Sunday, February 08, 2015

Karachi Diary: Sleeplessness & solitude

I can't remember when I got a good night's sleep this last week. It certainly wasn't on the day I landed but in the days since, though I've had an opportunity or two, I can't say I've caught up on lost sleep.

For one thing, rising early is a hard habit to break. I'm up with the azaan no matter when I go to bed. Unfamiliar beds, the light all wrong, snoring neighbours heard loud and clear through remarkably thin walls - many things make a good night's sleep impossible.

But mostly it's the reluctance to wind up the hanging out. 

Yesterday, over different conversations, I said and heard others say how important solitude is to them as writers, how they are essentially people who are not just happy to be alone but actively prefer it.

And yet, at lit fests and in the days here before this one started, there's scarcely an hour in the day where we've been free to just stare out at the water, read, make desultory notes in the journals I'm sure we've carried with us assiduously everywhere, even moving it from bag to bag where necessary.

At the festival, there are more crowds than at Goa or Hyderabad during the festival and it's rather scary to be amongst so many people. I scurried away to my room between sessions and was immensely grateful for being able to do so. 

I intended to spend last night alone in my room. I managed to get two hours to myself. This is not a complaint.  

When I'm home, I go for days without speaking to another person except my mother. My phone is always on silent and if there were a way to mute construction sounds, where I live would be the perfect place.

But when I travel, I don't expect to be left alone and I am happy to pack in all the conversations I don't usually have, into those three or four days when I see other people. 

And I don't know how other writers do it but I'm generally socially awkward so making conversation is hard in the company of people who tend naturally to silence. Asking questions is one way in but by themselves they don't constitute a conversation. I've been finding it interesting to watch how we all construct our public personhood via the few anecdotes we recycle for public consumption, how little or how much we give away even in broad, potentially fraught subjects such as politics.

I tell myself there's a time for solitude and that time is not now. I'm trying to be an accurate recording device but without my batteries recharged with enough sleep, it's hard.

1 comment:

Subashini said...

Loving your Karachi diary so much.

And the pictures are glorious--there's a stillness to them that reminds me of your poems and I think the graininess only enhances that.