Of Dreams & Mountains

I was transformed into a dog, and running as fast as I could to evade my captors. My friend, who was now a monkey, was riding on my back, shouting directions, which I could not comprehend. We were running low on energy, but thankfully we saw a gas station on the way, and in no time the fuel tank was full and we rejoined the pursuit. My captors were kind enough to wait on us, as the queue warranted some time. I kept thinking that nothing of this makes sense and something is amiss. But I could not make out what exactly.

Thankfully, I woke up from this dream. It was still dark outside. The valley was sleeping peacefully, covered in a thick blanket of trance. My tent mates were sleeping, far from peacefully. It seemed that they were struggling with the dreams of their own. I wondered what character they might be playing. And will they be lucky enough to find a gas station, like I did.

Sun peeked at us, while we were following our morning algorithm. I was still thinking about the dream. It was still very vivid in my mind, even hours after sleep – which is very unusual. We had been trekking for 3 days then, and there did not go by a day when I didn’t have a vivid (and weird) dream. Many of the people in the camp were having the same experience. Dreams that hit you like reality. You wake up and take a good amount of time to come in terms with what is real. A dream, even as stupid and ridiculous as I had, seems to be perfectly normal when you are in it.

We discussed this while trekking towards our next camp site. In absence of any source (read Google) – we were left there to formulate our own theories. It had to do something with oxygen (the most potent drug) – Was lack of oxygen making us dream more? It does make you hallucinate at times. Probable cause. Since it had affected all and sundry, science was the only possible cause. Other theories were shunned along the way.

Our stay in the mountains in Kashmir continued to be dreamy. We were not complaining, since most of the dreams were happy dreams (weird, but happy). Discussing what we dreamt last night, was now a part of our morning algorithm.

Why do we dream more in mountains?

I was really curious to know the answer, and one of the first things that I did when I came back to Mumbai was search for this. And the answer is really interesting – We do not dream more in mountains. We just remember it better. Most of the times, when in mountains, we break away from our dreams during REM phase – and hence, we do not forget. So, to summarize, we keep dreaming about weird things all the time, but mountains help us to remember. They are like – “Hey you! Take this. Remember your shit”.

Delving a little deeper into science :

During slow wave sleep a person is in their deepest sleep and their brain slows, becoming less responsive to external stimuli, while during REM sleep a person is dreaming (Harvard Medical School, 2007). Many people are able to better recall their dreams when they awake from REM sleep; it is like they are waking up in the middle of a dream so the dream is readily available to their consciousness. It is possible that at higher altitudes the cycles of sleep happen quicker so we are more likely to wake up during a bout of REM sleep, and therefore more likely to recall our dream. It could also be that the decreased oxygen levels somehow affect our dream recall, making dreams seem more vivid. Even another possibility is that the decreased amount of slow wave sleep, proposed to have the function of consolidating memories from the day, leads the brain to try to make-up for that loss of consolidation through vivid, realistic, dreams. Any of these ideas could be the reason that dreams are reported as more vivid at high altitudes, but these ideas are simply ideas and need to be investigated for their validity.

Pretty interesting, right? There is another field in neuro science which is very interesting and has caught hold of my curiosity for some time now – “Lucid Dreaming” and “Interpretation of Dreams”. Can we really connect with our subconscious, have a dialogue with our sleeping mind? The thought experiment is very trippy in itself. I have decided to experiment with this, see if I can find a connection or a common pattern in this weird myriad of thoughts. I will see how it goes. Read about Dreams! Try to debate with yourself what exactly is Reality.

“From a surreal point of view, a dream is something that speaks to you from your subconscious, letting you know all manner of secrets that you consciousness should unlock. From a realistic view, it is defined as a series of thoughts, sensations and images that occur within your mind when you are fast asleep.”

“This is because your dreams are the best window for you to use to access your subconscious mind, and they can reveal to you the truth about what you really like and desire.”

– Dreams, Will Harris

 

 

 

Monkeys on the Trail

It was the second time I was following this same trail. Starting from Dehene village to Ajoba hills. And it was the second time I paused at Valmiki Ashram, and did not continue on the trail any further.

I was looking out for monkeys but there were none to be found. I distinctly remembered seeing many of those skipping around, when I was there last time, on the eve of Mahashivratri. I wondered what would have happened to those bunch of monkeys. My speculations were put to rest by a resident, who had a very strong view that the monkeys will be arriving at any moment then, as their nap time must be over, which comfortably coincided with our lunch time. Monkeys!!

I remembered seeing a bunch of dogs too. And few cows munching happily, staring into abyss like they always do, speculating the meaning of life and universe. I mentioned this and looked inquisitively at the residents. They shrugged and said they don’t remember seeing any such combination around. Although monkeys will be arriving soon, they reassured. I wondered where the dogs must have been. They never seem to miss lunch time.

