Well ! I must have been an owl in my last lifetime. A “Big Good Owl” ! God made me into a human being in my next lifetime for being a good one. ( I believe in karma and rebirth, I am a living proof!). I just love sleeping, especially in the mornings! A slight rub off from my earlier life is that I stay awake late into the night. This is the time I indulge in my craving for reading, watching movies, eating chocolates and writing my small little blog.
I am born into a TAMBRAM family and one of the stellar qualities of this spectacular community is “early rising”. Most of them follow the philosophy of “early to bed, early to rise”. My family members are shocked if they see me snoozing at seven or eight in the morning. Am I a bad wife, horrid mother to be sleeping after seven? My husband is a true blue representative of his community. He sleeps early, gets up even earlier and uses his morning hours to do good work like exercise, prayers, carnatic music and filter coffee. My mother wakes up early too. The entire cosmos in the house makes a consistent but feeble attempt to make me feel guilty of waking up late!
My parents tell me that for the first three years of my life, I did not sleep the nights. I used to sleep through the day and stay awake the whole night ( remenants of my previous life of an owl – habits die hard, even across lifetimes). My parents were a nervous wreck by the end of the third year. My aunt (young and unmarried) was called in for help. She sang through the night and my parents mostly found her in the early mornings, slumped in bed. The baby would be happily awake and playing by her side (that’s me!). She woke up from her slumber in the late mornings as all the singing ( turned to croaking) left her drained and pooped out!
One day, like a miracle, I broke through the shackles of “Owlish-ness” and slept through the night. Both parents did not sleep a wink that night as they went through emotions of surprise, anguish, worry, relief and gratitude. When I woke up at eight the next day morning, after 8 hours of straight sleep, my parents cried with joy and carried out a series of rituals and thanksgiving to multiple Gods and temples. I started compensating for the sleep I lost in the first three years .It looks like I have still not evened out the deficit of sleep.
As I started school, waking me up at seven to get me ready to school was a challenge. My mother used a lot of tricks to get me to open my eyes and it included dunking a full bucket of cold water on my head. I would be pushed into the bathroom and will slump against the wall for a snooze.I would beg my mother for “five minutes” more of sleep. By God’s Grace and by my mother’s persistence, I used to get to the school bus on time. I could not set aside any work for the morning and I became excellent at time management. My homework was done, bags packed, uniform readied and all I needed was a few minutes to get ready. I valued the five minutes extra sleep more than anything else in my life ! No amount of bribing could get me to wake up, on my own, in the mornings. Even my dog Robin, with generous licks, could not make me open my eyes to the beauty of the early mornings.
My mother had to go out of town to help my aunt and I moved to the school hostel for a few weeks. The greatest horror about the Christian missionary school was that we needed to wake up at 5.00 am. The regimen was to have a bath, get to study an hour and attend church mass at 6.30 am. I got kicked in the morning with sturdy black shoes of a nun. I sleep walked through the bath and study time. Some classmates dragged me through and seated me in the church. The church drill is same every day. We students are expected to join in the reading and singing. My friend would give me pinch every time we needed to join and I would mouth the necessary words before slipping into sleep again. The priest would say “May the Lord be with you” and we students have to repeat “and also with you”. One fine morning (really early morning), I was sleeping, as usual. My friend pinched me, I opened my eyes slightly and said “and also with you”, loud and clear. I quickly went back to sleep. A few seconds later, I realised something was amiss (not bad for a sleepy head). I heard muffled laughter all over! I opened my eyes fully and realised that I have mouthed my response when it was not necessary! It was silent prayer time and I had yelled out my plea to the Lord! It’s another matter that I slept in the Mass the next day too, just that I had moved places! I did not trust “that” chapel friend anymore!
