|| You Do Not Dream When You … ||

In a manner of speaking, I do not dream anymore!

I know, I know, you will say, “Everyone dreams. Some are lucky to have only pleasant dreams, some are unlucky to have only nightmares, but a few luckless ones among us do not remember dreams.”

That is why I began by saying, ‘In a manner of speaking’.

In fact, it appears that even though people may not remember their dreams, everyone dreams several times a night. By an estimate, during a typical lifetime, people spend about six years dreaming. There! Remember being chided in your childhood for wasting time daydreaming?

To explain the occurrence and phenomenon of dreaming, the guys who know such things have coined a term called REM (for rapid eye movement) sleep for the dream producing stage of sleep when the eyeballs undergo rapid movement, as of a person who is looking and seeing things. Based on this, they have divided our sleep into alternate cycles of REM and NREM (for non-REM) sleep.

(Now, now, my doctor friends, I know I am not the one to speak on the subject! But, please bear with me.)

So, when you go to bed, you start with NREM sleep that lasts about an hour and a half. In its initial stage, your eyes are closed, but it’s easy to wake you up. This phase may last for up to ten minutes. In the middle stage you sleep lightly, your heart slows down and your temperature falls, making you ready for the final stage of deep sleep. In this last stage, it is difficult to wake you up, and if rudely awakened from this deep sleep, you are likely to feel disoriented. This is the phase in which the body undergoes repair and maintenance, and the immune system is boosted.

After the first period of NREM sleep, you have a period of REM sleep that lasts about ten minutes. This is when you sort of get excited, with harder breathing and heart beating faster. Your eyes rove, the brain becomes active, and you dream. And, with every cycle of NREM and REM stages, the REM sleep becomes longer, lasting as much as one hour at the end. No doubt, some dreams last a lifetime.

Babies spend about fifty percent of their sleep in the REM stage, whereas adults spend about twenty percent. As you get older, you sleep more lightly, getting less deep sleep of shorter and shorter span, though you continue to need as much sleep as when you were younger. Obviously, you need not wish “sweet dreams!” when putting your baby to bed, but you do need this wish when you are old.

Now, I know that I have digressed. I did not set out to write about how we dream. I wanted to write about my not dreaming anymore. I do sleep lightly, often spending an entire night in a state of acute awareness that I was not sleeping. And so, probably, on those nights I do not at all pass into REM sleep, whence my claim that I do not dream anymore. Of course, my wife stoutly rebuts my claim, saying I start snoring as soon as I hit the bed. This, of course, only buttresses my claim. But, I will return to this argument later.

‘But, why these elaborate foreplay?’ you must be wondering.

Sometime, when the bug bit me to write, and make people read what I wrote, I decided that I should write at least one story a day. That is when I started invoking and beseeching the gods of dreams – Somnus, Hypnos, Morpheus, there are so many – without naming anyone, for a story every night. My prayers went unanswered.

But, last night at last, I had a dream. It told a curious story, to say the least, and its strangeness startled me out of my sleep. So, when I woke up, the story was fresh in my mind.

To narrate it in English would be difficult, for some of the events and emotions of this story are so typical to our milieu. Anyway, let me try.

The dream concerned two sisters and one brother, orphaned in childhood. They were given shelter and provided for by a benign distant cousin. It was a life full of peace, if not happiness, that they led. ‘Didi’ the eldest girl was much older than her sister and brother, who were closer by age. Didi was deeply emotional, and while she hovered over the other two with motherly love, she secretly nursed a grief, as people who lead a loveless life do. She was often quiet and brooding. She felt an impalpable touch of injustice.

Such intense feeling cannot be suppressed for long, and out it came in the open. There were exchanges of bitter words. The cousin went about with a scowl, and Didi pined away shedding many silent tears, away from his eyes. One day she dried her eyes, and resolutely holding the hands of brother and sister, she left home, if that could be called so.

Years passed. Eventually, the little boy grew up and left Didi in search of livelihood. The cousin led the secluded life of an ascetic, unable to explain what had happened, or tell who was to blame. He had done his best, under the circumstances, he felt. Still, a little spike of guilt pricked his conscience. Probably, he had been too proud and aloof. Now, the only way to make amends was to find them, and bring them back.

Words went around, and the brother heard of the approach to reconcile and return home. He had been too small when the ways had parted, and so he bore no grudge. But, it was for Didi to take a call. He came to see her with some misgivings. What if she haughtily rejected his proposal? He did not know that in the intervening years she had had time to reflect. When he asked Didi whether she would like them to go back, she demurely agreed. Then a mischievous smile lit up her otherwise dark face. She giggled and asked, should not the homecoming be celebrated. Would her cousin be kind enough to present her with a skirt, a drape to the younger sister, and a shirt to the boy? The boy was puzzled by this sudden outburst of frivolity. Perplexed, he asked her, “What on earth would you do with a skirt?” “Why” she said, “I feel like dancing. Yes, go and ask him for a skirt, and I will dance wearing it, to celebrate our homecoming.”

So came the day when the three arrived at the cousin’s house. With a shy smile, he welcomed them and led them into the hall, which was aglow with many welcome signs. Didi rushed to the gifts, and lifted first her brother’s shirt to admire it. But, her face darkened with a look of utter betrayal. For, what she held in her hands was not a shirt, but the vest of a dog. Tears of utter disappointment rolled down her cheeks. Clutching the dress she collapsed in a chair. Her brother rushed to her and tried to console her, saying “It is alright Didi. Please dress me in it, and let me dance.” “You!” fumed Didi. But, lo, there was no brother. What stood in front of her was a dog! At once she realized that a spell had been cast on them, turning her brother into a dog and his shirt into a dog’s vest. She hugged the dog, and affectionately dressed it in the vest. The dog wagged its tail and began to prance. And, as it pranced it stood up on its hind legs, and gradually morphed, first into a monkey and then finally back into her brother.

The cousin, watching silently with a look of utter consternation, rushed to the brother and hugged him. Then he came over to Didi. Lifting her chin, he looked into her deep eyes, and said, “You know, you had to go through this.”


Well, that was my dream, more or less, with an illiberal dose of creative license.

As I sipped the first tea of the day with my wife, I narrated the dream to her. At the end, she laughed, “This is the most ridiculous story I have ever heard. Don’t even think of writing it. People will laugh at you.” Then becoming grave, she said, “You were lucky. I could not at all sleep last night.”

“Not at all?” I asked, “How do you say?” She said, “For one thing, the street noises kept disturbing me. And, all the while that I tossed and turned, you roared and snored by my side. Till the alarm went off, you were snoring.”

Now that brings me to that argument with my wife, telling you about which I had postponed.

It seems, when people snore they do not dream!

© Indroneer / 14 January 2015

1) http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/human-brain/dream3.htm
2) http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/sleep-101