Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock. Still in my sleep I hear my table clock say, “It’s five in the morning. Time to get up”. I open one of my eyes. I can see my husband getting ready for office. “Isn’t it hot today?”, I try to make a conversation. He is too busy to respond. Ignores me and goes to another room.
I keep lying idly on the bed. With one eye still closed I check my facebook updates, whatsapp messages and notifications from Covet fashion ( an online game I am addicted to). Concurrently I can also feel another clock ( inside my mind ) ticking fast.. Tick-Tock, Tick-tock, Tick-Tock… now screaming (like some movie sequence), “It’s time to get up.. You promised yesterday you would get up at 5 every morning”. Who cares what I promised yesterday? I have been making promises to my self for Idontknowhowmanyyears. It never hurts to sleep for a fewmoreminutes. I close my eyes and the fewmoreminutes turn into thirty-five minutes. They pass like a bullet train.
Morning is not the best time to tell stories. Moreover, it’s 5:35 now. Time to leave my bed. My husband is almost ready. I cannot afford any fewmoreminuets of sleep. As he leaves the house, I again try to bring to his notice something that has been bothering me for the last one hour, “Isn’t it hot today?”. He smiles and says, “Some people are having first world problems.” I do not argue and decide to let him enjoy his comment. I am generous.
By 6:00, I am all alone in the house. With my husband gone to work, I could still have fewmorehours of sleep. Before retreating to the second phase of my sleep, I check the air conditioner. It’s working. Perhaps the heat is inside my head. You know, mind plays tricks when you do not get enough sleep.
Getting up five in the morning? Are you kidding me? Believe me, this has been my customary routine for the last one year. A couple of years back this would have been preposterous to my very existence. The transmorgification of my body clock might come as a shock to my close family and friends. Some of them may get stupefied. Much of the credit for this transmutation of my sleeping habit goes to my dear husband. He unlike me is diligent and believes in power naps. He leaves for office by 6:00 every morning. So every weekday I wakeup like a zombie, prepare his breakfast, pack his lunch and see him off.
My habit of sleeping for long hours is not new. I have been infamous all my life for my ability to sleep as long as I can. I remember my mother quoting “aaram haraam hai”(Rest is a Religious Deviation) whenever she found me sleeping for long hours. The quote actually has historical significance. It was first uttered by Jawarlal Nehru, when India was still under British occupation. My Nana jee (maternal grandfather) found it so inspirational that he became a living epitome of this quote. I would not talk about my grandfather here. He was one of those self disciplined people, who would sleep for 4-5 hours a day and would even sleep with his fan switched off during peak summer season. He was an extraordinary person. He had discipline, self composure, will power and knew the art of self-restraint. He does not have any place in an account written by a sleepoholic.
My mother was very fond of her father. She subsequently picked this phrase along with many other motivational quotes resolutely spoken by him (her father) to inculcate healthy habits in his children. Finally this quote became an unavoidable part of my childhood and still haunts me whenever I oversleep.
My mother was a womenofaction. She did not believe just in reiterating quotes. She left no stones unturned in an effort to discipline me. Every morning without any fail she would open the windows of my room and would switch off the fan. This was just a prelude.
The troubles I underwent when the school was open were not enough. During school holidays when I would visit my Nanighar (maternal grandparents house), my mother would take a back seat. During our entire stay she would outsource the assignment of waking me up to my Nani (maternal grandmother). My grandmother was a sweet women. She was old and fragile. Whatever memory I have of her, I don’t remember to have found a single black hair on her head. As a kid I was certain she never had black hair. She was religious, soft-spoken, graceful and eversmiling. She was harmless and did not have an iota of malice towards anyone. But, she was her daughter’s mother. During all those summer holidays, she would say every morning to me “jo sowat hai, so khowat hai; jo jaagat hai, so paawat hai”, (Those who keep sleeping are loosers; those who wake up early are achievers). This phrase used to terrify me. Every time I would oversleep, I would feel to have missed something. Believe me, it intimidates me even today.
For all those years of incorrigible patience and perseverance, my mother should be awarded. She is one of those people who never surrender in their lives. Interestingly, she is in possession of a panacea for almost everything. When all her efforts fail to derive required result she uses her “Brahmastra”. Believe me, it has never failed her. She has this unique arrangement with Hanuman ji (Monkey faced God). She has ability to trade anything she wishes with ladoos ( ladoo: an Indian ball shaped sweet). Certainly the quantity of ladoos vary. I believe it to be directly proportional to the seriousness of the problem. I am sure she must have committed 10 ladoos every month in lieu of changing my sleeping habit.
When your Mom is on mission to ameliorate your sleeping habit, you are left with no other option but to sacrifice. There was no point getting into a quarrel with the pope (mother).
