The Festival of the Early Morning Light Bulbs

I stood in the doorway of the terribly slow Kushinagar Express which hails from Gorakhpur, as it pulled out of Kalyan station in the and chugged (nice word na?) into the dead of the night, I could not but help notice the number of lights burning  in the apartments close to the railway station and probably the railway quarters as well.

It took me back many years, to early 2003 when I guess the concept of having to stretch yourself to study was dawning on us. So during final exams staying up until 12 am, 1 am had been discovered. Of course, Aai would not approve and urge that it’s always best to wake up early in the morning. “I’ll wake you up!”. (Somehow mothers never find it difficult to wake up early in the morning). So you’re shaken out of bed, finally wake up after the customary “5 minutes, 5 minutes..please!”, groggily brushing your teeth and stumbling to the table in the dark by which time a cup of milk is readily pushed under your nose. Attempts to read while you’re constantly being prodded everytime you nod off. And then of course, going half an hour early to the school to get someone to teach you something. These were pre- mobile phone days in these parts of the woods (and by that I don’t mean mobile phones were not commonplace, it means that even many ‘elite’ people did not have them!). The first time I joined a coaching class for SSC, I still remember that dashing‘ Prof. who carried a cellphone and how everytime he whipped it out, he immediately got a few ‘ohh’s’. And if you had a colour display wala cell phone, phir toh instant respect – for you must have ‘made it large’.

Anyways, I digress. What I did remember that night in the train was this lovely article that I’d read then in those days by Malavika Sangghvi (Yes, she of the SoBo Page 3 columns and I’m sure there was no double ‘g’ then, but anyways) titled ‘The Festival of the Early Morning Light Bulbs’. It spoke about the exam seasons – that part of February which leads into March, the long long month of March and the early part of April – and how you could wake up early morning and find out in which apartment students lived based on the lights early in the morning. It was a really nice piece which unfortunately doesn’t seem to be archived on the Internet (those were her Bombay Times days, when TOI was the ONLY newspaper in town).

There seemed to be so many lights switched on though! At 3 30 in the night. Someone up to study very early? Or studying late into the night? Someone with the early morning train to catch, who needs to be downtown by 6 am? Or the early morning flight? The housewife with dabbas to make for the day? Some yuppie who’s stayed up to watch a football game 5000 miles away in Europe? Someone suffering from insomnia and unable to sleep? Someone with a deadline for tomorrow hunched over a laptop and an excel spreadsheet? Or just someone enjoying his holidays and watching a movie late into the night? 😛

Waking up early in the morning is such an ‘event’. Especially when it’s still darkness outside. There’s always a reason, a story behind it. It’s an experience which isn’t commonplace or ordinary.  It seems quite fascinating to think about all those possible reasons. Damn you XL for making being up at all times of the day so routine 😦

The romance of early mornings is thoda bahaut toh lost due to the MBA. But I still believe that har ek jalte hue diye ke peeche ek kahaani hai…


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