Humour by Rehana Munir: Rise and shine
Saluting the morning squad: It’s time for early risers to shake off the stigma they face in a night-obsessed culture
Here’s a cliché reversal: You absolutely can speak to me before my morning chai. I won’t growl, swear or whine. It’s a new day, and though there’s a lot of pressure from the cool clan to resist the insistence of the sun, some of us are actually glad that the much-vaunted night-time has ended. That’s perhaps because we, unlike the majority of humanity with an OTT subscription, went off to bed at a refreshingly early hour. No, we’re not monks or contrarians. We possess thriving interior and social lives. It’s just that we’re not in thrall to the dark hours and all the social credit they grant. Daylight suits our fancy just fine.
The end of breakfast banter
Breakfast bloomers often show up in literature, both as objects of ridicule and admiration. Here’s Oscar Wilde, that scandalous Prophet of Bohemia, handing us his judgement through his play, An Ideal Husband: “Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.” I strongly object! The White Queen in Through the Looking Glass, however, seems to be an early riser. Sample this: “Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast […]”
And then there’s everyone’s favourite philosophical bear: “When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “What’s the first thing you say to yourself?” “What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?” “I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet. Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.” (From Winnie-the-Pooh by AA Milne.)
Clearly, Victorian gentlemen were much concerned about brain activity around breakfast. In our own age of all-night binges of all kinds, breakfast banter is the loser. More’s the pity.
(Insta) Reeling in the morning
As a relatively new morning person, I wear my badge with honour. There are those who extol the character-building qualities of waking up early. I’m not among them. In fact, I make it a point to ensure that mornings aren’t “productive” in the mundane sense. I don’t “shoot off” mails or hang upside down from the door frame. Nor do I mindfully eat overnight oats or pluck ideas for poems out of the expectant air. Mostly, it’s a time to stare out of the window with a much-flogged playlist streaming from the speaker, a far less glamorous version of what is now called “me time”. Morning walks allow one to participate in street life with its many distractions and rewards. A time to locate oneself in the maze of colourful city life at ground level before the day is taken over by corporate conformity.
One of the new species to be perking up city mornings is the Instagram influencer. They of the selfie-sticks and tripods, viral fashion and trending moves. Wherever you look, an Insta Reel is in the making, and you’re in the way. I, for one, enjoy this Insta theatre that punctuates the streets. Mostly, it makes me feel terribly thankful to be free of the pressure to dress up and smile for the camera.
Vitamins and espresso
The hours before breakfast can fortify you against the onslaught of the day like nothing else. Hovering above schedules and deadlines, they grant you the (notional) freedom that late risers believe only the night can bestow. Mornings are a preamble to the day; they set the tone and the rhythm for what’s to follow. And like that poor optimist on your doom-filled WhatsApp group chat, they can’t help but peddle hope.
Billy Collins, the contemporary American poet who has cured many a poetryphobe with his excellent (and often) light verse, sums it up well in Morning.
Why do we bother with the rest of the day,
the swale of the afternoon,
the sudden dip into evening,
then night with his notorious perfumes,
his many-pointed stars?
This is the best—
throwing off the light covers,
feet on the cold floor,
and buzzing around the house on espresso—
maybe a splash of water on the face,
a palmful of vitamins—
but mostly buzzing around the house on espresso […]
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From HT Brunch, September 17, 2022
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