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The Other Side Of Sleep
The Other Side Of Sleep

© Cheelu Chandran

Abstract Drama Fantasy

15 Minutes   574    39

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The Other Side of Sleep

The morning sun will soon stream in through the window bringing with it tiny, shiny particles of fine dust that will settle on the chest of drawers standing next to it and on the glass shelves straining under the weight of books. The Mullah from the Mosque just beyond the line of vision will soon begin to sing his incantations calling upon his Lord the God to bless us earthly mortals. Sooner than later the streets below will begin to bustle, lights in various homes will come on, toilets will be flushed, teeth will be brushed and normal life will begin. I am in deep sound sleep, stretched out on the bed. I am neatly covered, a first I might add, and I am lying flat on my back; another first for me because I only sleep on my right side with my arm tucked under my pillow with my other arm hugging another pillow. In the middle of the night I tend to throw off my blanket and turn toward my left side, pillow and all. Today though feels strange because I also feel weightless and as though I could fly. I feel real yet here I am on my bed sleeping in a strange position. I try to shut my eyes but I can still see through my eyelids. They seem to be transparent. Naturally I assume that I am dreaming and that I will wake up soon enough or be woken up by my mother, which is the case more often than not and this will pass and in due course will become words that I will write in my journal every day. I am in the process of writing all my dreams and my friends' dreams and hope to compile it into a book someday and call it 'The Other Side Of Sleep' and if  Lady Luck shines on me I may even be able to get my book written and published by the end of one year.

Before long, I hear the familiar knock on my room door. It is my mother. Sometimes when I am feeling energetic after a goodnight's sleep, I emerge from my room either before she even knocks or after a couple of gentle taps. For the past few days, however, I had been feeling run down and have woken up just in time to somehow rush out of the door without breakfast and with a cursory "hello everyone, bye everyone".

"Nira, Nira, wake up', my mother called out to me, "Breakfast is ready and this time I am not going to allow you to leave home on an empty stomach", "You have a long day at work today and you will need all the energy and you didn't eat dinner last night", she carried on. Sometimes in the middle of her sentence her voice would trail off because her mind got distracted from either calling out to my sister or wondering what my father was up to. I was particular to lock my room door every night because I loved to sleep naked. I also loved my moments of intimacy with my body as I lost myself in fantasy. In my fantasies, I had different lovers who with their touch evoked my divine feminine sensuality. They made love to my soul and none of it was vulgar or lustful. On the contrary they unleashed my feminine power, my 'Shakti'. I knew that my mother wouldn't understand and she didn't even get why I locked my door every night but after my persistent habit, she stopped objecting. She just sighed. Every night. Maybe even shook her head in helpless resignation. Maybe she felt that I was up to something that she didn't approve of. Maybe she didn't. I didn't know, I didn't say and I didn't ask. I don't believe in pointless communication.

Last night however was different. I felt particularly tired after a normal work day and I went to bed without dinner, with my clothes on and without bolting my door. In fact I spoke to no one. My mother sighed and shook her head as usual, my father was surfing and barely nodded as usual and my sister was trying out a new remedy for her adolescent pimples that filled her face and made her cheeks pink, also as usual. If Charita, my younger sister wasn't vigorously scrubbing her face she was picking tiny food particles that were lodged between her thick braces even if the said particles weren't actually there. She was chubby, short, pimply, braced up and fifteen. I was tall; I had taken after my uncle, clear complexioned, slim and had a neat row of teeth, just like my mother. I loved my little sister and she looked up to me.

"Coming mother!" I yelled back, I always called her mother at times like these and rolled my eyes as I usually did. After a few minutes of silence she was back to my door knocking and yelling, "Nira! how many times do I have to call out to you. I don't understand at times how old you really are", her tone indicated that she was exasperated and that she was exasperating. "Where is your sense of responsibility? You don't even have the courtesy to respond to me", she shrieked. Now her tone was bordering on ballistic and mine on complete confusion as I retorted, "mother, I said I was coming and how many times do I say that to you?!” I was confused because I couldn't understand why she couldn't hear me. "I will be out soon after I do what people usually do in the morning", I said. I heard her mumbling loudly just outside my door. She did that when she was curious to know what I was doing behind my closed doors. She also mumbles only into my door because when she had tried complaining loudly a few times in the past, she went unheard because every member of my family was too self-absorbed to actually pay attention. Perhaps we would have been more generous with our reactions towards her if she stopped whining and stressing about every little thing and communicated with us as though we were people who understood her feelings; at least that's what I think.

