There was a time not too long ago, when parents hadn’t heard of a thing called body clock. They had, however, heard that it is good for children to be woken up before dawn and urged to study- duly bathed and smelling roses- by four am, since that is when one learned (read learn by rote) the best. And that’s what parents conscientiously did, with scant regard for their own or their hapless progeny’s comfort.
Grim is not the word for it. To say nothing of righteous.
Thankfully, my parent weren’t frightfully fond of the entire wake up at the crack of dawn routine. They loved their sleep, particularly my mother. She could NOT be woken up for anything short of a fire in the house. She told me this in so many words when I was five years old; with considerable emphasis, I may add.
Since fires perversely left our household alone, no one ever woke my mother up until she was good and ready to wake up herself. Needless to say, my father and I walked on eggs while she was catching up on her winks quota.
It was merely by chance that I discovered my inclination to study through the night. I was all of fourteen, I remember distinctly. With a semi- final exam the next day, I decided to flip through my notes once again before going to sleep. This flip over once again was a recently acquired trait. Peer pressure.
Post dinner, therefore, found me flipping through the book halfheartedly. One thing led to another and the only thing I remember was that I began drawing the digestive system over and over. I also muddled through a couple of dazed rounds at a particular distillation process diagram. The next thing I knew was birds chirping away like nobody’s business. I looked up to find the sun hitched neatly upon the horizon, grinning.
I was thrilled to the core. I felt prouder than Edmund Hilary could have felt after conquering the Everest. I had studied all night!
The rest, as they say, is history.
From that day on, I quite made a habit of studying from eight to eight– pm to am- on Saturday nights only. Around twelve-ish I would go foraging into the kitchen for something to munch on. Around three-ish I would brew myself a cup of tea and another at five-ish. These would carry me over smoothly until eight. I’d eat my breakfast then and go to sleep. I’d wake up in five hours, fresh as a daisy, eager to tackle Doordarshan (sic) or a book, for the rest of the day.
This Saturday routine freed up my entire week to drive the virtuous neighborhood aunties distractedly up the wall. I would be playing the fool all the week through, instigating their gullible pink toed missies from their lessons. My fairly decent academic scores (no, not brilliant, alas!) added considerably to their justifiable wrath. I can confidently say that no other kid in the neighborhood earned the ire of grown- ups as consistently as yours truly did. True story.
My mother was peeved with my nocturnal activities. She did not approve of the going ONs at all. According to her, the best way to study was to put a book under your pillow and slip away into the dreamless, absorbing the stuff through a combined effect of osmosis and conduction. Anything more strenuous than that made her suspicious. It had worked perfectly well for her, so why wouldn’t it work for me? When she saw I wasn’t ready to give up my perverse propensity for pointless plugging, she was more than a little nettled.
Owl, bat and witch were some of the commonest names she bestowed upon my disobedient- but unrepentant- head those days. The nights I wasn’t studying- which was all nights except Saturday- I’d fall asleep latest by ten o’clock. More often it was closer to nine than ten. This gave me plenty of time to sleep until I would wake up in exactly eight hours. On all mornings except Sunday, my time to shine coordinated perfectly with that of the Sun. I woke up early only to immerse myself into endless daydreams- by far the best possible use of that time.
I rarely need to go into the eight to eight routine nowadays. But when there are knotty challenges to unravel, I like to sit working on them through the night. There is something in the hushed silence of the night that aids thinking. As the world around me sleeps, it seems as if the entire quiver of new ideas are freed up for my exclusive use. It is something like having a pool all to yourself at night when you could barely get your foot in during daytime.
All other days, I like to be up before dawn. I sleep early (because I CANNOT do without my eight hours) and am up early. As for the proverb you are thinking of right now, I assure you, it is pure humbug. There is not an iota of truth in it. I invite you to stop smirking this instant!
There is something about the pre- dawn hush that sends tingles down to my toes. The stillness permeates into me, creating a pool of stillness with me. The songs of the many birds merge together to form a symphony that soothes my heart. The dawn of the day takes me to the dawn of my life when nothing was impossible and the most audacious was within reach. How about you? Are you an Early bird, or a night owl?
What is your time to shine the brightest?