The squirrels have deserted the place. The stripes are nowhere to be seen.
The parrots have gone too. Such irritants they were. I liked sparrows more. But they have left as well.
The night has engulfed me like a blanket. Crickets are chirping all around me. They have stayed. They always stay. I wish I was as indifferent as they are.
The night is very still. I look up at the sky. I see the Moon smiling at me.
“You tried your best”, he said to me.
“Will you stay with me?”, I asked
“Till the end”, the moon assured me.
The days have been too cold and lonely. I looked at the fire. This is the last fire I have. Last fire from my last tree.
The tree is gone. Squirrels are not going to come back. Birds don’t want to do anything with me. What could I have done different? I looked at the axe lying next to me. You are the last possession I have, I said. And just like everything else, I will have to let you go too.
I see the flames going up as I put the axe into it. This will last for few minutes before the cold consumes me, I thought. I am going to sleep. May be I will find squirrels in the place I am going to. May be it will be warmer there. Maybe.
I miss my trees. I burnt them all. Could I have done anything different? I do not know.
the chewed betel-nut grandmother transmitted
from recesses of her stained teeth onto palm of an
unlettered hand And again to my mouth.
Many years later I found myself teaching tradition
handed down by word of mouth. A cane basket we
put our socks in was stuffed with her stories.
It suddenly became a nest and
I flew with unknown birds, giddy and half asleep
seeking blankets of cloud in the maize field of the
mythical cat who sometimes ploughed the sky.
The cane basket disappeared when
a wooden cabinet took up residence
in our three-room house. Socks found a nest
and I began writing
the first few letters of the alphabet.
Myiem, where my ancestors prayed for their
deliverance from bitter winter,
where they wrestled with earth and stone
to script remembrances.
Today, lost and approaching fifty,
surrounded and imprisoned by books,
I sometimes murmur a prayer:
“Grandmother, tell me another story”
– I read this poem in the village of Nongriat, Meghalaya. These words took me back to my village of Ghazipur. The days when stories were an integral part of our life. Why did we stop telling stories?I could not find this poem online. I am looking for this book – Do let me know if you know this book. Thanks.
I have always been fascinated by trains. The image of the red serpent rushing across the fields, in my village in Ghazipur, is still very much ingrained in my memories. I never quite understood what captured my interest more – The Train or The Track? While I explored the whereabouts of the track, chasing birds and rodents around, the train was the last thing on my mind. And when it did arrive, it was the only thing I cared about.
The blurred vision of the carriages rushing along, while I kept count of the number of cars attached to engine. I used to always lose count. Thinking about the same, I cannot help asking this question – Why did I count the number of cars? Why did this exercise still pops up in mind when I see a train?
I believe it has to do with the time and culture of our times. The internet had not shortened the world and there were so many things we knew so little about. Things to do were limited but interesting. It was the time when you didn’t lose interest in a toy after playing with it just once. We had few needs and fewer wants. Train ride was one of those interesting things I used to look forward to all the time. And getting through to the window seat was one of the featured ambitions.
I think the pure joy that I experienced in those train rides has become a part of me. This interest was coupled with another important aspect of our life – Mathematics. I used to count everything – it was one of my favorite past-time. Have you noticed the numerical codes that you sometime see on television. Whenever that used to flash on TV, my mind used to rush off to another tangent altogether – I would add all the digits and check if it is a multiple of 3. I believe it was just practicing the computational capability of the brain. Anyways, this also stuck in and before I realized, I was checking if the trains have number of cars which are a multiple of 3 or not.
So, this is the story. Try thinking back yourself. And see if one of your childhood activities has been hitchhiking along with you, all this time, in your subconscious.
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.
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