City nights and a quiet affair

  • Aarish Chhabra, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Jun 01, 2014 19:38 IST

A quiet sky
with a deep blue hue;
a secret shared
with no one but you;
If sleep hates me
with all its might;
I shall, quietly,
fall in love with the night.

Well, that is some of my lousy poetry, one of the many outcomes of staying awake till the sun rises. There are obviously other sides to it.

For instance, do you know the best way to experience Chandigarh’s elegant, sculpted beauty in the glow of slightly dirty, yellow lights? Just get into your car all alone, put on some Sanam Marvi, Nooran Sisters or Florence and the Machine, keep the volume low and the windows down, and go for a drive at 3 o’clock in the night. Insomnia is such a gift sometimes.

Now, however, it’s 4.30 in the morning as I type this line. After that aimless drive on the empty roads near Sukhna, a weird encounter with over-polite cops, and a couple of paranthas in Sector 16, I am back in a jealous suburb of City Beautiful, still struggling to go to sleep. It’s been over 24 hours since I last switched my brain off. Insomnia is such a pain sometimes.

This has been going on for way too long now, ever since I shifted a decade ago to this town of friendly islands and individuals. Even my doctors have started adjusting their prescriptions rather than asking me to reset my body clock. So, if a normal person is advised to take anti-allergics at night since they make you sleepy, I am permitted to take mine at 5am. By that time my work shift is long over and am done reading everything from angry articles on the ‘Mainstreaming of Majoritarianism’ to the ‘10 Easy Ways to Be Charming’ on random web links shared by fellow owls. The night is a productive time.

But like all love affairs, mine with the night goes through its rough patches. Last night was one of those when I tried to study insomnia, kill it, and give Miss Sunshine a chance.

Psychiatrists (and even sociologists who are owls themselves) have for long linked insomnia and the habit of skipping sleep at night with anxiety and loneliness. That makes sense, but there are hardly any solutions listed beyond medicines that make you drowsy. That way, alcohol should be the ultimate answer. But it shouldn’t be.

After an unproductive battle with scientific jargon in journals of repute, I turned yet again to some Googling and amateur bloggers. One listed no less than 42 steps to cure the ‘problem’ in two weeks. The first step: ‘See a doctor!’ Well, then why am I visiting your website?

Next, I reposed my trust in traditional media. An article in a financial magazine said on top: ‘Go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning.’ Going to sleep is the very problem, agony aunt! The clinching advice: ‘Dim the lights.’ Really, whatever!

Aimlessly trolling Twitter in exhaustion, I even came across a Ranbir Kapoor interview with the magazine India Today, in which the young star addresses insomnia with brutal honesty: ‘I am too insecure to crash early… I feel life will pass me by while I’m sleeping.’

But that did no good either. And I was hungry. Thankfully, Chandigarh and its suburbs have no dearth of food joints dedicated to maniacs and insomniacs. And even though Aroma is 24x7 again, I preferred Baba Niranjan, the paranthe-wala tantrik in Sector 16. Baba served the food hot but his ghost stories were even more sizzling. It struck me that he might know a lot about insomnia since he’s an expert at the nightly stuff.

This was Baba Niranjan’s mantra: ‘Ismein problem kya hai? Jeete raho, jaagte raho.’ (What’s the problem in it? Stay alive, stay awake.) How stupid of me. His business runs on my insomnia.

Anyway, it’s 6.30 now, my fingers hurt, and the sun is up. There are too many sounds, too much light, and way too much happening suddenly, at once. Too much to do, too little time. Maybe it’s time yet again for the fainthearted to close their eyes, shut out the day, and wait for another date with the night. Life in the city is better that way, I guess.

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