they check that account.’
‘No they do! They’ve replied to all my jokes and they retweet all the dick pics they get. Not from ME,’ he looked at me truly alarmed. I looked back, truly believing him but not caring either way.
‘Wait, why the fuck do they do that?’ interrupted Meher.
‘They want to tackle the real issues publicly.’
Meher nodded as if to say, ‘but of course.’
Look, she wasn’t stupid, she was just rendered more agreeable by the vodka tonic in her hand. The vodka tonic was for weight loss, if that’s of any interest.
I put in my true agenda for the night, and it wasn’t anything I’d prepared. It prepared itself as the night went by and served itself to me at this most opportune moment. ‘Well that’s what I’m talking about,’ I began, knowing this would end up grand. ‘Fuck the authorities. All these open dustbins all over. Flies all over. Dengue all over. Dogshit in dogshit- polythene-bags in dustbins all over. The authorities, they’re doing nothing about the stink. So we have to. We have to make this place the paradise it used to be!’
‘What do you have in mind?’ Varun asked.
Keep in mind, at this point I had gathered a sizeable crowd. Only Sara remained near the woofer, grooving to some old Hindi song my parents knew all the lyrics to.
‘I’ll tell you what I have in mind,’ I sermoned, ‘we get rid of the fucking stink.’
‘How?’ Kabir asked.
‘We get rid of the dustbins!’
Meher nodded and woohooed, ‘That’s right! Get rid of the fucking stink! Do this whole place a favour. The people of Roseburn will be grateful to us!’
‘You know Mrs. Patel’s daughter died last year from dengue?’ Sara said, from her precious corner, to her nails apparently. It was the kind of stupid fact everyone knew and had their own theories about and quite a pointless thing to say at this moment, and yet, when she said it, with her bored drawl, it was I who felt stupid.
‘What the fuck are you talking about?’ I lashed out. ‘She had alcohol poisoning.’
‘And she would have been able to hold her liquor if she wasn’t brimming with Dengue. Don’t you think?’ She smiled, half.
‘You’re fucking absurd Sara. Look at us when you talk, won’t you?’
Sara stared at me. And then she left, taking the rest of her point with her. Her coat still hung on the wall. Pretentious bitch. The City had no winter. I’d taken shits that were colder.
After Sara left, I considered the matter settled. The crowd was unanimously against the unbearable living conditions and no one could point out a plan better than removing the large bins of rubbish altogether. We continued to party. At around 3 am, Tanya and Anita walked in, preoccupied. They sat down on the longer portion of the couch and ignoring everybody, un-paused a previous conversation. I couldn’t hear it but I had a pretty good idea what it was about. Sometimes, having a pretty good idea is much better. Here’s the idea: Anita was gearing up to leave for the US of A. Tanya was obviously not too happy. I get it. She’d miss her. What else is there to do here? What could she do? But Anita had ambitious plans and she wasn’t giving them up just to be realistically happy here with her girlfriend. What if she found something that could increase her happiness exponentially? Isn’t that a “what-if” worth chasing? And by the way, I get THAT too. Chasing is its own happiness, first. Second, this place was going to the dogs. Seriously, it was so messed up and now I’m 3 joints in just so you know, so I obviously have this beautiful plan to save their relationship. I walked, no, I SPRINTED towards them, real slow.
‘Listen guys. I know how it is. You love each other,’ I said, wisely.
They blinked at me and I knew they were paying attention to me, undividedly. Undividedly.
‘So listen, I know how it is Anita, you want to leave this place. Fly away to a better one, with different, probably worse problems, but different nonetheless. And I know why.’
‘Why?’ Anita asked me.
‘It’s the stench isn’t it,’ I obliged. ‘It’s getting worse. There is literal trash everywhere.’
‘It’s horrible,’ Tanya agreed with me.
‘Yes it is, but we’ve got a plan. And you should join us.’ I said this and I don’t think I was swaying as I said this.
‘Tomorrow night, what are you doing tomorrow night? Cancel it. Adam’s house right? Cancel it. We’re not going to Adam’s house. We’re going to spread out over Rosewater and Rosewood and just remove all the dustbins of Roseburn.’
‘How you going to do that?’ Anita asked blankly.
‘How you going to get rid of the dustbins. They’re massive. Where you going to put them?’
