Saturday, June 17, 2006

Robbed of Sleep

Ever had one of those nights characterized by restless turning, a dry throat and random out-of-the-world thoughts? I’m sure everyone does once in a while. Well I had one approximately four weeks ago; except that the thoughts were not so out-of-the-world, but based a lot more on reality and yet quite scary at the same time.

However, as I enjoy the delicate feel of my pajamas on my skin, recovering from the most hilarious episode of “The Simpsons” that I have ever watched – ending in a typical Indian dance (the kind that usually features in films) with hundreds of Indian “extras” in the background and each one of the Simpsons playing the main roles – unable to decipher a single word being sung and yet managing to comprehend the hilarity of the entire scene courtesy to my faint acquaintance with Hindi films through friends, it is another night that lingers in my mind, one that was not quite as restless, but good enough, nevertheless, to keep me awake for the better part of the third of a day that I lay in bed.

Whew, now if that wasn’t the biggest sentence that I’ve ever typed. While “Footie Fever” was part of the reason – with England due to play their first game the very next morning – my lack of sleep was mainly caused by a certain lady going by the initials J.L. Impressed by what I have learnt so far, I’d definitely have asked her for coffee if I’d lived around New York or gone to college with her.

Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Namesake” kept me thinking that night. It kept me thinking about the characters, about the differences in the thought-processes of back-to-back generations, the first being immigrants from a rather conservative part of the world and the second struggling to cope with the same fact, being born as Americans to Indian parents. What impressed me the most was the author’s ability to see through the eyes of both parties and outline, to a great degree of accuracy, the daily lives of such people. Although monotonic at times, having read through two-thirds of the book, I can tell that she knows a LOT about cultures, religions, art, music and what not. The mere fact that the story is somewhat a reiteration of her own life does not stand as a solitary explanation either.

I wouldn’t deny that that being a Friday night had allowed me the luxury of cutting down on sleep, but I do find myself with my eyes glued to the book for an appreciable stretch of time every now and then.

I remember having sleeping problems as a kid. I’d stare at the ceiling hours on end, to finally fall asleep at the break of dawn when it’d already be time to kick the day off. My brain would get excited, the therapist would say, resulting in a state of mind from where going back would be close to impossible, and my sleep for the entire night subsequently destroyed. The key was to clear the mind – by power of will - of any thoughts that might be invading it. I had mastered the art pretty easily back then; but last Friday, I didn’t want to exert such authority on my thoughts. I was enjoying the way things were going, and the way I was struggling to fall asleep – a sensation that I had dreaded a long time ago.

Perhaps I was getting bored of falling asleep so easily every night, and thrilled by this sudden abnormality in what has turned out to be routine stuff.

As far as my memory can take me back, the first time that I had failed to go to sleep at total ease was when I was around five or six years old, sandwiched between mommy and daddy, staring at the reflection of street lights coming off the window panes. I had stared on for a long time, when suddenly I saw a body approaching me from above the bed, its eyes glaring down at me. We were staying over at an uncle’s place that night, and my scream had woken the whole apartment up. The next thing I remember is a group of people at the door, the lights turned on, my parents scampering on the bed in confusion, and my heart beating fast, not fully convinced about the disappearance of the ghost. I can still remember its face, and when I recall this incident today, I realize that it was anything but scary.

However, I have been informed by my parents of several other all-nighters that I’d pulled as an infant, and how they’d try in vain to make me doze off; and when they themselves would finally close their eyes in the morning, I’d wake up, needing either a meal or a diaper change. They also talk about this one night when I had watched Chucky-1 at a party, and come home scared and unable to sleep. I faintly remember the course of events that night, a lot of it due to that being the closest thing that I can remember to a first date. Nusrat was my first crush (according to my parents; I, however, argue that it was Mahreen – 2/3 years older than me), and I still remember how we had cuddled up on the carpet as we watched the movie with two pairs of terrified eyes, surrounded by a bunch of grown-ups who were completely indifferent to the horrifying ongoings on television. I was four, and she was three, and none of us understood why on earth the adults were ok with what they were seeing.

I wonder whatever happened to those two ladies. I also wonder what happened to that blonde that I drew a picture of a princess for on my second year of school (the one before kindergarten). She had rejected the picture, referring to it as “ugly”, advising me to present it to someone not as good-looking as her, breaking my tiny little heart in the process. Of course, I had forgotten about it when I had woken up after my afternoon nap the same day.

So I guess going a night or two without sleep isn’t bad, unless it’s something that’s happening on a regular basis. Note that I am only talking about the ones that are involuntarily spent sleepless, and not the ones where you have to work your rear off for a school project. I wouldn’t really mind thinking about random stuff through an entire eight hours or so in bed on a weekend; after all, that is the only part of the day when you surely don’t have a life, and can devote all your energy to your thoughts.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Footie Fever

Ah…finally in the mood to type again. I just feel like typing away – crap, mostly – but I realize I don’t really have much to blabber about. I mean I know I want to type crap, but there’s no crap to type up.

So let’s see…what’s cooking? Oh – the FIFA World Cup! Now that’s something I’ve been looking forward to for QUITE some time. “Footie Fever” is what I call it (I'll change the title from "Utter Crap" to that once I'm done), “Footie” being a colloquial English term for the game, and needless to say, I am rooting for Her Majesty’s boots this time. Next in my list come the Dutchmen, and then – surprisingly enough – the Czechs. I have a knack for backing teams that I don’t believe to have much of a chance to make it all the way, be it soccer or any other sport. Same here – I don’t expect any of my teams to win the trophy; those Brazilians are definitely going to take it home for the sixth time with another “Sambasque” display.