By the way I would love to clarify here that I didn't always have intimate engagements with my body or become absorbed in my fantasy. I lock my door because I also love to read in silence and watch television series on my lap top. That's what I did most of the time. Sometimes I would chat with some friends. I hold my sense of space and privacy in the highest esteem. I cherish my solitude because I deal with people all day at work as head of HR of a start-up that were in the process of recruiting more employees and I had to sit down at all the interviews. Yes I was a young head of department because the company was young too and eager to please. I was one of the first ones to apply for a job in 'Stockwaladunia.co.in', 'take stock of your life, while we take charge of your assets'.

I had, not too long ago joined the band wagon of aspiring MBAs although I got a diploma instead of a degree because I did a part time course in an evening college. There were two reasons for that. The first one was that my father was the sole bread winner and his income after he set aside a tidy sum every month for his sinful pursuits, gave us a pittance within which we had to run the house, pay the staff, which my mother periodically changed till she ultimately decided to fire everyone and take charge of the house and kitchen. She felt better about saving that money but hated every minute of having to do all the household chores. My sister's school fees were taken care of by my dad after much arguing and pleading from my mother but mine had to come from the meagre monthly budget. I was tired of how everything was panning out in my life and I wanted a little more financial freedom, so the moment I finished my basic bachelor’s degree in economics I got a job as a 'service executive' at 'Samosas and More' where 'we deliver India and the world at your palate door'. As I saw it my job had only advantages. First of all I had the glorious title to a duty that merely involved taking orders at the counter and dishing them out either on plates or in packets. The other pluses involved one free meal a day which meant that I got one escape from my mother's kitchen and two free cups of sugary tea or coffee and we got an extra bite if there was left over food. My mother wasn't a bad cook she was just too bored with her life to find any joy in trying out various recipes. Besides there was hardly anything in the kitchen ever. Although we were required to work in eight hour shifts that alternated between the staff the management allowed me to stay with only the morning duty because I was attending evening college. They felt that if they encouraged their staff it would pay them back whereas for me it was a ticket to get out of there and work in a proper office. I really didn't care about all these things and working at a food counter was as dignified as any other corporate job. This was something on my bucket list of things to do before I die because something within me kept telling me that I needed to get at least this one out of the way before it was too late...

"Nira is something wrong?” my mother asked. “Let me go and call your father, maybe you will listen to him at least”. “Or should I call your sister?” “Oh! Why all this trouble for me at this age when all I want to do is sit at the feet of the Almighty in my puja room and beg for his forgiveness so that I can go to heaven and…" and her voice trailed off. I finished her sentence for her, “…and so that He can wash away all my bad karma and I can attain Moksha”.  We had all heard this at least a million times.

I knew that she would be back soon enough and in the meanwhile I decided that this weightlessness would be way more enjoyable if I experimented with it. This was the only time I could fly without wings. At first I didn't know how but quickly learnt that if I focussed with my mind on a specific place I could fly there. I looked up at the right hand corner of the ceiling and presto! I was there.

I reminisced.

Nageswaran, my father, grew up in a tiny village in Tamil Nadu amongst a band of five brothers and two sisters besides himself. His father was a farmer and struggled to feed ten mouths everyday but somehow managed and dug himself deeper in debt. He often referred to his children as necessary burdens that he was doomed to carry on his shoulders and blamed God for the number of children instead of his insatiable sexual desire.

His wife Mythili, my dad's mother was an educated girl from an affluent family but who was married off to an illiterate farmer with meagre means because her parents didn't want either the education or their wealth to go to her head. Her job was to cook, procreate and shut up.

I intently focussed on the left side of the ceiling and voila! I was there. I was amazed at my ability to dream so vividly and I didn't want to wake up.

I continued to reminisce.

Nageswaran my father went to a local village school run by some charitable trusts which employed English speaking teachers who had denounced their city life for the upliftment of the village children. When he was fifteen my father realised that he wasn't like the others because unlike the other boys, he liked boys. Whenever he saw a girl he felt nothing but sisterly love but he couldn't ignore the stirring in his loins when he saw a boy or a man. When he turned eighteen he confided in his mother thinking that she would understand but instead she went to great lengths to prove that he was under a black magic or voodoo spell. The local temple priest concurred with my mother and then added that marriage would cure all his ills; and not to any village girl but to an educated city girl and before he turned twenty one. His reasoning was that minds tended to form firm opinions and by twenty one it was tough to reason with that stubborn mind. My father was wedded by age twenty. During his younger days there wasn't enough information available about homosexuality and so for many years my father actually thought he was sick and that marriage would in fact cure him. He also realised later that it didn’t.

