Saturday, August 24, 2013


ME AND MY SLEEP                                  

Tonight I was staring into the darkness surrounding me, sitting at my desk with the table lamp on, lost in thought, yes you can be sure of that, for my eyes were open and the drowsiness had still not set in. Of course some people have the capacity to sleep with their eyes open but I had failed to learn the art of sleeping with my eyes open. It would have stood me in good stead back in college for I was invariably caught while sleeping in class, especially during the periods after lunch. But I remember that there was one subject when I never got pulled up for this offence and that was during the ‘Magnetic Fields and Tensor Analysis’ class, not because the professor taking the subject was a very liberal minded person. You see that when he started talking about magnetic fields, electromagnetic waves and the applications of tensor analysis (pardon me these are the only words I remember from what I learned back then) I used to experience fields and waves around my head and a buzzing sound very conducive to inducing one into a trance, try it some times it works. The next best thing for experiencing such spiritually elevated states I found was during the period of probation in the Bank when I was asked to read the Book of Instructions and the Exchange Control Manual. I never went beyond the first page. In fact I found that next to lifting the accounts ledgers, handling the Book of Instructions did in fact contribute to whatever muscular structure (believe me it was not great but adequate) I developed, though the same cannot be said about my job knowledge. I am sure a lot of my colleagues in the bank would also be grateful to these manuals for their physical well being.

Well coming back to the professor like I said it was not because he was a very considerate man that he allowed me to sleep in class, it was because he was so immersed in the fields that he wove on the board and around him and the class, that he never really noticed whether anyone was paying attention or not. But all this had a problem which I realised only when I sat down to study for the periodical class tests, for when I opened my book I could never make head or tail of what I had written in my note book. You see I used to take only one thick notebook to class, a sort of master book in which I used to take down the notes (this was to save the trouble of lugging around a pile of books subject wise). One had to just open the notebook to find out which classes I had slept and the duration of my sleep. Only the first word in each line would be visible as slowly the writing would taper of into a scribble as sleep overtook me. At the end of the line when the pen struck rough surface on the desk, I would wake up and the process would be repeated over again. The pen acted as control mechanism to wake me up at the end of the line. It was may be because of this that I became a night bird, an owl (anyway not a wise one as all owls are supposed to be).  

The art of sleeping with your eyes open was perfected by one of my colleagues. I realised this when talking to him one day and getting no response shook him up and he awoke with a start and started where he had left off earlier and now here I mean the conversation and not the sleep. Then there was another one who would dose off in the middle of a sentence leaving it unfinished, not only that for before long he would be snoring.

In the good old days when we were used to travelling by buses, my wife used to complain that as soon as we were seated I would fall asleep. Of course since she was there next to me we could get off at the right place. But it did happen to me when I was travelling by the suburban train back from VT to Chembur, I kept awake till Kurla one station before my destination. But I do not know what happened for I when I woke up I had passed beyond and had to catch another train to come back. Luckily this time I did not fall asleep and got down at Chembur.

Like the good old pen which I talked about as a control mechanism I have found that the wall and the bars on the window of a bus are equally effective. I cannot remember the number of time I have banged my head against the window bars on the bus, though painful it was effective to make sure I got down at the proper place. Banging against the wall is something that I have developed over the last few years (don’t mistake that I have resorted to this to overcome my frustrations or set things right in my head) especially while watching the television. It has woken me up in the course of watching a movie or a serial so that I could pick up the trend of what was happening on the screen. Of course whenever I ask my wife as to what had happened in the interim she would glare suggesting that I should go back to sleep.

But all this sleep, when others are awake vanishes when others go to sleep. That’s why I am still awake writing all this. I have tried understand the genesis of all this and I have found that all this dates back to the time when I was in school and Macbeth was one of the books on our English curriculum. I had the whole book by heart and was even nick named as Macbeth though I did not commit any foul deed. But may be this soliloquy of Macbeth was what did me in –

“Methought I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep”—the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.” – from Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’


Varsha said...

Sleep is a phenomena which comes when you want to be attentive and evades you when you want it to come. It is always a game of hide and seek. I too have encountered people who can sleep off with their eyes wide open!
The handling of ledgers has brought back interesting memories of days gone by. What a pity that the Probationers of today wouldn't know the labour of identifying the correct ledger, picking it up, posting, and then the exercise of annual closing...gone are the days!
Book of Instructions was another Institution! Had to religiously read it every day during Probation, first thing in the morning! That was a sleep inducing, chai demanding exercise!
Thanks for bringing back memories.

Ram said...

No I didn't sleep through it. Come to think of it, it was quite interesting. Reminded me of college days. (How come we never slept in school?!!!). In my case the writing would go over to the next guy's book with the script resembling some ancient manuscript!