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     Volume 4 Issue 39 | March 25, 2005 |

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Slice of Life

Sleepless in

Richa Jha

Last night I dreamt of snakes. Not one, not two, but hundreds of them floating around in the same swimming pool I've gone for a dip. This was not the first time that these creatures have made strange visitations in my sleep (and I know it will not be the last). Usually, I try and not think too much about it once up and walking. But these days, thanks to the huge bulk I am lugging around everywhere on person, my sleep pattern can by no stretch of imagination be called 'regular', so you'll find me shambling like a zombie every single day of the week. In such a situation, the least I can pray for is pleasant thoughts of flowers and pastries and of shops full of clothes that make Sumo wrestlers look like FTV models to appear in the subconscious during the two hours of sleep that I do manage. But what am I rewarded with, instead? Nightmares of squishly, scaly reptiles that prefer to share my bed, wardrobe and even my toilet. Soon when the next barrage of unrelenting kicks from inside wake me up, try as I might to put myself to sleep again, I lie tossing in bed wondering if seeing myself being caressed by those slithery creatures wasn't better.

The worst thing about pleasant dreams is that you forget most of it the moment you are up. No matter how hard you try, what's erased off the memory bank is valuable data (worthy enough of any 'original' movie screen play) lost forever. It helps to force your partner out of his sleep and narrate every vividly recaptured string of events. He may curse you, but he'll not forget the cause of his curtailed sleep. But unfortunately, unpleasant dreams are made of sturdier stuff. Try to get those disturbing images out of your mind, they stay put, and how. The blood and the gore, the tears, the tragedy, or any other form of gruesome rottenness will nudge your senses when you are brushing your teeth, or waiting at the traffic signal or trying to take a snooze while in office. The nightmare ruined your night anyway, but even the day doesn't get spared.

Most of my dreams involving snakes are neither gory nor scary. Just plain slimy. Mostly, they appear without any context, so I refuse to buy the theory that our dreams are a graphic replaying of that day's happenings. I don't see any connection between coming back from a daawat, and then dreaming of snakes that night! Snakes don't bite me in my dreams (they haven't bitten me otherwise either, but that's not saying much: I am yet to have a face-to-face with them during my waking hours). But they hiss and slither and at times wrap themselves around my body, which is not acceptable to me under any circumstance. Not if I was paid a million dollars to wear a harmless one around as a necklace and walk down the red carpet to accept my Oscars. Not even if by the end of the nightmare, they were to transform into charming princes all trying to woo me at the same time.

Some interpreter of dreams once told my father, who too has these friendly visitations every now and then, that seeing reptiles in one's dreams augers well. Very often the snake can be symbolic of a message coming to you from a higher plane. I wouldn't mind a mailbox choking with such cross-planar messages; if only something could be done about the medium. Some dream analysts see the snake as a symbol of transformation and healing. Look at the way the ancient Greeks attributed healing powers to the snake, a belief preserved in the 'Caduceus', the snake-entwined staff symbolising the medical profession the world over. At least I can understand the doctors' universal use of the symbol: first freak the patient by showing him images of this creepy creature, and then cure him.

There's more: because snakes shed their skin, they have long been a symbol of death and rebirth, metamorphosis and transition. But in my case, the only transition I foresee is moving to a status of being the potty-cleaner of two from that of one. As for my father, who was advised a pilgrimage to any Greek Aesclepion (a temple that specialises in the interpretation of dreams) to assess the degree of probable damage such recurring nightmares could do to him, he ignored it, and is happier for it.

I have died in my dreams, I have been killed in my dreams, have even killed others at times, but let me tell you, these are less distressing than dreaming of snakes. Let the animal rights activists sue me for being so vocal in voicing my discomfort, but I don't think I'd ever like a snake for a pet. The day I saw a beautiful amber pendant (with a tiny fossilised snake, what else) hanging in a display window in Gulshan, I came home and threw up.

But to give me credit where it is due, I have not allowed any of my prejudice to rub off on my child. For a sneak preview of the impartial impression he has of these reptiles, just listen to him spinning yarns about his sandwich picnics with 'snaky-flaky' pals licking the last drops of mango juice off the same sipper! Or, as he and his father sat discussing at the breakfast table this morning, talking about the most delicious snake fillets they would want to try out someday when they travel to China. This, when I am still reeling under the trauma of last night's nightmare!


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