I have been a night bird for as long as I can remember. I have a nocturnally programmed biological clock- I simply absolutely hate getting up early in the morning and I don’t mind staying up at night till even the crack of dawn. Even as a kid at school, I used to prefer studying late at night. Evenings were kept aside for games, the telly, updating my mom on all the happenings at school, fighting with bro, romping with my cats etc. and I would hit my books only after dinner. Finishing homeworks and assignments, studying for test papers etc. happened in the late hours of the night and sometimes continued into the wee hours of the morning. And then the next morning, I would sleep in for as long as possible, which equated to one hour before it was time for the school bus. Holidays gave me the sumptuous luxury of curling up with a book in bed and staying up until I had finished reading it and then sleeping until the sun was way up in the sky and I was declared a disgrace to girlhood by my irate mother banging away on my door!
This scenario continues, more or less unchanged, even now. If it’s not books that keep me up at night, it might be the net or a phone call or an extended text conversation or listening to music on my mp3 player or gazing at the stars on my terrace or just my mind rambling in a labyrinth of thoughts. My average bedtime is midnight and average wake-up time 7 am. My sleep hours sometimes get cut down drastically, to just around a couple of hours, especially when exams are round the corner or some ‘emergency’, ahem, that comes under the heading ‘everyday crisis of an urban Indian youngster’, crops up at night and dealing with it robs me of my precious sleep, and the next day is a working day at college.
My late-night (and late-morning) timings draw raised eyebrows- in wonder, astonishment, bewilderment or disapproval, the last mostly from aghast relatives- from all except my very close friends who have come to realize and accept over time that my ‘day’ begins around 10 at night. And that the sun usually rises for me not before 8 am- and since college is over for now, the sunrise is delayed by at least an hour or two for me…sometimes, the sun, ever the courteous gentleman, does not come knocking on my dreams till noon!
There is something about the night that fascinates me. I love the silence, the stillness, the cool night breeze, the rich creamy darkness, the comforting solitude. I love listening to the cicadas, the rustle of leaves, the flapping of bats’ wings, the distant strains of songs from temple carnivals somewhere. I love gazing at the star-spangled night sky, searching for familiar faces among the twinkling crowds, being bathed in silver moonlight. I love the ethereal fragrance of jasmine buds blooming at night. I love listening to the even breathing of my parents in the adjacent room, to the reassuring rise and fall of their unconditional love for me. I love the cosy feeling of snuggling in bed with a favourite book and getting lost in the words while the world sleeps. I love the way my thoughts resound with incredible clarity in the quietude of night and sediment within me. Well, there is another side too to this- comforting solitude can sometimes morph into terrifying loneliness; thoughts can sometimes resound too loudly for one’s liking, can push you off the cliff into yawning valleys of your deepest darkest fears that are usually shrouded by sunlight. Yes, these may happen. But you cannot deny the eternal awe-inspiring splendour of the rolling blue ocean just because it turns stormy and violent and takes lives at times, can you?
I have often felt that the city takes on a different persona at night- something like a split personality, maybe? It’s definitely not the same staid city I encounter at daytime that I see after the sun has set. There is a different energy pumping in the night air, flashing off the neon billboards and brightly lit shop windows, throbbing in the sights and sounds of night life- the music wafting out of restaurants, omelettes or chicken sizzling in the frying pan in ‘thattukadas’ (roadside eateries that open in the evening and function all through the night), the phosphorescent halo of street lights and the grey roads dappled with their yellowish pools of light, the multi-coloured lights that gleam on dark hazy outlines of buildings far far away, and if it’s not too late at night, the vehicle headlights that mill the streets like an invading army. I can never have enough of these vignettes of night life and that’s why I stare out the car window like an excited eight-year-old, much to the amusement of the rest of my family, whenever we are driving back home at night after an outing. Not to mention the exhilarating sensation of feeling the cool wind in my hair. I am not speed-crazy in the least, but I have to admit there’s nothing to beat the revitalizing, elevating, out-of-the-world feeling of whizzing away on a two-wheeler through a deserted, smooth, pothole-less, well-tarred stretch with the night air rushing through your hair and freezing your cheeks. It’s one of those experiences, like the divine smell that steams up when the first summer shower kisses the parched earth, that transport you out of your mundane everyday existence to heights of unparalleled unreasoning bliss.
Night life, however, is still the prerogative of males in my hometown Trivandrum, and throughout Kerala, I believe. You hardly find any women out at night, unless accompanied by their husbands or fathers. My own taste of it was always with my Dad. Not that I have a problem with that, but I rue the fact that even in this twenty first century, women cannot be guaranteed safety at all times. There was this short film festival here a few weeks back, to which I had taken a delegate pass. I could not watch a single film that was screened in the evening and hence missed out on some of the best entries at the fest, all because my girl friends and I had to get home by 5-6 in the evening. Now isn’t that just so unfair?! These are the times when I seriously wish I were a guy- I envy the freedom and independence that they have!
Well, there are friends and well-wishers who repeatedly advise me to change my timings. They are the early-morning birds- who supposedly “catch the worm”. They tell me that I will be able to do my work more efficiently early in the morning since the body is recharged and the brain refreshed after a good sleep. I can understand the logic of their argument but, unfortunately, it has never worked out that way for me in practice. I have tried going to sleep by 10 and getting up at dawn and valiantly sitting down at my desk to study, ‘recharged and refreshed’. But I don’t know how or when or why, I find myself back in bed and sleeping away to glory in less than half an hour! Two or three failed attempts later, I gave up and went back to my nocturnal schedule, because that’s what works best for me. I don’t mean to say I will never ever change my routine, I know I may have to sooner or later. But until then, I’m perfectly happy with things the way they are, with my nocturnal self.