I moved to hostels for my graduation & post -graduation. My hostel-mates hated my morning sleep but loved me for the rest of the day. So they made timetables among themselves on who would take up the assignment of waking me up in the morning to enable me to get to class on time. I am ever grateful to this bunch of dedicated friends for helping me get enough attendance to sit for my exams. I can never forget the runs my friends took at tea-break from the first class of the day to wake me up, again. I would have answered their wake-up knock in the morning but promptly gone back to sleep, thus missing the first class of the day.
I used to take a bus from Cuddalore to Chidambaram every weekend during four years of my graduation. These buses move at jet speed and the driver never takes his hand off the horn. The moment I get into the bus, I would promptly buy my ticket, take a window seat, secure my bag on my lap and buzz off. Nothing can wake me up till the bus reaches Chidambaram Bus Stand. The strong wind blowing on my face, the honks, the whizzing vehicles or the cacophony of the over crowded bus was like a lullaby to me! Once, I slightly opened my eyes and just had enough time to register the location ( SIPCOT area) and lulled back. I woke up again as my body clock said that I must have reached Chidambaram by now. I see that we are still moving in the same SIPCOT area. It took a while for me to register this and I wondered how my sleep sense has betrayed me. My co-passenger gave me a big smile and said that she has been watching me all along and wondering when will open my eyes. There has been a stoppage of the bus by some irate villagers and after much chaos the bus is returning back to Cuddalore. It then struck me that the Bus is crossing SIPCOT area on its return journey and I have slept through all the commotion blissfully. The only saving grace was that my body clock did not betray me. It woke up at the correct time, not realising the issues of this chaotic world.
I did my post–graduation in Gujarat and would make an epic journey come home after exams every semester. We were a bunch of six southies who boarded the dreaded Navajeevan Express after a few days of hard studying for exams. Sleep deprived, I used to climb to the top berth in the dirty second class compartment and drift off into blissful sleep for hours. We normally boarded the train in the early mornings and my first wake up would be around dinner time to gulp down some soggy bread and omelette bought and kept by my friends a few hours ago. Sleep session would continue till we reach the outskirts of Chennai after a good 33 hours. Our co-travellers could whisper to each other when they see me get down from the top berth as we get closer to Chennai central station. They must have thought that I was some weird addict or drunkard to have slept through the entire journey. Little did they know the personal pain of my missed sleep.
As I grew older, I had mastered the art of sleeping in any place! I will fold my hands across my chest, sit upright and close my eyes for a few seconds! Boom! I hit my favourite zone, Sleep! Buses, Cars, Trains, Aeroplanes, Class Room, Hospital Waiting area and Mall Benches provided amazing sleep Zones.
I used to make plenty of one day trips at work. I will take an early morning flight and get back home by a late night flight. Most of my colleagues used to wonder how I am able to do this two to three times a week without getting tired. The secret was that I caught up of my slumber on these flights, both ways. All the sleep I lost by waking up early got compensated in the flights. As am getting older, I am slightly worried that I might snore and be the joke of morning for my co-passengers.
My son had fitful sleep for the first three years from birth. It was very tough days for us. He would wake up two to three times at night but will sleep blissfully in the early mornings. This was in tandem with my sleep pattern and gave me allowance to stay in bed till it was time to head to work (much to the horror of my husband and my mother). When I see my son snoozing away at nine in the morning on Sunday, I see me in him! Oh my God! All the prejudices he needs to fight in his life to get this precious blissful slumber!
One of the most common subjects of discussion in our peer groups is “insomnia”! ( the next most interesting topic is the unfairness of life with regards to maids, drivers and in-laws, in the specific order). I feel lost for words and phrases on this subject. Of course, I can talk very eloquently about the opposite state of mind!
It’s my dream to be able to wake up on my own one morning. No alarms! No body shake! No Screams! No phone ring! No Door Bell! No pulls on my blanket! No TV on high volume! Well, it could be that most of the day is already over by then! So be it!!!!
“I’ve always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed.”
― David Benioff, City of Thieves
If you have the time, please watch this nice video on stages of sleep