‘I don’t- in the neighbouring neighbourho- look – that’s not important. We’re removing them. They won’t be here. They’ll be gone. And you, Anita, can just NOT go, because Roseburn will be great again. Pretty again. And you both can be together, forever, till Roseburn remains great. So…forever.’
And then we all did shots. Except…I didn’t have a shot in my hand so I poked my forehead with my blunt a little bit.
The next night, we gathered around Adam’s house. With half of us neighbourhood adult-kids on board, we had plenty of people covering the two un-stately provinces of Roseburn. I headed the Rosewater province. Not because I was elected or qualified, but because no one else cared more than I did. Meher headed the Rosewood Province, because she was a woman and it was time. We swept the area of all the trash cans. We dragged and pulled and one by one loaded them on to huge trucks that we rented. It was a painful task. And if we didn’t have the appropriate gloves and attire we would have reeked and bled and complained. No one complained. And as we looked around, no one was there but us. It was a proud moment.
We drove the trucks down to the neighbouring community which was a dump already and couldn’t get worse. And if it did, it was up to the kids of that neighbourhood to sort it out wasn’t it? We had done our jobs. It was the dead of night and we had done our jobs. We went back to Adam’s and celebrated with shots until we ran out of night and liquor.
The morning after was beautiful. We could see parking lots and streets for days, uninterrupted by the massive green tubs of trash. It was the most pleasant walk home. I danced along. I did a jump, a side step and then a pirouette over a banana peel a kid must have placed on the footpath earlier. Behind me, Anita and Tanya whispered sweet everything’s to each other, walking a foot apart because it was daylight again. Was Anita going to stay? I couldn’t see why not! I had never been prouder!
Look, I’m not too proud to admit that we may have miscalculated. Roseburn was clean for all of 6 hours. During the night. And then morning came and the people, perplexed by the lack of dustbins, started throwing their trash on the ground, then looked around, hoping for someone to materialise and pick it up for them. The place looked atrocious. It was a total disaster. That’s the last time we planned something while tripping.
‘What?’ Raghav asked, his eyes dopey again, hands making me the best G and T anyone ever made at 1 in the morning. He kept it real simple, too. Simple G and simple T.
I said, ’I said that’s the last time we planned something while tripping.’
From inside the bathroom, Dhruv and Melissa snorted. And then they laughed.
‘Don’t kid yourself,’ Dhruv poked his head out while adjusting the powder around his nose.
He continued, ’If we don’t do anything who the hell will? And look at all the good we’ve done. For us. Do you think @TheCityAuthorities care about us and what happens to us? They don’t. That’s why we take matters into our own hands. And we never break the law. Can @TheCityAuthorities claim that? Fuck them man. We have to keep going! If we fail, we try harder. Next time we remove trashcans from all over The City, not just Roseburn.’
He was right of course. I looked over at my friends dancing badly around Raghav’s house. Adam, Meher and Anosh were playing the most incoherent game of ‘I never.’ Laughing their heads off at something they imagined doing or not doing because who knows if they did it or didn’t do it. Tanya and Anita were being adorable with each other, kissing like Anita was leaving tomorrow (she was). Everyone else was dancing. I said that already but they were dancing so badly I was in love with it.
Dhruv was right. How obnoxious of me to let one plan gone awry, get in the way of my dreams. I looked at all the people here tonight and I loved them all. A 6-drinks-down kind of love. If someone wanted me to solve a problem for them, would I not try to? If Meher had a fitness goal would I not be there? Drink in hand? Cheering her on as she threw up hers? If Tanya and Anita wanted to elope right then, would we not give them a car to elope in? Would we instead stop them and ask them to think it through? That was our parents’ job. And where did thinking things through ever get them? 2 big houses in a neighbourhood with no dustbins and their kids still under their roof. That’s where. You think we’re not aware of who we are? I told you who we are. We’re the children of the night, living in a stale perfection concocted by our elders. Honourable, lazy, stupid misfits, just in search of a good time with good liquor and finger food. Idealistic idiots who know what to want and don’t know how to get it. You could accuse us of whatever you felt like. But you could never call us bad people.
If we were so bad, why would Tanya and Anita feel safe with us? Ditch their families to feel safe with us? And why would I give them my car keys (a minute ago) (Tanya has her own car, though) so they could run away together, to a far away, where the stink of Roseburn, and all its repressed residents and their unfulfilled dreams, couldn’t reach them?
Why do you think we’re up when everyone else is sleeping?
When Roseburn sleeps, we’re the only ones left dreaming.