Sleepy musings

Of all the gifts endowed to us by mother Nature, a mysterious phenomenon called ‘sleep’ is undoubtedly the most precious one, without which no living being on this planet would survive. Come to think of it, we humans spend nearly a third of our lives in sleeping! Scientifically speaking, sleep gives our body a chance to recuperate from the strains of the day’s activities enabling us to maintain the levels of our cognitive abilities.

 This is just a physically defined part of this divine phenomenon which in fact has a more profound dimension that is yet to be fathomed. We take it for granted that when it is time for us to hit the bed we automatically fall asleep, but hardly do we realise the latent power that virtually ‘anaesthetises’ us for hours together carrying our very being away from the mundane cares and worries, making us feel fresh and energetic when we wake up. And this blissful magic becomes eternal when our tenure on this planet ends!

William Shakespeare gives a different dimension and a more sublime hue to this soporific phenomenon in his famous play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in which  the heart-broken Romeo, torn apart from his beloved Juliet by their warring families, muses; - “Sleep dwell in thine eyes and peace in thy breast; would I were sleep and peace, so sweet to rest!”  This expression, simple as it might look, seems to have taken the literary world by storm inviting myriad interpretations from celebrated literary critics stretching the significance of the word ‘sleep’ to indicate the play’s tragic end.

Strangely, this divine gift is not accessible to everyone in equal measure-- there are people whom sleep eludes due to various factors requiring sleep-inducing drugs. Paradoxically, there are some fortunate politicians who are gifted with the ability of sleeping like a log notwithstanding the din of loud altercations which usually mark our parliament and Assembly sessions. There are instances of even pilots of civilian passenger aircraft going to sleep in the cockpit during the flight resulting in massive loss of lives, as it happened not long ago at Mangalore airport.

Sleep is life’s elixir and it needs to be scheduled at a proper time and at a proper place. It is indeed amazing that animals, birds and other beings know when and where to rest to protect themselves from the ever-prowling predators while it is we humans, supposed to be gifted with superior intellectual faculties, who fail to exercise this basic caution.

This reminds me of a singularly gruesome incident that happened during my service which haunts me to this day. One of our power boilers had been shut down for annual maintenance during which a good number of contract labour had to be employed for cleaning operations. One of those workers had a tendency to just go to sleep at the briefest available interval even with the hectic activity around, irrespective of the unimaginably inconvenient locations, despite several warnings. At one stage he was deployed to work inside the large air duct meant for supplying hot air at a temperature of 300 degrees Celsius to the boiler fuel burners.

Owing to a technical snag in another unit, this boiler had to be hurriedly boxed up and commissioned. When, a month later, this unit had to be shut down again to complete the pending jobs, a charred skeleton was found in that very duct-- which turned out to be that of the missing worker who had obviously chosen to sleep deep inside the duct to escape the alert gaze of his supervisor!

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