Monday, 9 January 2012

Sleepless in Mumbai

In the words of British trip-hop and trance band, Faithless: “I can’t get no sleep.” Night after night I lay in bed listening to what sounds like dogs ripping each other’s ears off and also, to my husband’s incessant,  monotone snoring. The pile-driver on the adjacent building site is more pleasing to my ear.
It’s the same night after night. I go to bed in all good faith at 11ish, read my book and turn the light off. I lay on my back; I lay on my front, then on each side and then on my back again, open my eyes and stare at the ceiling as the orchestra of dogs tune up for the night’s performance.
Ten minutes later the steady breathing next to me reaches a crescendo; there is a brief pause, and then an almighty, earth-shattering snort. From this moment onwards the snoring comes thick and fast and is quite relentless. Sometimes there are accompanying funny, little whistling sounds. Other times it is as though he is possessed by the devil, so deep and guttural are the noises. There have been times, when, had he opened his eyes, he might have seen, by the light of the moon through the crack in the curtains, me, hovering above his face with my pillow, just deliberating. If I didn’t love him so much in the day time, God knows I would have smothered him by now.
I believe the snoring is actually absorbed into the mattress and amplified ten-fold by every spring and fibre. It is at this stage, when the bed is actually vibrating with the snoring,  that I usually pick up my pillow and cotton blanky and schlep into the lounge where I make up my trampy little makeshift bed on the long bit of the corner sofa. The only other bedroom in the flat is occupied by my daughter who talks as much in the night as she does in the day, yattering away in the darkness about Justin Beiber and shoes. I can’t go in there.
But, sadly,  it is a case of ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’ as the lounge comes with its own set of unique problems. The crack of light under the front door illuminates the room and the constant ding-donging of the lifts drives me nuts. Who is travelling up and down in the lifts at three in the morning? I guess it’s the same people who take their kids out to play in the playground beneath my window at midnight and later.
So I lay on the sofa, blinded by the light, and listen to the dogs and the lifts until I finally drift off into a fretful, shallow sleep.
The incidence of mosquitoes is naturally much higher in the lounge as they gain entry from all sorts of nooks and crevices, not to mention the half-inch crack below the door. (Anyone know where to buy one of those sausage-dog style draught excluders?)  The buzzing in my ear will start literally seconds after I fall asleep. There is no point in getting up and trying to swat it with my special electrified mossie-killing racket because we both know it will disappear the minute the light goes on and carefully camouflage itself in the fold of the curtain, waiting patiently for me to go back to sleep so it can return to my ear hole.
Delirious with fatigue by this time, I have to choose between a rock and a hard place. I pad back to the bedroom, clutching my pillow and banging into the coffee table as I go. By now the snoring is bouncing off the walls and I lay there thinking about how hard my husband works, the early morning flights and the long hours he keeps and then I prod him sharply in the ribs and hiss: “stop snoring.” Like an obedient child, he stops immediately, only to start up again a minute later.
When it gets to four o’clock and I am still awake, I feel I am within my rights to order him up and out into the lounge. Let’s face it, he could sleep on a washing line and the mossies never bother with him.
It is not just at home that I have difficulty sleeping. On long haul flights, I walk up and down the aisle deeply resentful of everybody who is asleep. How can people sleep on a plane?  I manage to drink six or seven half pint plastic cups of white wine and still remain sober and wide-awake while my husband and daughter are crashed out either side of me. No rest for the wicked, eh?
I do have a guilty secret, however. Shall I tell you? Every Tuesday and Thursday, when my presence is not required at eight am yoga, I get up, make the sandwiches and pack the family off to school and work at 7.45. Then I slink back into bed with the Mumbai Mirror and a cup of tea. Sometimes I don’t wake up until one pm and that’s only because the coconut man rings the bell. Lucy goes about her house-keeping business very quietly on those mornings and we never speak of it.
On Saturday evening we went to see Sherlock Holmes at the cinema and apparently I was asleep shortly after the National Anthem. I slept sitting up and through noisy scenes of charging horses and gunfire.  I am a conundrum to myself!
Apparently, I missed a great movie.