It had been years since I was woken up in the morning by that horrendous pressure cooker whistle from the neighbour’s kitchen. Returning home after many years in Singapore has been a trial. My privacy — an asset so prized while living overseas — has been snatched away by the constant ringing of the doorbell.
In Delhi, where daily life can be extremely stressful, what you need is peace and quiet in the morning as you slowly wake up to the long day ahead. But that’s not to be. You can blame your milkman, courierwallah, car cleaner, driver and the first of various maids to arrive at your doorstep for the road rage during the morning rush hour or your desire to punch your neighbour for parking his car badly.
Afternoons are no better. Naps are regularly disturbed by phone calls from strangers selling everything from credit cards to cars. Morons! Can I get those few winks I need so desperately, you want to shout. But so important are these people to our daily lives that most of us fail to notice the impact they have on our morning sleep.
Waking up is never easy. Studies have shown that people who have woken up after eight hours of sound sleep have more impaired thinking and memory skills than they do after being deprived of sleep for more than a day. Researchers call it the ‘groggy period’. Diminished short-term memory, counting skills and cognitive abilities during this period is common. It is known as sleep inertia.
Overseas, it strikes medical, safety and transportation personnel, who have to perform critical tasks soon after waking up. In Delhi, it strikes everybody. Matters are not really helped by a stream of people at your door. The most critical task we perform is opening the door immediately after waking up. And how we struggle!
Try driving soon after emerging from the groggy period. It would probably be fine if you were the only one on the road, but there are several million people woken from their sleep by doorbells and the urgency of a pressure cooker whistle jostling for the right of way. No wonder people in pyjamas spend most morning arguing, blowing up tyres and whipping out pistols when they should be taking a walk in the neighbourhood park and smelling the fair air.
Delhi has changed with its new flyovers and zillions of flashy new cars. There is more money to been made and flaunted. Women are dressing smarter and looking better, men are too. The babu culture exists, but there is a new breed of professionals that wears ties and suits to work.
Yet, at heart, it remains the same rustic, overgrown village I left behind many years ago. The city’s politics haven’t changed and as a national capital, it still thrives on intrigue and gossip. Folks still discuss intimate details of people they’ve never met.
It’s good to be back, but can I please have my privacy and those forty winks back?