Sleep, Sleep…

IMG_0246March 16 th 2018 was declared World Sleep Day.

This could have been the day when Kumbhakarna of the Ramayana and Rip Van Winkle of the Sleepy Hollow might have been eulogized as role models had the movement started a couple of hundred years ago.

But the movement took off only in 2008.

Through this day, awareness for the necessity of sleep in our lives is said to be raised. Essays and papers have to be written beforehand. There might have been some whose nightly slumbers were interrupted due to the cogitations they faced while writing papers on sleep but they could not dose or indulge in what they wanted to recommend for others, as then their thesis would have gone unrecorded. My take on sleep has been written after a good night of somnambulant ramblings. I believe sleep deprivation has become a modern day syndrome because we have always regarded Kumbhakarna and Rip Van Winkle as eccentric personalities.

The thing to do now is to idolize these two characters.

If you fancy being Kumbhakarna, this is what you start doing. You sleep and you sleep…. but you cannot snore like he did because if you snore while sleeping, it is considered unhealthy. Perhaps a series of conferences to discuss how to sleep without snoring will be held soon. And then, a course to teach you to sleep without the interruption of snores will be started. Somebody posted on Facebook that three different kind of snores were being researched and the third one was life threatening. So, you could die snoring … perhaps they will harness the power of the deadly snore as a weapon eventually for wars between different powers, the little “guys” who like to shoot missiles hither and thither in playful abandon and the “not-so- fake” politicians who can press a button and annihilate a city between spoonfuls of chocolate cake with visiting dignitaries.

In my childhood, I had heard stories of Kumbhakarna’s snores while he slept. However, none of his snores were described as deadly but his appetite was! He was said to devour humankind by the dozens when he woke up from his six month long slumber, much like weapons do mankind. If you idolize Kumbhakarna, you can sleep for six months in a year and wake up when elephant hordes rumble over you. Outwitted by Saraswati, the goddess of learning and wisdom, Kumbhakarna asked Brahma the creator to grant him sleep instead of the ability to destroy the devas or the gods from Indian mythology. Perhaps he was wiser than we think… maybe he had the foresight to see that in the future mankind would suffer from sleep deprivation and he was not really tricked but actually, it was he who conned Indra, the king of the devas, and Swaraswati into thinking he had been outwitted! Kumbhakarna knew his day would come… and, perhaps, that is why the 32 nd highest peak in the world has been named after him. It lies in the vicinity of the Kanchenjunga. And is not an easy climb…

If, however, you want to follow in the footsteps of Rip Van Winkle, you need to sleep longer. He slept through the whole American Revolution under the influence of faerie liquor. To sleep through a whole revolution and beyond, for two whole decades without snoring (no one has said good old Rip was given to snoring), is a skill that victims of current day crisis would do well to imbibe. Maybe, if the victims who succumbed to bomb violence had slept peacefully without snoring all the while, they could not have been victimized, be it in towers, homes or villages. Of course, given the current invasive weaponry, they would have had to conduct their somnambulant venture inside a bomb shelter! However, they might have evaded all the controversy, displacement and violence and be still living as was good old Rip was in the Catskill mountain by the Sleepy Hollow. That time there was no weaponry to annihilate people by pressing buttons, shooting missiles and jumping with glee.

To celebrate their greatness we now we need to build monuments to these two giants, the two super sleepers. Hopefully, the construction of these will not start another raging controversy among adherents of the two different legendary sleepers.

The other thing that concerns me is the fate of one of my favorite songs…

 

“ Sleep, sleep! I couldn’t sleep tonight

   Not for all the jewels in the crown…”

 

This song sung by the lovely Eliza Doolittle in My Fair lady of Hollywood make would perhaps have to belong to the restricted section of an audio library! Or, maybe, the lyrics could be altered from

 

“ I could have danced all night”

 

to

 

“ I could have slept all night…”

 

Or, could it be, horror of horrors, banned forever?

 

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Wanderlust

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New Delhi… the magical city of dreams… New Delhi the maker or breaker of dreams…

Into New Delhi, came a young man with a bundle of dreams under his arms, literally.

