Sunday, October 10, 2010



We consciously wish, work, and slog for some, achieve them and celebrate. And start on a new dream. Again.

The real interesting ones are those that happen we are asleep.

Actually, there is a particular sleep situation when these happen. Its not what you have when you are in deep sleep, totally relaxed in body, when your body is kind of in a low energy "standby" mode. It seems dreams happen when you are in what is called REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.

While this is is no way related to fluttering your eyelashes, turns out that in REM sleep, certain parts of your brain are actively consolidating memories in a fairly active energy situation; there are no impulses falling on your retina (eyes) because your eyes are closed, but the visual pathways linking the eyes to the brain are all alight in activity, and we call them dreams.

When I was a child, my grandmother downstairs, would gather all us cousins together after dinner, and tell us stories from the scriptures. I would often visualize everything happening in our house as it existed then, in the sense, that if Lord Krishna was about to leave for someplace , I would imagine it happening at our house gate. If his mother Yashoda asked him to open his mouth, I would imagine him sitting at the dining table and doing "Aaaa".

All things that happened at the court of King Dashrath were visualized by me as happening in the big living room, with the King sitting in my late grandfather's armchair. Folks arriving in chariots and stuff always entered through the garage gate.

And so my early childhood dreams essentially had a huge storybook quality to them

Slowly, these days passed by, and life was more school and sports oriented. At some point in the 9th grade, I came home one day with high fever, which stayed that way for 4 days, despite our family doctor's medicines, several concerned visits, several tepid water spongings, and ice strips on the forehead, and a hugely worried mother , as I appeared to be in my own world and hot and unresponsive.

My late mother used to tell the story of how one morning they decided along with our family doctor, to finally consult a specialist if I didn't come out of it that morning.

About an hour later, I seemed to be muttering something, shaking my head a lot, I broke into a sweat, and opened my eyes, saying "I'm saved ! I'm saved !".

Despite the relief at my awakening, my mother wanted to know what was going on, and it seems I told them of a dream , which was continuously happening. There were two hills on two sides of a valley. The entire valley floor was populated by crocodiles and alligators wandering about in a "lunch" mode. For some reason I was doing continuous desperate jumps from one hill top to the other, across the valley.

I must have been at it for a longish period and gotten complacent. Because during one such jump, I missed out and started descending into the valley, heart in my mouth, terrified, and shaking my head wordlessly screaming NO, NO! .....I could see the greedy alligators below , maybe licking their lips , and suddenly, something held me in a big hand, and stopped the fall. The entire shock must have been too much for the fever, because that's the point at which I opened my eyes, saying"I'm saved! I'm saved !".

There was a time when it was considered very brave to listen to ghost stories at night. Or you were considered "not part of the group". Certain cousins were very good at the gory detailing, and making strange sounds when it was "lights out" at night. I think I was so stressed out with getting truly frightened and pretending in the group that I was not, that it all came alive in my dreams. It wasn't unknown for me to cry out and shout for help in my dreams, and the whole bunch of kids lying on mattresses in the living room, had a wonderful time.

I soon got over this. And the dreams became more ordinary, yet sometimes repetitive.

There is a dream that I have got often over the years, where its dark, and I am, along with a whole bunch of folks in different cars, trying to drive up a mountain or hill, where we are supposed to stay . For some reason we keep going round and round the mountain, with hairpin bends and stuff, the folks with me keep commenting how they think we are on the wrong road (not that there is a choice :-)), and when we finally reach a totally unimpressive place at the top, the fellows there say, everything is full, and I am welcome to put up in the lobby. Its not clear what happens after this in the dream, but driving takes up most of the time. The interesting thing is, that I have had this dream many times.

While random dangerous and exciting things figured in my dreams in my younger days, these days things are different.

I wondered why.

You see, we have a thing called the hippocampus in our brain, that controls our emotions. Lest we live our lives solely based on the hippocampic behaviour, we also have a thing called a frontal cortex in our brain, that acts as a sort of decent control thing , by applying reason to things. And so ,if you are really mad at someone and feel (hippocampically) like whacking them one, you don't do that, and think the smart thing to do is move away from there, keep your mouth shut, or simply concentrate on food or something.

I think something similar happens to dreams. I haven't had an alarming sensational dream in a long time. Occasionally , one has dreamt about an intruder entering the house, and watched him stealthily approach your cupboard or something. I've worried in my dreams about where my children were then. Often this has resulted in some shouts of warning from me (in my dream), except that the shouts are real, and I am told in no uncertain terms to snap out of the dream , stop disturbing everyone, and let people sleep .

These days, one dreams less, because, I guess , one sleeps less. Sleep is spread out more widely, and sometimes a short nap in the afternoon happens. I have even managed to dream there.

This week, I dreamt during one such nap, that we were going somewhere, I was driving, and there was this older lady around 85-86 sitting next to me in the front. Suddenly we entered a tunnel , and the road went up a steep incline like 60 degrees. I had entered the tunnel at great speed, and I kept pressing the accelerator for dear life, till I couldn't push further, I could sense gravity acting, but the car kept proceeding in the dark, and the lady next to me kept saying loud invocations to God, when all of a sudden, there was a semicircle of light as the tunnel emerged onto a plateau, and I stopped out of sheer fright, trying to catch a breath. Suddenly a short official of some sort comes rushing by, taps on the window, and tells me, that this entire tunnel had been replaced by a short-cut diversion , and I should have used that. Stupid me.

I don't know what to make of this, though it simply emphasizes my belief that we in India need to get our signage correct. Otherwise, I continue climbing those steep tunnels in the dark, I guess....

But there has been an exception, when I thought I had a dream that sent me a real message.

