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Early to bed and early to rise is not for the worldly-wise

Urban lifestyles, ruled by the dictum of ‘work hard, party harder’, have changed our sleeping patterns for good. Mahima Dayal suffers through a week of waking up at 6 a.m.

Mahima Dayal  28th Dec 2013

Illustration: Rashmir Gupta | Dev Kabir Malik design

hat is the whole point of making and keeping resolutions, anyway? Temporary amusement? Escapism? A cleansing of sorts? Why does one feel the need to abide by such imposed guidelines for life, often mistaken as being ideal?

No, my resolution was not to be existential for a week. It was to wake up early in the morning at, say, 6 - 7 a.m., so I could see why everyone's all bright and chirpy and constructive during these hours of the day. It's not like I have never woken up early before, it's just something I have never been inclined to do on a regular basis. I'd like to think of myself as a beagle, whose sleeping patterns are entirely dependent on pleasure. There are 24 hours in a day. How each person utilises them is up to them, and negotiable. Science, parents and popular sayings have spent years telling us 'early to bed, early to rise' is the right way to live, and any departure from that supposed ideal is bad. Except, here's the thing: Some people (me) work better at night. If the excess of anything is a vice, then why resolve to sleeping all night and wake up early in the morning, when one can just as well be up all night instead, doing the same things, maybe more efficiently?

So I wanted to see what all the fuss was about — and whether waking up early actually made any (positive) difference in my life or not. Honestly, it isn't even having to wake up early that bothers me, it is the medicine-like dosage with which we take to resolutions, every time we feel the need to turn over a new leaf. I kept this resolution only to confirm my belief in the pointlessness of resolutions in the first place.

I'd say I have been most cranky of the lot of us at Guardian 20 this past week; these last seven days, when I forced myself to wake up at 7 a.m. and text my editor to tell her how thrilling it was to be up and about already.

ruth be told, none of this did me any good. Work suffered in the extra four hours I had decided to gift myself, because my stubborn brain had declared war on itself for agreeing to such a pointless resolution. My nights suffered still — every book felt bitter, my favourite music playlists started to annoy me, and parties that I had been waiting on for months felt like dreary affairs, ending with sudden outbursts and unnecessary arguments. All this because the thought of waking up — simply for the heck of it, which is what this was — felt like I had been deceived by the notion of keeping resolutions. It was almost as if Hypnos, the Greek God of sleep, had decide to lure me through the day with the promise of a better life amid his poppy plantations, which vanished as I got closer each day, leaving me sleepless and provoked.

Let me explain this situation with the help of a little story my grandmother would often tell me when I couldn't fall asleep at night. Once upon a time, a little duckling was sent to animal school. There she scored only 10 out of 100 points in her running class, and failed. Declared unfit by her coach, this duckling was made to believe that there was definitely something wrong with her. Since the only way to stay in this animal school was to get a passable grade in all subjects, she resolved that she would run more, for it was the only way to catch up, and the only way she was going to pass the class. Catching up also meant more hours on the field, much less in the water, where she liked to swim.

Over the years, the ducking gradually learnt how to run but by now she had lost her ability to swim. Her webbed feet were grazed by running on land, which made them weaker in water. After all the huffing and puffing, she still couldn't compete with the fox, who could swim and run much faster than she now ever would. The moral of the story is that the duckling needed to accept the fact that she was a duck and not a fox. Also, on what grounds was she being judged? Was it her persistence to excel or her talent in just one? Was it her natural ability to swim or was it her failure to excel in none?

I may sound like I'm getting a tad melodramatic, but the past week really didn't pan out the way it should have. I woke up at 7 a.m. on Monday morning, and decided to do some yoga on my terrace. After four suryanamaskars and 50-odd prananyams, I was all fired up and ready to race through the day. The day went well, but as is the way with us young people, the nights continued to be longer than the day and so, with sleep mooching away the next morning this healthy cycle broke before it had even started. The second day, I tried to follow the ritual and wake up early, only this time, sleep from last night hung heavy on my eyes all day, and even the invincible suryanamaskar could only temporarily cleanse me of my sins. The third night, an oracle gently whispered in my ear: Time lost through the night will never come back, simply because you are calmer during those hours, and that's how it's always been. The verdict: nights win, and work from the day needs to find a vent in the night. If I were so concerned about changing the way things are, then I should probably change the way I do half the things I do every day. But not all of that is practical, and now that I have finally come close to being realistic, I would not mind paying a good chunk of my salary for a pillow, bed and tent, which I will soon need to pitch in this office. Out.

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