Despite our well-intending parents’ commendable efforts to inculcate in us the good old fashioned Indian values of waking up in the morning and contemplating our pointless existences, (every time our neighbour’s late rottweiler began to howl,) my sister and I turned out to be quite the opposite. Our defensive mechanisms were quite remarkable, so to speak. While I would lie in bed and emulate a dead possum, calmly weathering the torrent of scathing criticism (about my plummeting grades and my soaring infidelity) from my father, my mother and our straight shooting domestic help, my little sister adopted a more direct approach in the face of the said adversity. She would bury her head under the pillow like a rebellious little ostrich and hurl back the choicest expletives; which I must admit, was quite impressive for someone who’d just begun school. (But then, she’s always been the brighter one.) Of course, my generally docile nature would invite the occasional slap on the back or violent shoves as I’d like there with gritted teeth, clutching my blanket like dear life, as it’d slowly slip away. When all else failed, I’d be routinely drowned in a bucket of ice cold water, while I’d hold my breath for as long as I could, until I’d emerge from under – dripping and remorseful.
Given the general lack of compassion my parents were prone to despite our futile protests, my sister, the prodigal multitasker, quickly adapted to fulfilling her daily quota of sleep through other essential activities like eating. She’d chew away peacefully, eyes shut, while my mother basked under the notion that her cooking was toothsome enough to send my evil little sister into food induced euphoria. Of course, her lurid fantasies were quickly put to rest one day when my sister overplayed her hand and ended up praising the noodles that we were sometimes subjected to, on particularly unfortunate mornings. I mean, no one could possibly go through the bland, rubbery, god forsaken preparation without the imminent unbearable jaw claudication – and even mother knew that (despite her best efforts in the kitchen). She must have realised her folly immediately after, as my little sister sat up straight, her eyes wide open, desperately floundering for an excuse. My mother, on her part, tackled the situation gracefully – without a word, she retired to her kitchen, leaving my sister to contemplate on this heinous sin.
When we were very young, and my sister still couldn’t hold her neck up straight, my father and I would be confined to a narrow bed that was just about large enough for two grown adults – which of course eliminated any form of limb movement. Now given my adolescent years, I was quite prone to violent dreams where I would be regularly involved in scuffles. This invariably meant I would throw around my limbs a lot – confining my partner in bed to a corner, who’d be left fending off the rather painful blows. Matters came to a head one day, when I noticed my father the next morning with a visibly swollen jaw and a prominent black eye. On pressing the matter further, I was told that we would never be sleeping together again, and I had nearly severed his head with my kick. Two and two made four, as I began to recall a rather unpleasant dream and landing quite a few blows on my imaginary adversaries. One of them, as it would turn out, had been my father.
My flair for the theatrical, often extends into my sleep. As such, this occasionally leads to complications. Take for instance the time, when I was given to particularly upsetting dreams, and I screamed out my mother’s name in the middle of midnight. We were put up at my favourite aunt’s place, during the summer vacations. Her husband, a particularly superstitious man who believed that the placement of our grandmother’s tobacco can on the centre-table somehow engineered the Indian team’s batting collapse (and thus, often getting into squabbles with her), had just retired for the night. I was wedged comfortably between my parents, but I was going through a tumultuous time – my sister’s arrival into our family had clearly upset my emotional apple-cart. As such, in the middle of a particularly distressing dream, I screamed out my mother’s name, and immediately rolled back from the edge of consciousness into deep sleep. However, this was loud enough to wake up my uncle, who immediately arrived at the conclusion that a theft was underway. He started with a roar and floundered around in the darkness, knocking over several chairs and bawling in pain. He was particularly unhappy the next morning, on hearing what had actually triggered the course of events.
My absolute irreverence for almost about anything in the world while I slept, finally came back to bite me very recently when my girlfriend woke me up one morning with a shove that rolled me right off the bed. I woke up with a weak “What the fuck” and remained face down on the floor for a full minute or so. After a while, as I propped myself up – I discovered my girlfriend hunched on the bed, her eyes bright red. “What’s the matter? Are you crying?” I asked, naturally concerned. She looked up at me with incredulous eyes and snapped, “Do you have any idea, how loud you can be when you snore?” Before I could open my mouth to reply, she continued, “I couldn’t get a moment’s peace last night. If we are to live together, we are sleeping in separate rooms from now on. That way, you can sleep with your cats.” With those ominous words, she turned her back on me, snatched the blanket away and went right back to sleep – leaving me exactly where I was a decade and a half ago – on the floor, filled with regret, contemplating the break of another warm, summer morning.