He had a manuscript, a book and a laptop in a bag that he held under his arms. He hoped to make it big and become a reputed writer. On his back was a rucksack with some of his belongings. He got off the train from Dhanbad, a small town in Bihar blackened by soot from coalmines…

It was not that he was without contacts or was visiting the city for the first time… No, he had friends and family with who he could stay and the invitation to meet a television director who had said he was interested in staging his story.

Dinesh and Manish had met in Calcutta at Dinesh’s friend’s sister’s wedding. Dinesh was a dreamer who a few years earlier had dreamt of marrying the bride and then, when he found, the young girl preferred her fiancé, he started writing poetry, dipping a fountain pen in his own blood, which he spilt from a cut he made on his arm. The girl rejected the blood drenched poetry… and the poet. Dinesh started writing a story… a sad story of rejection, this time on his laptop, not with blood. Then he wrote another story and then another till he started having fun with stories in his head.

Dinesh went for the wedding not only because he was the bride’s brother’s best friend but to prove to the world and himself that he had completely got over his puppy love.

In the process of getting over his first crush, he had found another love… this time, it was not a woman but the sound of words. He wrote his heart out, poetry and prose. He started carrying his life in a few files in his laptop. At the wedding, when this affluent but jobless youth met Manish, a young dynamic director from New Delhi, who wrote and produced plays on television, he showed him some of his own stories. Manish saw potential for teleplays and asked him if he could come to Delhi with his work in three months time, when he would start looking for a new story. At that point, he had a serial going on on national television that was a hit all over India.

Now, Dinesh had started to dream of becoming a playwright. He had already started to dramatise his stories when he landed in Delhi. He got off the train in the New Delhi Railway Station and started looking for an auto rickshaw that would take him to his aunt’s house in Greater Kailash.

Dinesh’s aunt, Mallika, lived in a huge ancestral home all alone. She had never married because for her, career came before all else. She was very happy to have Dinesh over. He was close family…her nephew (her elder sister’s youngest).

Dinesh liked his aunt. She had always been always kind to him.

Dinesh reached her home on Sunday afternoon and on Monday, he went to Manish’s office with his manuscript and his laptop.

Manish asked him to summarize his stories and tell them to him. He selected one of the summaries and asked for the manuscript of the story. Dinesh sent the story and the script that he had written of the play to Manish. Manish of course had the script and story modified by the professional scriptwriter.

Dinesh’s job was done and he was given a cheque. Dinesh was a bit disappointed. He had dreamt of becoming the Shakespeare of India. When the opportunity slid out of his reach, he started grasping around for a new dream, for here was a young dreamer… New Delhi was the perfect city for this young man, a city where dreams can be broken, altered or made… Without his dreams, Dinesh felt like an empty egg shell!

He moved around the house listlessly. Mallika was the editor-in- chief of a newspaper. She knew things had not worked out the way Dinesh dreamt. Dinesh was just a average student from Calcutta University. He had done a management course in a private institute. He could not find a job anywhere, Delhi or Calcutta… yet, he needed his dreams. Was he an unusual young man in as much as what mattered most to him were his dreams, not the realization of them? Perhaps, he did not have the stamina to work for them or struggle for them. Yet, he could not do what his family wanted him to do… join in their family business…

Mallika asked him if he wanted to try his hand at journalism… he was not sure… All he knew was that he wanted to get away from it all… he decided he wanted to travel. His father refused to pay for his adventures and told him to expect no support from him if he did not join the prosperous family business.

One morning, Dinesh woke up, packed his rucksack and left the house… no one knew where he had gone…

Dinesh left home, cashed his cheque and caught the first train to Haridwar. He sent a message to his aunt telling him he was safe. He got into a cheap third class compartment. This was the time of the Kumbh Mela, a festival that collects millions in the holy cities of Haridwar, Varanasi and Nasik. Each city hosts the festival by turns, every three years. Mendicants, swamis, believers and viewers gather in throngs to bathe in the Ganges and wash away their sins.

