Tiina wakes with a start.
The nightmare is fresh in her mind. She does not scream, though. Save her heightened breathing and an increased pulse, nothing gives away the horror and dejection the dreams evoke. Swept along by a tide of the inevitable, she faces her destiny.
Yep! A perfect start to a novel written by a sleep obsessed me. For a long as I can recall I have needed eight hours sleep at night; not counting the fact that I can fall asleep in moving vehicles of any kind. Trains, planes, automobiles... I've even been known to fall asleep in the back of black cabs. Really!
Talking about being lulled to sleep immediately my mind casts back to train journeys from my childhood in India. The constant moving, shaking, rattling and rolling of the Indian Railways--on the Rajdhani chair cars, in the Shatabdi's second-class, three-tier sleeper cars where I would immediately lay stake to the top berth, pretending to be on top of the world while my mum & dad peered up anxiously to make sure that I would not fall out. The warm embrace of the sleeping berth, was the closest I came to recapturing the comforting the cocoon of my mother's womb. Would it surprise you if I were to say that I actually remember being in the womb, being clad in layer upon layer of affection shot through with strands of fear, delight and an absolute terror of the unknown.
Much like what I feel now on wondering what it would be like if I were to become a mother. For one, I would need to sleep, I know I would probably double my quote from eight, to what? Ten, sixteen? A life spent asleep? Comatose, in suspended animation to wake up in the next millennium or perhaps on another planet. Yes, that would be the stuff my reality is made of. Am I actually a somnambulist then? For it is when I am asleep that I am the most awake.
As I wrote my first novel, the last one-hundred-and-fifty pages written in three weeks, the most powerful well-spring of imagination were my power naps. When after having written fifteen pages in a spurt, I would feel the energy leach out of me, and when no amount of sweetened-masala-chai would prop my eyes open, I would use my last conscious thought to crawl down to my basement bedroom, slip in-between the covers and setting my mind to work on the puzzle of the plot, I would let myself drift into the upper realms. Suspended between the dimensions above and yet anchoring my feet firmly into the ground below I would wait...for the visions to come; the dreams from my childhood intertwined with memories past, all shot through with futuristic inklings, my instinct going into overdrive, I would sit up awake suddenly--to realise that my fifteen minute comfort snooze had taken me on a trip to outer-space from which I had returned with a Eureka! That was it! Resolution, atleast for now and for this act in the novel. See?Being a sleeper has its advantages. Just let your sub-conscience take over, the rest is easy.
Growing up as I stayed up late nights dozing over my books, I longed to be like one of those super-people who could survive on just four or five or six hours sleep. But now in adulthood I realise that it is perhaps being able to drift almost instantly into that dark space from where I can plumb the depths of my sub-consciousness that makes me a writer after all.
What about you? How many hours of sleep can you survive on? Are you a super-sleeper who needs eight hours (twelve is ecstasy!) or are you an insomniac who can't soul more than four. Do tell me, I really want to know.
Laxmi Hariharan is a London based writer, technophile & futurist. She is inspired by Indian mythology. Her debut novel The Destiny of Shaitan recently won the Summer 2012 Readers' Pick Award and is available on Amazon at http://tiny.cc/szqsew. Reach Laxmi at www.laxmihariharan.com