Ten years ago, my mother, then in her eighties, returned from a family trip to the US to attend a grandson's graduation. She stayed with me for a some days in Mumbai before planning to leave for her home in Pune. Which she never did. On her 3rd day with us, she suddenly collapsed in the evening, had to be hospitalized in the ICCU, and after two days of putting up a brave fight, finally gave in. She never did reach her own house this time.

My father soon insisted on returning to his house despite our entreaties to stay on, and I made several trips over the next several months, getting things organized for someone who insisted on staying alone, in the ancestral house. My frequency of visits soon reduced, and on one of my last visits, I had a very strange dream.

The house is on the first floor, reachable by an old style wide staircase, which has railings to help elderly folks climb. In my dream, I was rushing down one morning, on some errand for my father, when I saw someone sitting on the last step. The entire staircase was lit in a bright white light , which was not normally the case, even though there were windows on a landing in between. I reached the bottom of the stairs and found my mother sitting there.

"Why are you sitting here ? Come up ! " I said

"You know, I tried and tried. But I cannot go beyond this step. My legs just don't move. So I just decided to sit and rest hoping someone would come down. And you did !" she said.

" Oh! Come with me, I'll take you home . " I said, and I lifted her in both my arms. She was totally light, almost weightless. I went up the stairs and opened the door, and pushed it with my foot. When I wanted to put my mother down, there was "NOTHING" in my arms.

I was her only child in India , was still coming to terms with what had happened in Mumbai , and worrying about my father when he decided to return to Pune.

Maybe she was, too. And so she returned , with my help, to her own house.

Don't know whether the hippocampus or the frontal cortex had anything to do with this dream.

But my mother certainly did.

And she has never appeared in a dream for me after that.


  1. Fascinating blog post! Yeah, many times dreams and reality overlap, merge and become something that makes sense to us.

  2. If a person a dreamer; S/he is creative for sure.
    - I say
    Think about it

  3. Very touching.
    I recently lost my grand mother, who I was very very close to. When I was at her place for the last rites, ever room, the chairs where she used to sit, the slow steps she used to take, all those used to be a part of my dreams.

    And for a person who rarely remember any dreams, remembering all that on getting up, gave a very heavy heart.

    I do not know what I am trying to say, maybe nothing, but those dreams kind of helped me feel her presence around.

  4. I was reminded of my FB status a few days back...dreams are totally weird sometimes...most of the times, I dont remember them, when I wake up...and if I do, I break my head on their significance.... ;)

    Anyway, I used to get solutions to work-related problems, while I was I used to love my dreams. :)

    Loved this post...I dream a lot....but remember only a few. :)

  5. That's something about dreams. I was a somniloquent (that's what you call people who speak in their sleep, right?). I've even walked in my sleep (subject for a post!). When I wake up in the morning, I don't recollect a thing - dream or otherwise!

  6. Your last dream about your mother is right out of a movie...horror ones.
    I donno why but whenever I am suffering from anemia or low haemoglobin I have this sensation of falling off a very high cliff or a flight of steps in my sleep. Mom says it's due to weakness however I'm not sure whether this is a legitimate reason. There was a time when I used to get scary dreams every other a big anaconda like snake crossing my path or a burglar entering our house. Strangely enough the helpless that I experienced in a dream when I couldn't do anything to prevent the burglar from felt so real.

    Anyway Ugich ji if you like my entry for the Share Life contest on Indiblogger, can you help by casting a vote?
    Vote only if you like the post though. (pardon the advertisement beneath the comment but this is the only way I can get people to read my post)
    Thanks! :-)

  7. My latest dream is to be able to write like you !

  8. That was fascinating. I have heard of dreams like you had of your mother, and it is fascinating and scary at the same time..

  9. Lovely post. On the last morning of our recent holiday in Istanbul, I dreamt that once we'd returned home to Kolkata, I had to go to Delhi to pick up my parents. (Both of them have passed away this year).
    As a child I had this recurrent dream of a lion chasing me, ready to attack and devour me. It was always a relief to wake up.

  10. I like reading this post. Strange I seldom dream or maybe I dream and do not remember them!!
    Do not know if that is good or bad.
    My youngest daughter use to share her dreams.
    So vivid and in such detail she would share :)
    Am I normal?

  11. Hi Suranga, Your post brought back a memory that I will never forget.

    I dream a lot, but like most people I very rarely remember what I have dreamed, except for one 'very clear' dream I had several months ago. I dreamed of being with my sister who had died a year before that. We were at a seaside, we walked and talked and there was a dog beside us, not unusual as all of our family love dogs and Dorien always had one .

    I remember her telling me that everything would be alright.

    I hadn't a clue what she was talking about apart from the fact that I was missing her so badly - felt that I had lost a limb! (We had spent 3 days a week together for years and I had taxi'd her most days to and from the hospital for the last 6 weeks of her life.

    A week later my sister in law, my youngest brother's wife, who had been suffering from Depression for over 20 years had committed suicide - she had been quite close to both Dorien and myself.

    The weird thing was that on the day of her funeral I was in complete control of my feelings (unheard of - usually I have to fight to stop myself bubbling away into my handkerchief). At the serice at the crematorium I found that I was seated next to my sister in law's twin sister and actually was able to support her.

    Dorien's words in my dream were a great comfort and as well as feeling that Dorien was now OK I was able to help support Pauline's sister.

    Some dream huh ??

  12. Wow. That was incredible. I've had dreams that have come true, but they're a tiny proportion of my other very vivid dreams!!

  13. Very interesting! There are many theories about dreams. Who can say for sure- perhaps loved ones do come back in our dreams.....

  14. Thanks for leading me to this post. I believe in my dreams too. They are so comforting at times. As if an answer has come to your questioning mind.