- by Girish Sangameswaran
Sleeping has evolved into a refined art form in Mumbai.
Several variants of this art form present themselves to a keen observer of the city's local trains. Standing and sleeping in a crowded train, for example, is a simple yet sublime form of this great art. The artists have mastered the art of swaying with the crowd with their eyes closed, to complete the day's quota of sleep. Another variant of this art is standing and resting on the walls of the compartment. This is an easier proposition, but more risky if the artist is standing close to the door, where a sudden onslaught at a station may disturb the performance.
Some sleep artists rest their heads on the neighbour’s shoulder. These performances are subject to snide remarks and angry shrugs by the neighbour in question; nevertheless, the performance continues doggedly. The more diffident artists rest their head on briefcases and put up with the discomfort of a curved spine.
Many artists prefer to sit down and rest their heads on the wall near the train window, to enjoy the evening breeze. Undesirable smells from outside may interrupt the proceedings (especially as the train comes towards Sewri) - but the performance of the artist is intense and unperturbed. Talking of smells, sometimes even the most seasoned artist is disturbed when his nose is almost shoved into his neighbour’s head, and the smell of ‘rai ka telh’ (mustard oil) wafts right into the recesses of his nostrils.
But the true master of the art of sleeping is the Mumbai drunkard who considers all the streets of Mumbai as his bedroom. One sees the drunkard lying down in the most awkward positions in absolute bliss. More sophisticated than the drunkard, is the garden sleeper. These artists perform at parks, with a handkerchief on their face, snoring away to glory. The garden sleeper thoroughly enjoys his siesta amidst the sounds of city traffic.
This writer is yet to spot anyone performing this great and versatile art while walking on the road, but would not be surprised if it happened. Until then, he hopes you’ll join him in keeping a sharp eye out for more sleeping virtuosos in Mumbai. Enjoy the performance.
(This article was published in Hindustan Times - HT Cafe 05 April 2008)