On the train, Dinesh sat next to a young man, Hari. During the journey, Hari told him his sad story… he had married the ravishing Kalyani, chosen by his parents from a pure vegetarian family. He himself was a pure vegetarian, who could not stand the stench of eggs, meat and fish. Kalyani had lived in a hostel in New Delhi for five years, through her graduation and post graduation. There she had developed a taste for non-vegetarian cuisine. Hari saw her eat non-vegetarian for the first time during his honeymoon. He was horrified when she ordered mutton. They had not been allowed to talk before they married. Now, Hari felt cheated… he was in a dilemma. He could not tolerate non- vegetarian food and his wife loved her meats and eggs. She did not cook it at home but could not give up on these foods… he had asked her to choose between chicken and goat meat and his heart, home and hearth… She had not responded. After a few months, she went to visit her parents in Haridwar and had continued staying there for more than a month. She also informed him that she wanted to pursue her PhD on her return to Delhi. Hari was very confused and sad. Would his wife choose goat and chicken meat over him? Would she look for a career outside the home?

Hari felt lost and did not know what to do… his family, who lived in Roorkee, of course knew none of this.

Dinesh found Hari’s concerns a trifle amusing and petty as he believed in tolerance and his aunt had chosen career over marriage a couple of decades ago… So, Hari’s concerns seemed a bit weird… there was more to life than just family, marriage and home and that is what he had set out to discover!

When they reached Haridwar, Dinesh found his own way… he went to a dharmashala and got himself boarding. Then he went down to the Kumbh Mela on the banks of the Ganges.

The Ganges flowed down from the Himalayas in all her glory…swirling and beating against the shores, contained in it’s bed by the cemented ghats. There were chains and poles built into the shallow reaches of the river to help the devotees hold and bathe as otherwise, the swift current could sweep away the swimmer far beyond the reaches of helping hands.

Dinesh watched the river fascinated…

A group of ash smeared Naga sadhus walked past him. Dinesh took a picture with his mobile. Touts for helping him offer prayers and bathe surrounded him. Dinesh made a break and ran away from the growing circle of middlemen who offered various services. He saw beggars lined along the walls that led to the shore…

At last, Dinesh found a spot free of touts. There were Naga sadhus praying… Dinesh sat in peace and watched them. He took pictures. When one of the sadhus got up, Dinesh bowed down to him. He blessed him and went off into the river for his ritualistic bath. Dinesh went back to the same spot daily till he could get some stories of the naga sadhus. They were a rare sight and came down from the Himalayas only for the Kumbh Mela. He interviewed some of them and wrote a piece. Then he emailed his story to his aunt. His aunt was excited and printed the story. From Haridwar, when Dinesh returned to his Aunt’s home, she showed him the story in print and promised him a handsome cheque. She suggested he do a column for them, travelling to remote places in India and writing for her newspaper. His interview with the Nagas caused quite a stir and a couple of other newspapers approached him too.

Dinesh had got his break. He travelled and wrote till he became a very well known travel writer. He went to the northeast, visited tribes in Nagaland, saw the borderless existence people led between Burma and India, to Bengal where the haunting rhythms and the simplicity of the Santhals brought tears to his eyes. He travelled to the central India and met Gonds in their natural habitat, to the south and to the west of India… He also found time to do a couple of degrees in Anthropology as it aided him in his work. From the confines of his country’s borders, he moved to rarer tribes in the jungles of Africa, Amazon and, even, Eskimos in the frozen Arctic.

Though his family harangued him to settle down on his occasional visits home, he never found time to marry… He said he was married to his work!

After almost three decades, the young man who wrote poetry in blood and came to Delhi with a rucksack in search of his dreams stood on the podium before the President of the country receiving an award for his outstanding contribution in bringing home to the city dwellers stories about worlds beyond laptops, electricity and roadways, where people lived out their dreams in their own way… their dreams were different from those of a city dwellers just like his had been different from that of his parents or many other men who had not been struck by wanderlust!