Finally my prayers were answered too. I don’t know which God responded to my invocation, but it was certainly not Hanuman jee; He was on my mother’s side. For my post secondary studies, I was to be sent to the Benaras Hindu University. Finally, I said goodbye to my hometown. In the years to follow, a new chapter of my infinite romance with sleeping would be written. I would come across a number of comrades who believed in the idea of sleeping. I had roommates and friends who never doubted my ability to sleep. In fact some of them never disturbed my sleep while some accompanied me, and some made sleeping humorous.
There was a friend who would create “ sone ka mahoul” (ambiance for sleeping), do not confuse it with “sone ka mahal”(gold palace). She would draw close the curtains, switch off the lights, shut the door. She was a master in the art of converting a sunny afternoon into dark night. Believe me, it made day-time sleeping joyful. There was a friend who was an early bird; would wake up during wee hours, make tea and read books using her table lamp; never made a sound while I slept. She would also shut the eastern windows of my room when sun rays made an attempt to touch my forehead. Once when I asked her to wake me up in the morning, she said, “I love the way you sleep. You seem like you are in some blissful state. I can never wake you up”. There was a friend who deliberately coincided her sleep cycle with mine. Based on my experiences I could easily write a book for sleepoholics. If not book, certainly an anthem. Alas! the anthem has already been written by the Beatles. “I’m only sleeping”, is one song that defines my passion for sleeping holistically.
Those were the goodoldsleepydays. Things have changed now. I still enjoy to have uninterrupted sleep but I am sleeping in parts. Now I wake up voluntarily at five in the morning. The only relief is the fact that once my husband leaves for office I go back to bed and sleep for a fewmorehours. Belive me sleeping in pieces does not bring much satisfaction. It also leads to uncanny dreams.
It’s 6:10. I feel relaxed. It’s time for my fewmorehours of sleep. I lay in bed thinking about my mother and grandmother. I could feel them talking to me, “this is not a good time to sleep. You should get up and go for morning walk…Jo sowat hai so khowat hai..jo jaagat hai so paawat hai.” Within moments a series of other impressions and images in the form of montage start featuring on my mind’s cinemascope. I could see the faces of my mother and grandmother fading out and find myself overlooking a blue snake-like river meandering through the vast golden desert. It took me fewdearmseconds to realise I was standing on the bank of river Nile.
I stood overlooking the indigo coloured water of the indomitable river and wondered how as a kid I always thought that Nile got it’s name because the colour of it’s water was blue, to be more accurate “indigo”? The assumption was based on my childhood fantasy. In hindi Nile is called river “Neel”, which I thought might have been derived from “neela”colour similar to “neel” which means “indigo” in English. (In reality, the Nile got its name from the Greek word “Nelios”, meaning “river valley”).
Dream is your own world. In your dreams, you have liberty to have blue coloured trees. After all this was a river. It was certainly fair to have an indigo coloured Nile when the actual colour of the river is blue-black.
Still shocked to find the indigo coloured Nile, I heard someone calling my name. I looked back and found my old college friend walking towards me. Behind her I could see the silhouette of the majestic pyramids of Giza, sun half hidden behind the polyhedron structure. Golden rays filtering through it’s conical top and illuminating the golden desert.
Soon my friend joined me. We got immersed in talking about good old days. In front of us was the Nile. It was of bluest colour. It’s surface glistened as sun rays past the pyramids, the desert; fell upon the indigo coloured river and gave an impression of a necklace studded with Lapis lazulis.
I don’t know how, why or when? I found myself putting my left foot inside the flowing river. The water was ice-cold. I instantly withdrew my feet. What I saw next was unbelievable? The colour of the river changed to Red and the colour of the red nail paint on my toe nails changed to Blue. It seemed someone had replaced Lapis lazulis with Rubies. I got bewildered and looked towards my friend for a plausible explanation. She was gone. Something was wrong. I could feel it. I heard my friend crying out my name aloud asking for help. I looked around. She was caught inside the flowing river. I did not know what to do? I did not know how to swim? I stepped inside the river, waded and somehow brought my friend to the shore. As I stepped out of the river there was another surprise waiting for me. The colour of the river now changed to blue-black. The river acquired its original colour. It was neither red nor blue. I felt relieved. I lay down on the shore and closed my eyes. I was tired. “What an extraordinary adventure?” I thought, ” I always wanted to visit Egypt”.
I could feel the air around me getting warmer. I felt uneasiness. I was perspiring. I got anxious. I opened my eyes. It was all a dream. The 9:30 alarm just went off and I knew it was time to get up. I found myself feeling guilty and could feel my grandmother telling me “ jo jagat hai so paawat hai, jo sowat hai so khowat hai”.
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