Sundari, my mother got her name because she was supposedly an incomparable beauty. Since in those days, and even now for that matter, fair skin is automatically considered a prerequisite for beauty, my mother had a double advantage, she was not only beautiful but was also as white as snow. Her skin was naturally soft and almost translucent. She had a line of all types and sizes of handsome and wealthy suitors vying for her hand in marriage but that fell on her parents’ deaf ears. Apart from that big companies in the moisturising business were also lining up with modelling contracts. Her parents however decided to get her married off to Nageswaran so that she wouldn't get ahead of herself and become immersed in her own beauty and the arrogance that wealth and wealthy suitors would bring. More importantly they were eager to quash her dreams of becoming a model as it was highly inappropriate for good and decent girls in their social circles.

Neither Sundari nor Nageswaran had any say in their lives and for six months they didn't even touch each other. Finally when the family pressure began to mount they consummated the marriage and I was born. There was some cheer amongst the extended family. They would have been jubilant if I was a boy but "we don't mind as long as the baby is healthy", they conceded. "After all there is always another chance and next time," they said to my mother, "be sure to give us a grandson OKAY?" They laughed but everyone knew that they were serious. What they should have said instead was "Nageswaran next time be sure to release the Y chromosome so that we can have a grandson, OKAY?", but they didn't know better. Their logic was simple. Since it was the woman who carried the child it was she who was responsible for the gender too, especially if she ate the right kind of food.

The only other time my parents had sex was to give me a companion to play with and so that I wouldn't be lonely in my adult years. They hoped I'd have a brother but what man proposes the chromosome disposes. I got a younger sister and this time the celebrations were even less than condescending.

The door knocked again and this time I heard more voices. I was irritated that my dream was being interrupted. I had so much more to go before I reached the end and this was my book, "right there, revealed in a dream. What a story that would be by itself!" I turned my focus to the floor and went to open the door. Strangely I couldn't grip the handle. "I am unable to open the door mother", I yelled but I couldn't find my voice. I turned around in a panic and that was when I saw my body lying on the bed.

"I am sorry to say that your daughter is no more", the doctor said to my shocked family; and then suddenly everything fell into place for me, the weightlessness, the transparent eyelids, the flying around the room, etc. I had apparently passed on in my sleep and that was why I found myself in that strange sleeping position.

My family put my body in the morgue as they had to wait for the extended family to arrive before committing me to electric crematorium. I followed my body everywhere it went, from the bedroom to the living room and then in the ambulance to the hospital. I was about to follow it into the morgue when I saw a bright white light. It was mesmerising and as I walked towards it I slowly began to realise that I was free.

As the years progressed my parents had drifted even further apart. The only time they came together in a non-sexual way was when they named us. They decided to get creative and have a go at being rebellious. There were two options for my name, Rani or Rina each suggested by one set of their parents. They called me Nira. My sister had only one option, Rachita, suggested by my paternal grandmother. With silent wicked smiles my parents named her Charita. These were the only moments of togetherness and happiness between my parents.

In time my father began to realise that he didn't carry any disease and that homosexuality was just a choice. In due course the Internet and the computer opened up a whole new world for him. He had multiple lovers in his small studio apartment that he rented and paid for every month. He also spent a lot of money on his dates; his sinful pursuits and when he wasn't doing that he derived pleasure by watching porn or surfing gay dating sites.

My mother was just sexually repressed but did nothing about it. She didn't even care enough to ask my dad what he was up to.

I don't know why I died but I think it could be because I was born with a congenital heart disease. The doctors had warned my parents and recommended a line of treatment which perhaps could have prolonged my life but my parents didn't pursue it. It was way too expensive and it would have eaten into my father's expenses.

I am not sure how Charita's life will pan out but I can only hope for the best and wish that she lives the life she wants to live.

The morning sun will continue to stream in bringing the tiny shiny dust particles to settle on the chest of drawers next to the window and life on earth will go on as normal for everyone, except me.

I reminisced one last time before I shed all attachment and walked forever into the light and into the other side of sleep.

In the story attached tags are sleep middle class budget

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