 

 

 

 

Medley

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Why is it...

It is all right to be different, not to be the same.
We are still all a part of the big game.

We still look at the sky each day
And see it brightened by the sun’s ray.
We still see the rainbow light up in delight
With the dust washed clean from our sight.
Violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red
Bring happy thoughts to our head,
Thoughts that glide and thoughts that play,
Lightening our burdens by the day.
If the different colors light up our lives
And fill our being with happy smiles,
Then why its it when we are not the same
We get thrust out of the game?
Why is it the differences matter more
Than ideas that make us soar?
Why is it we fear and hate the unknown
Instead of learning and making it our own?

It is all right to be different, not to be the same.
We are still all a part of the big game.

That is why each sunrise
Brings colors and blue skies,
And each sultry, soft, starry night
Punctuates the darkness with a silvery light.
That is why we have calm and storm
And each bird, it’s own color and song
That sings, harmonises and celebrates
The bounty of this infinite space.

Phantasm

 

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Flights of Fancy

Through the land of mists I glide
With thought beings by my side.
White, misty clouds shroud
Strange creatures that mouth
Hushed whispers, murmurs that grow loud
And emerge from the mists as beings thought out.
Robed in white,
With an inner light,
These creatures ride
Side by side
Through the woods.
Strangers flitting in hoods.
Silver girdles on their waist,
Ambrosia and honey they taste.
Sip off the little brooks that run,
Through the the patches of mists and sun.
When they emerge in light
They become beautiful and bright.
An emanation of the mind,
A figment of a fanciful flight.

The Creators

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In the misty forest, hushed whispers seemed to emanate from the very trees. Mysterious beings rode on strange horses among the trees. Everything seemed to have a fleeting sense of reality. A soft moist breeze twirled its fingers on the white robed, silver girdled riders. A sense of unreal surrounded Jasmine, Jacaranda and Gorge as they walked through the woods from the beach. None of these figures harmed them. They seemed intent on their own tasks.

A soft Zephyrus song seemed to pervade through the mists of the whispery creatures. Suddenly, the mists began to clear and the three reached a meadow by the woods. The meadow was grassy and had a little pond in the middle. There were flowers of different colors in the grass. The sun was peeping out from the mists. The music seemed to be coming from the mysterious white robed creatures that stood by the pond. There was a tall girl with beautiful tawny eyes and hazel hair wearing a tiara made of daisies. From the tiara hung a veil of diaphanous silver. It glittered in the sunrays. The clear voice rose from the girl drowning the earlier notes with its clarity and intensity. It sounded like the sunray had pierced the mists and was ringing out in clear notes.

At a distance, there were some enormous white steeds gamboling around. The sky had a vibrant rainbow on it. The steeds, on closer examination, had wings on them. A group of grey flying horses landed near the white ones and started grazing on the soft green grass. A blue bird chirped and flew out from a tree by the pond. Jasmine, Gorge and Jacaranda looked a little surprised because though they could all hear the song, the singer’s lips did not seem to move. Everything seemed to be in harmony.

As the song rang out, they could see the flowers in the grass bloom and a bright yellow bird flew out from a tree, followed by a red bird. The surroundings seemed to spring to life with the mysterious music. Again the whispers rose in a crescendo and the clear notes dissolved in it. The song slowly seemed to fade into the swiftness of a breeze. The tall, white robed beings now turned their focus on the three intruders.

“Welcome, O creations of Janice and friend,” said a strange voice in their heads. It felt as if all the surroundings spoke in unison. Jasmine, Jacaranda and Gorge looked at them with stunned surprise on their faces.

“We come for help,” said Jasmine.

“We can hear your thoughts,” said the voices. “But we will use voices if you so desire.”

Gorge could sense the speech too. He was absolutely quiet and a bit scared. He had never seen anything so weird.

“Some of you are scared. There is no reason to be scared. We will help and not harm. Trust us,” said the voice.

Three of the white robed creatures, including the girl with the diaphanous veil, came over to where the three of them stood.

