Sleep

In the summer season, at midday, every person and animal is forced to slow to a stop. People pass out wherever they are.

If you yourself are not asleep, and go out walking, it looks as though a silent and windless hurricane has passed.  The streets are bare.  Tailors are stretched out on the floors of their shops, like they’ve been knocked out by gangsters. Rickshaw men switch from their bicycle seats to the back benches and prop their legs up to sleep. Paanwallas sit, leaning against the chickenwire that holds their carts together. Anyone who has anything to lean on is leaning on it. People wave fans lazily, or just wait in a stupor.

At school too, things slow right down. After eating lunch, Ashaji and her daughter Rishi go into their shared bedroom and lie down on their twin beds. They don’t fight it. The hostel girls collapse wherever they are: in classrooms, or on a bench in the school’s small garden. You can find them asleep on top of their workbooks, or passed out mid-card game. Those who are in the hostel bedroom wander around until some unplanned, unannounced time, when each seems to slip to the floor. The girls’ thin limbs fall over one another, and like a pile of puppies, they sleep.

 

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