Sunday, 13 May 2012

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Sleep-walking at Dawn

The following is an article of mine an abridged version of which was published in The Shreyas, the bi-monthly House Magazine of Canara Bank in its August-September, 1997 issue.

Recently, my doctor-friend suggested that since I had already crossed over to the wrong side of forties quite a few moons ago, I must start the practice of morning-walk. She went on to deliver a well-prepared discourse on the hundred benefits of morning-walk. Sine quite a few years, I had been toying with the idea of undertaking morning-walk but like my many other lofty plans, I used to postpone it to ‘tomorrow’ or ‘the next month’. So impressive was her presentation and so persuasive was her friendly talk that I was hooked to the idea and immediately became a convert.

However, there was a small problem. I do not get good sleep at night. The worries, big and small, real or imaginary, relating to my work in the Bank or my domestic life, buried under the pressure of work which remain asleep during the day, wake up, get a field day after I hit the bed and try to sleep. So, I used to love that extra hour in bed at dawn, catching up with the lost sleep.

I saw a health ad saying, “If you want to breathe fresh air, start early; otherwise pollutants will start polluting the air.” The ad reminded me of my school-teacher who always insisted that whatever work was on hand, we should confront and conquer it early. “The early bird gets the worm.”, he used to say. One day, one of my class-mates asked him, “What about the poor worm, Sir? He gets eaten for coming out early!” Pat came the reply, “The choice is yours, to become a man or a worm!”

I put forth my problem before the wife, whom I treat as my friend, philosopher (Her subject in the University was Philosophy.) and (mis)guide. She took a deep breath, took one full second to contemplate over my problem, closed her once-beautiful eyes and came out with a very wise solution: “Why don’t you try to sleep-walk so that you can combine both your sleep and your exercise? Thereby, you can both eat your cake and have it too! Already, you do a lot of sleep-talk which disturbs my sleep. From sleep-talk, it will not be difficult to move over to sleep-walk.”, she said, and then after a small pause, added,” Only a ‘t’ is to be replaced by a ‘w’.”

In any case, I got over the hurdle, sacrificed that comfortable hour in bed in the mornings and started morning-walk. The experience was revealing. I realised how much I was missing.

In my school-days, I had read the poem ‘Leisure’ by W H Davis which runs like this:

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

While walking, I do not have the time to stand and stare at the many beautiful things that catch my attention but I do stare at them while passing by. This arouses in my mind a very pleasant feeling. I stare at the grand Gulmohar tree in full bloom as if wearing a red cap or as if in flames. I stare at the magnificent ducks gracefully gliding over water.

Every morning, I see a large number of children walking or cycling to school wearing bright smiles and a radiance on their faces. Occasionally, I also see a child with a grumpy face. Perhaps the poor fellow wanted to have a little extra sleep which pleasure the unsympathetic mother denied him. Or possibly, he did not like to face the hard task master teacher who had loaded him with home-work which the little one could not finish.

Observing the other morning walkers is quite a fun. There are Slow Walkers and Fast Walkers, There are Early Starters and Late Starters. There is a friend of mine whose house is situated at a spot which most of the morning walkers pass by. He gets up at dawn sits in his verandah in an easy chair and keeps a close watch on the road. He derives a vicarious pleasure of walking by watching the walkers. He has identified two walkers, one who is always the first to cross his house and the other, always the last. He has nick-named the first as Engine and the second, as Guard Van, as in a train!

As in the path of life, I do not relish walking alone. When I see a fellow walker, I either speed up or slow down to catch up (or down) with him (never a ‘her’). One day I saw a Real Fast Walker. With all my effort, I could not keep pace with him. I had to literally run to keep up with him. When I narrated this experience before the wife, she retorted, “Serves you right: remember when we go for shopping and you gallop like a horse and I trail behind you?” “Like an elephant.” I said to myself secretly.

One day I noticed a new walker. One thing stood out about him. There was a good crop of hair on his upper lip. It was his long and thick up-turned moustache. The two matching sideburns on either side of his face completed a macho image.For a few days, we crossed each other, without him taking any notice of me. Later, our eyes met and immediately he turned his, away. I kept on looking at him each day, enjoying the rhythmic movement of the ends of his moustache up and down in tandem with his footfalls. His ferocious face continued to wear a forbidding look. It appeared as if he had not smiled any time ever in life. Then I took the plunge; I smiled at him. His mouth expanded a little on the sides, a faint smile appeared on his lips and his moustache quivered a little but he recovered quickly, wiped off the emerging smile and moved away. I decided not to give up. I repeated my smile every morning. The twittering moustache twittered a little more each time. Then one day his defence fell and a full smile appeared on his face. My persistence paid off!, :)))))) We became friends very fast. He was a retired Lt. General of the Army. Later, I secured for my Bank, a Term Deposit of Rs. 10 Lakh from him.:)))))

I am a God-fearing man but somehow I do not get myself to visit temples. I developed friendship with another walker who stops at each temple and shrine, pays obeisance and then moves on. Out of politeness, I started stopping at the temples, waited for him to finish and then we resumed our walk together. One day, I discovered that the temple-music played at early mornings had a very soothing and sublime effect on my tense nerves. My days became less tiring. So I lingered on, to absorb the music, and now it is the turn of my friend to wait for me.

One persistent complaint of the wife was that I used to forget to drop her letters which she gave me for posting while on the way to the Bank. (Those were the days when we had not heard of e-mail or mobile phones and the use of telephones was not so wide–spread.) The letters lay in my bag or on my table at the Bank and I used to forget to give those to the peon for posting. She used to complain that I deliberately delayed posting her letters, particularly those addressed to her mother. Many times I used to lie to her that I had posted her letters when, in fact, those were lying safe in my table-drawer at the Bank. This irritant and cause for marital discord disappeared after I started morning walk. Every morning, I pass by the Post Office and all her letters are posted promptly.

In the early days of my walk, I used to collect wild flowers blooming by the road-side and present them to the wife. In the beginning, she used to accept them with a broad smile and put them in her hair. Later she started accepting them with a little condescension but still later refused even to look at them. So I started giving them to the daughter who put them in the flower-vase. After some days, she also got tired of it and the flowers lay scattered in the house. :((((((((((( Then I came across a quotable quote saying, ”Do not wait to collect flowers; more flowers will come by on the path of your progress.” And then I stopped doing it.

I frequently see a couple in their late sixties, walking unhurriedly, talking their way. The gentleman deliberately walks at a slow pace in order not to leave the lady behind. Their visages reflect contentment and happiness.


After retirement, I have found out that gardening is a better option than sleep-walking. Now, I have both the time and the inclination for it. Sweating it out for 2 hours in the morning and another one in the evening is not bad for health. And as a bonus, I have got back my hour at dawn to laze in bed! Now, I talk to my flowers instead of to fellow-walkers.