Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Creatures of the Night

It was the year 2001 .New Delhi . I was part of a group undergoing Officers’ Training for IIS. Those were lively days and livelier nights. On a random late evening …say at about 1 am you may find some of us listening to music, chatting on net, discussing books/news/anything in a group ,writing mails, watching movies, and even washing clothes. That was the time when suddenly most of us turned to be creatures of the night. Partially due to the compulsions of busy day schedules and partially by our own choice . Some of us, who were veterans in this art of insomnia, initiated the novices and soon it was a norm. Many choose to be awake till late night just for nothing in particular.

There is a certain desperate beauty in not sleeping. To lay awake the whole night and do all kinds of vague unimportant things. To stretch time that keeps pushing down on our eyes in the form of sleep. To overcome the sleepy tiredness that grips your body at around the time the clock inches past. It is an exercise in patience. It is also, for want of a better term, an art form. Something that can only be achieved after endless nights of determination and perseverance.
You may ask -Why? I don’t know the right answer. Surely it is no apprenticeship in the Dark Arts…not for appeasing the goddess of night either.It is not even the longing for the loved ones or wait for a long distance phone call in all cases . Then why do some of us find such sinful pleasure in the art of sleeplessness? Why suddenly after a tiring busy day we find ourselves full of energy as the sun goes down? At the risk of causing great disappointment to my comrades dabbling in the occult the answer I have derived after much thought on the subject tonight , is much simpler and perhaps, depending on your perspective, mundane.

It is to celebrate the calm of night and to welcome dawn.

A perfect blue slowly brushing the blanket of night off her beautiful brow and opening her eyes of azure. It is a unique joy to stand at an open window and peer in to a world so still that your heart aches to echo it. The quiet bliss of inhaling clear crisp air, rising off the awakening trees, to purge the darkness of the night from your lungs. To stand still and listen to the birds sing with the happiness of first light tickling their feathers.

In spite of the insistent hands of sleep clawing at your eye lids, in spite of the weary creak of your tired bones it is worth it. It is worth it just to stand there as if you are the last person left on earth and welcome dawn into your open arms.
Perhaps another very valid reason is the solace given by the night in terms of silence of the maddening world around . It is the time when you are the master of your fate. No one to pry on your moods and thoughts, no one to nag you about the trivialities of material life. It is a time for confession of your innermost insecurities, fears and also to weave dreams with eyes wide open. Those moments of peace,silence and introspection in an alien (even hostile) world are precious .One need not spent these hours of delight alone…as some of us , by our volition decided to share these with friends . I can trace some of the best discussions on literature, cinema, politics and philosophy to those sleepless nights in IIMC hostel in New Delhi and then again at Yarrows,Shimla .That crazy …even childish life in the dark hours ,had some hidden charm in it…It was a wait for tomorrow. A curiocity for things yet to happen . An anxiousness for the secrets future holds for us in its folds . It was also a child's expectation of finding gifts in the socks tomorrow morning. After all , if nothing else, every night had a hope of a lovely morning.

These days, in an attempt to keep pace with the rat race of daily existence this pleasure is denied to me .Though at times I try to live back those days..err..nights of better existence during holidays and weekends..but alas ..that revolt against the closing eyelids is definitely less frequent . I may once in a while find myself working till midnight or may be engrossed in a book till late hours...but the joy of remianing awake without any reason is gone . On the contrary I have also joined the world in forcing myself to sleep. Pillow talks and midnight strolls are just sepia tinted memories now .
Tonight, when I lie awake in this unknown room of the technology guest house at IIT Kharagpur, memories of those insomniac nights are coming to me like a dream river.

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