We feasted on rice chapatis, some saag, and daal, which was simple yet sumptuous. I tried to remember when was the last time I enjoyed my food so much. I had to break from my hyper-concentration, as I could not remember, and MONKEYS HAD STARTED ARRIVING.

At first they came one at a time, then in pairs, then in rowdy groups of threes and fours. After a couple of dozen settled themselves around like sentinels, the mother monkeys with babies stuck at their bellies started coming in. Social order – All of us basically, before some mutant gene triggered evolution.

I stood there looking at those sober, super boring monkeys. They just sat on the branches without any purpose. What do you call monkeys who have no purpose in life, not even when it is lunch time? I thought that they might still be in post-pre-afternoon-nap trance. So I decided to give them benefit of doubt.

After a while those purpose-less creatures stopped pouring in. A few small monkeys from the rowdy group starting taking short jumps across branches. Here we go, I said. But then they again settled lazily on a new branch. As if trying to judge which was a better branch for a session of uninterrupted purposeless sitting.

A few others came down the tree, drank some water, and went back. A group of detectives were seen inspecting the garbage area. Trying to find easy meal. I reflected on the good old days in Banaras, when they used to barge in your house, open fridge, take as many things as their arms could manage, and then, while sprinting away, they gave you this look which seemed to say “Go on. Keep the rest. No need to thank me”.

The air around me was full with tiny droplets of water. The blanket of clouds had taken over the sky. The birds had stopped singing. The plateau beamed in anticipation of rain.  I sat there staring into abyss, not wishing for anything, perfectly content. I felt like one of those monkeys.

Morning Star

Morning Star.

He bids the Moon goodbye and greets the first rays of the Sun.

How does he take the change?
I guess not very well.

But he knows the cycle. They will meet again, only to be separated. Again and again. Followed by yet another long wait.

Endless cycle. Endless pain.
The promise to never leave again.
But all in vain.

The Moon and Star’s meeting. Is it destiny?

I refuse to believe so. I believe it is for a purpose. Everything is. Everything fits this plan.

Evening is the time Nature plays with colors. The colors it has been splattering across the canvas throughout the day. And now it’s time for a final stroke.

And I just sit here and watch.
So does the Morning Star.
For it can see its lover once again.

Chasing the Monsoons – Stories from Meghalaya


“I learnt by getting to know the forest as a being, feeling its breath in the stillness of days, filling my lungs and my whole being with the freshness it inspires.”

26-May

It was partly one of those periodic urges to run away from the world, and partly the wait for monsoons that found me flying on a Saturday morning to Guwahati. Mumbai had been sweltering hot during the previous couple of weeks and even though the lack of sleep the night before should have dragged me down, I found myself wide awake, looking at the crimson shadowy morning, eager to keep moving.

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I couldn’t keep up with the running white strands of the clouds, and dozed off peacefully. I was woken up by a sudden turbulence in the bus. Everyone was rushing out and their gaze made it very clear that it would be the opportune moment for me to do the same. The bus that I took to be going to Shillong dropped me at Paltan Bazaar, a busy market in Guwahati. It was 9 in the morning. The clouds had conspired for a showdown while I was asleep. The sky was dark brown, the clouds steady as a rock, refusing to move an inch. Full with anticipation, I continued onwards to Shillong in a shared taxi. The family sharing the taxi with me was not very keen for a conversation, and I too had similar feelings. We continued forward in peace, while the new landscapes ran past me. The brown urban mud soon gave way to green fields, marked by the colors of cattle and reminiscence of spring.

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Green Leaves

It has been a decade since I started this blog. The journey from Blogger to WordPress, from engineering to masters to corporate life – it has both been a short time and a long one. Short in the terms of the overall scheme of things, and long in terms of me as a person. I favor reading a lot more than writing, nowadays – It has come with a lot of patience in my life – And I often find myself wondering about things I didn’t know exist.

Still, I wish I write more. I am not sure if it is a mental block or just a case of priorities. Is this space just a pensive or is it still alive? I will admit that I am not sure anymore. I wish to find that out for myself, and hence you find me here, blabbering without a particular theme in mind.

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Wadala House and the Mango Tree

June has been a GREEN month for me. Backpacking across Meghalaya for a week was a much needed detoxification. I encountered the first rains of the season. Flying back to Mumbai, I found the west branch of Monsoons greeting me. Even Bangalore was gleaming with wonderful colors as sky poured incessantly, This is the most tranquil part of the year, which rejuvenates everything – living and animate alike. It does come with side effects, but I believe it has a lot of pros than cons. A festival which spans across months – Monsoons is a pleasant reminder that even a metropolitan like Mumbai has to mend its ways as per the dictate of Nature – And it’s citizens happily go the prescribed path.
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