Their walk was more like a glide. They were much taller than Gorge, had pale but tawny skins that seemed to glow like moonlight.

“Let us lead you to our halls before we start to talk,” said a tall grey-haired man.

“Summon the steed.” Now, they could see he was moving his lips and talking just like them.

Three of the white horses that had been grazing at the far end of the meadow gamboled over. The three beings got up on the horses each one taking one of the three outsiders with them. Then the steeds took off to the skies. They soared over woods, meandering rivers and meadows till they reached what seemed to be a silver cliff-like structure. The steed descended just outside the cliffs

The riders and their guests descended and they went in through an enormous opening. Jasmine, Jacaranda and Gorge stared in amazement at the hall made of some translucent, crystalline material. The walls seemed to diffuse a natural yellowish white light of their own. There were more of these creatures in the hall.  Most of them were seated in small groups on plush sofas of red and gold against the walls. The floor was covered with downy carpets of mustard color. The shelter seemed to be a kind of cafe as most were sipping drinks in tall glasses. There were some who were behind a counter handing out drinks from different taps. Hushed whispers emanated from the different groups. Sounded like a pleasant chatter. The group sat down on an empty sofa.

The girl in the diaphanous veil broke the silence. “Come partake of some refreshments with us and let us talk over your issues,” she said. “I am Janice.”

“I am Halon ,” said the grey haired man.

“I am Anouk,” said the third man.

“We are from a distant planet called Lemuria,” continued Janice. “ We came here long, long ago. Earlier, we lived with mankind in the same dimension. Then the conflicts between different groups of mankind started. To keep out of these conflicts, we receded to this dimension.”

“I have read that,” pleaded Jasmine. “But we really need your help…”

“I know,” said Janice. “But this will be for the queen and her council to decide. I would like to help as you were an emanation of our ideals. We poured the emanations into your multiple selves as they were being formed. Your parents at some point were visited by dreams from us, which they would have forgotten. The dreams would translate to a physical reality…enough of this. You must be tired. Come, let us have some drinks.”

Janice and Anouk walked to the counter and carried back two trays. There were six tall glasses of a delicious drink. The drink was amber and filled Jasmine, Jacaranda and Gorge with a sense of peace. Their hunger disappeared and they felt rested.

“ Wow!” said Gorge. “What is this?”

“It is delicious,” said Jacaranda.

“This is Ambrosia, our main nourishment,” said Anouk.

“I feel really energized drinking this,” said Jasmine.

“So do we,” said Halon. “ It is our main diet. I would suggest that we adjourn to the queen and her council this evening. This is the time for our refreshment and then, we go back to work.”

“Perhaps, you would like to come with us to another meadow…” said Anouk.

 

Cosmos

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Cosmic Lights

Dancing lights,
Starry nights.
Sparkling, winking,
Swirling, twinkling,
Like the eyes I adore,
Memories galore.
Happiness, joy, fleeting life,
Radiant, glowing light.
Jewels on the river bob,
Sun’s reflections froth,
Strung by a melodic quatrain,
Of a strange,unknown strain.

From the forests deep, I hear,
A distant flute drawing near.
Who is it that plays the song
In harmony all night long?
Who is it that each dawn wakes
And the lingering darkness chases?
Who is it that this earth makes
Full of wonders and of quakes?
Is he in the lights I see
Dancing, bobbing with glee?
Is he the one for who stars do shine
And lines do haunt a poet’s mind?

The Creators

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Lemuria… the land of mists and murmurs came into being tens of thousands of years ago when mankind was in its throes of infancy. The ancient man saw the lemurians as gods from the skies. The modern man did not know they existed!

Lemuria was a strange land shrouded by white misty clouds. They had green hills and loud raging seas with patches of sunshine peeping through the clouds and mists. Flitting in the mists were tall and graceful lemurians. They were robed in white. Their skin seemed to glow with the light of the moon.

The lemurians descended on Earth because they needed a planet to live on. Their own planet was facing destruction from an aging sun. Some remained on the planet but many left to find planets they could terraform and continue living their lives as they had been used to.