However, these three teams do have a strong chance on paper. Czech Republic and the Netherlands are ranked two and three in the world respectively, and England has a pretty strong side going into the competition. But this is the World Cup, so anything that gets written on paper stays on paper – except for anything about that chunk of gold going back to the banks of the Amazon.

I was chatting with this Czech bloke the other day. The guy works at this English bar and knows nothing about soccer. Pretty sad, eh? I say so because while all his customers will be hyped up about the big tourney, he will have to sit around and do his homework. Apparently that’s what his wife’s been trying to get him do for the last couple of months, so I’m happy for the good lady.

Talking about English bars/pubs – those are the places that I will be targeting over the next month or so. I have heard that an English pub is the place to be when there’s a soccer game on. Those blokes get drunk like dog poo and simply go crazy. Here is my chance to check it out.

Then again, this is going to be the worst soccer world cup ever – at least for me. I will be missing a hell lot of matches because most of the games are during the day, and I will be at work during the entire duration of all three (or two, depending on the fixture) games on weekdays; besides, I’m not sure if people (that includes my friends too) would really like to drag their buttocks to the pub at 9 a.m. (or ANY time for that matter) on a weekend. So even if I do make it to a pub before an England game on a weekend, I wouldn’t be surprised if the only ones accompanying me are the bartender and a stray dog.

And talking about craze - I was born in a country where people are nuts about soccer. They don’t usually follow the European leagues – or any league for that matter – but go cuckoo when the world cup comes around the corner. So much so that there have been occasions when people have killed themselves either because a famous player was banned for taking drugs, or because their favourite team didn’t win. I personally think that people like these deserve a well-calculated free kick in the most vulnerable part of their abdomen, and told to get a life.

Anyways, I am planning on reading “The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri, an Indian writer from West Bengal. I have been told that the book is about families migrating to the western world, and the kind of cultural shock that they encounter. Should be an interesting read. So off I go to bed with my paperback.

Early twenties hitting hard

He’s been sending me all the wrong signs from up there recently.

When: approximately seven days ago. Where: A subway station in Toronto. I was humming (my usual morning tune) my way up the escalator when I came across this young lady with a stroller. As I was waiting for the train, the occupant – a toddler, obviously – made my day with a warm smile. Being the kid-lover that I am, I smiled back, and was tempted to play with her, but the train arrived and we parted.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about that smile. She was so damn cute - like a furry little kitten or something. Ok maybe not a kitten (I don’t really like ‘em that much) – but you get the picture.

Approximately three minutes later, I came across another kid reaching out in the hope that I’d take him up in my arms, and about eight hours later another one that was screaming his heart out at me in enthusiasm, not realizing that no matter how much he did that, he wouldn’t be able to get the message through unless he picked up a few real words from the older kid standing next to him.

Not that this doesn’t happen a lot; I mean I know I’m popular with kids, but a 100% hit ratio accompanied by unbounded enthusiasm? That too thrice in the space of a third of a day? Now that’s awesome, isn’t it?

I wouldn’t have complained had that been it, but my dreams over the past week or so have also been dominated by kids. I have done everything starting from saving a baby’s life (superman is what they called me) to watching one grow up in front of my eyes during my eight-hour resting periods over the last couple of days.

See, I don’t believe in signs. Well at least I didn’t. Maybe signs exist only when you want them to; and perhaps their meanings depend a lot on how the individual interprets them. But when a random forty-year-old woman on the subway says she reckons I’d make a good daddy, if that’s not a sign then I don’t know what is.

Ok. Maybe she was just trying to hit on me; or maybe she said that because her child seemed to like me a lot. I mean I don’t know. I misinterpret women all the time – including my mom. Maybe there is no sign. Maybe things are like they always have been. Maybe it’s just that I want a kid so badly that I’m blaming it all on Him.

Yeah that’s right – I want a kid. I love kids. I get all corny when it comes to kids.

I remember telling a friend about how I wanted a cute little baby girl over dinner one night. He threw weird looks at me; obviously that didn’t mean much since he’s mentality is of a screwed up nature, and his thoughts are usually X-rated. The point is, I’ve wanted a kid for a long time now. Now more than ever.

However, I can’t have one. If you’re thinking it’s because I’m still too young and still in school and all that crap, let me rephrase: I can’t have one…EVER! See I’m going through this early-twenties crisis where the words “responsibility”, “marriage” and “kids” are freaking me out. I woke up one morning around two weeks ago and realized that I’d never be ready for any of those. I mean think about it. Spending the rest of my life with the same person? No privacy, no say in family matters, no control over the remote control? Or my wallet for that matter?

My mom says I should get married at 24. I told her I couldn’t. She said she’d give me a three-year extension if needed. I told her I couldn’t. She gave up.

Well maybe it’ll all work out. Maybe I’ll be ready in a few years or a decade or so; but until then - please God my good man - don’t send down those eerie hints.

Then again, when those innocent and yet curious eyes follow me all the way to Union station, when those toothless grins emit cute baby noises, I feel an ant-bite somewhere behind that shirt-pocket of mine. If only I didn’t have to be married or be a cofounder to have one of those.

So I’m waiting for that day when I hop on the train and see this guy wearing a sweatshirt saying “I graduated from college and adopted a kid” standing in the corner with a baby in a stroller in front of him. Yeah God, now that’s like a good buddy.