03 Sep 2016 17:31 IST

Dreams and the fantastical

How many lives do we lead, anyway?

I had the strangest dream last night. I was in Goa, visiting a friend, let’s call her Darly. Suddenly her husband transmogrified into a colleague here in Chennai (let’s call him Jiju). The family had a dog and a house with a rocky garden. We were in the garden when we saw in the distance a lion approaching, looking rather like it had escaped from the sets of The Chronicles of Narnia. It approached steadily, at first a bushy dot in the distance, then grew bigger and bigger until it was there.

“Hurry, get inside the house,” said Jiju. So we all rushed in, the dog Tippy yapping away. We ran into the bedroom and locked the door. The lion advanced inexorably towards the house. Jiju assured us we were safe. Suddenly he saw it ascending the stairs inside the house. “Oh my god, it’s managed to come inside!” he screamed, and hustled his family outdoors again. Only I was left straggling inside. They had forgotten about me.

There was a huge explosive sound, like cloth being slapped on stone. There was a time that homes had huge, flat slabs of granite in the backyard on which washed clothes were slammed to get the dirt literally flying out. That’s the sound that echoed, followed by loud wailing. The lion had killed Tippy, sweet little yippy Tippy.

I emerged slowly from the bedroom and made my way around the house to visit someone who lived next door, sharing a wall. After some pleasantries and a visit into town in the company of the neighbour, we left his jeep where we had got off and walked back home the short way. And then, I returned to Darly’s house unlatching a common door. The family was mourning the loss of Tippy.

In a while, the neighbour arrived to express his condolences. It was Ajay Devgn, striking a typical Ajay Devgn pose, declaiming his sympathy. Darly, Jiju and others turned away their faces. They clearly didn’t care for their neighbour. Then I walked into the house. At the front desk sat Darly’s mother-in-law bearing a striking resemblance to Angela, the redoubtable housekeeper in the TV series Grand Hotel. She was howling at the top of her voice. I put my arm around her, to comfort her. She didn’t stop howling.

Then I left. Once outside, the garden was replaced by buildings and a courtyard. It seemed like a mix of the hostel at MICA, Ahmedabad, and a scene from 3 Idiots. There, on a cement platform, was raised a little red cloth in memory of yippy Tippy, and students had lined up to pay their respects. I waved to Tippy’s red blood cloth and left. It was all so real I had to get up and go to the bathroom. And then my dream ended.

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been able to recall a dream in such detail and it feels great. Don’t ask me what it means. All I know is I often have a mighty busy night life and there are days I wake up to my day life feeling physically exhausted. It takes another quick dreamless nap to shake that off. How do you explain that? Sleep’s supposed to refresh you, rejuvenate you, right?

Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and a whole host of others give us pointers to what dreams may mean or what certain images or sensations in dreams may symbolise. Clearly, something in your day life impacts your night life. The friend I call Darly and the colleague I call Jiju are real people and have absolutely no connection with each other. Tippy doesn’t exist as Tippy but my street is serenaded by yippy Tippies all night, every night. Oh, except last night: I didn’t hear a single bark or yap or howl or yowl or whimper… except in the dream. I’ve always thought the lion in Narnia looked so false and stuffed animally; in real life they appear pretty lean and wimpy, but that’s not going to fool me into going anyway near them. Tigers are prettier, anyway. As for Angela, well, I confess I’ve been binge-watching Grand Hotel.

Basically, the gist of all this rambling is that each of the elements that make up this fantastical story-dream has a basis in reality, even if it is reality once, twice, thrice removed.

In a Huffington Post article, dream worker Suzanne Bergmann says, “Dreams are a universal language, creating often elaborate images out of emotional concepts… There’s no single definitive meaning for symbols and images in dreams. But just as a smile usually means that someone is happy, these dream images are so common, that they do have a generally accepted meaning.”

One of the commonest dreams that we have is of being chased. Some dream themes include flying, falling, immobility, nudity… Different schools of thought offer less or more, and this or that explanation.

Naysayers believe dreams are electrical brain impulses working on random thoughts or images. They also say that we make up these stories after we wake up so that we feel they mean something. Maybe the best ideas come in dreams, and someone, in the near or distant future, will harness this resource for self-generation of electricity?

However, and please take this seriously, if you’re dreaming you’re taking a wee/a pee, get right out of bed and make for the bathroom. Trust me, it’s not a dream.

On another note…

What would you call the following poem, from the Sanskrit oral tradition?

“Condemn me, O Creator,

to any punishment you see fit

for all the sins I’ve committed.

But the hell of reading poetry

to those who have no taste for it --

not that, not that!”



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