Few of the space ships landed on Earth. In those times, Earth was scarcely populated. This suited the lemurians. They lived in harmony with nature terraformed by them. Their children were thought beings they developed with emanations from their minds. To reach out and make friends with mankind, who seemed rather primitive to them, they made some thought beings look human. These creatures were sent out as lemurian ambassadors to mankind. When people met these creatures, they thought they had descended from heaven, as they seemed to appear from nowhere. In reality, they were teleporting. But in those days, man’s comprehension did not stretch beyond the confines of his land and experience. Instantly, he gave these tall well-dressed, glowing creatures a divine status. They became the gods of mankind.

Lemurians had conquered disease. Death was a process that occurred in a five hundred years. After a full life, death was seen as a process of regeneration. The lemurians just dissolved into the mists when they died.Every lemurian was replaced by thought beings, who had powers similar to their parent. Some, who were made to interact with humans, had multiple biological systems that could adapt both to human and lemurian needs. Life went on peacefully for sometime.

The lemurians communicated telepathically. They did not have a language problem. It was easy for them to understand man’s words as they could read their minds. They could pick up the language very quickly and easily without man figuring out they did not know the language. The lemurians used a hundred per cent of their brain while man used only a small percentage.

As mankind advanced in intelligence, time and history, lemurians realized that they could no longer continue to live in harmony with these creatures whose wants came not from just needs but also from their greed. When battles started over land and violence became an accepted reality among mankind, these graceful aliens decided to create a separate space for themselves. The lemurian quest for ages had been to harmonize with that source of energy that created life and eluded all comprehension. War, hatred, anger were all emotions that took away from the positive. The lemurians wanted to experience only the positive energy so that they could focus more on understanding the energy that creates and destroys life, as it did their own life-giving sun. To keep negativity at bay, they decided to create dimensions. They did not violate or hurt man but, one day, they just seemed to fade out of existence. They had gone into a new dimension.

Some of the mythological creatures on the magic dimension’s island of wonder were children of thought beings and humans. But, no one except the lemurians knew that. The gods of mankind were lemurian too. The lemurians continued transmitting thoughts to people who were able to communicate with minds.

The lemurians, disappointed at the turns mankind’s history was taking, decided to create the creator’s dimension, which would help mankind evolve into a more positive being, into a creature that would live in harmony with nature and each other. The first five councilors were thought beings with human functions only. They mated with humans and founded a new dimension.

The councilor’s job was to experiment with different ideas to create a perfect civilization and home for man. They had not yet achieved this.

Sometimes, when people thought there had been a mass disaster where many died, the creators had merely generated an illusion and moved a group of people to new dimensions. Their minds would be wiped out and they would restart life on a clean slate, thinking what the creators would have them think.

People from the other dimensions who could communicate telepathically were also brought in. Sometimes, they made sure that some of the minds were replicated in a number of dimensions, as was Jasmine’s. These replicated people had  powerful minds and had their origins from the creator’s dimension.

Over eras, the creators had developed biases and some of them, felt a little more equal than others. These people made sure that they became council members. When this group rose to power, they wanted all creators to be in sync with their thoughts. Any aberrations were not tolerated. Jasmine with her open thought process became an exception. She wanted a dimension that would be open to all dimensions. The creators, like other humans, wanted their dimension to remain exclusive. That is why it was important for them to eradicate her and her multiple selves from the multiverse.

Jasmine, Jacaranda and Gorge had pinged to Lemuria. They landed by the raging sea when they arrived. Jasmine knew very less about this dimension. She had not ever met any of them in the mind stream. In fact, the lemurians were never sensed in the mind stream. But she knew there was a seaside in Lemuria from her history lessons. She knew that every creature in the creator’s dimension looked upto the lemurians.

The sea raged around them and there was a strong breeze. The little group moved inwards towards the green cliffs at the end of the beach. Jasmine could sense soft, reassuring murmurs rising from the sea. Despite the turbulence of the sea, she felt calm and at peace at last.