Yawn, but don’t sleep

“Watching people sleep!”

Now, that was an embarrassing answer to give someone who asked, “So what’s your hobby, son?”

Especially in the early 1970s, when the popular answers were:




“Pen Pals.”

As an activity-challenged kid, I knew that.

Which is why, I became creatively inclined to lie.

“Quizzing,” I had once said.

Only to be asked, “Good! Can you name a mammal that lays eggs?”

(That’s the difference between kids and adults. Kids ask questions only if they don’t know the answers. Adults ask questions only if they know the answers, and are sure the other doesn’t.)

“Collecting rare, old coins,” I had said the next time, to avoid being quizzed.

But when someone insisted on seeing my collection, I had to lie again.

“Sorry uncle, it’s gone for album making!”

The worst thing about such lies was that people switched to these as birthday gifts from then on.

Oh, how I hated an album of old, rusty coins instead of a gleaming red toy car!

All this, because I was too embarrassed to admit that my real hobby was- well, watching people sleep.

Not that all kids always did purposeful things.

Considering that little Bill Gates had, perhaps, simply stared at windows, Jim Morrison at doors, Steve Jobs at apples and Steven Spielberg at jaws, little Ramesh Rabindranath wasn’t too bad.

After all, sleep looked like a mystery that hadn’t been fully unravelled yet.

There was something about the way people snored, the way their torsos heaved and their lips quivered, in sleep.

“Sleeping like a baby!” seemed a description that begged deeper investigation.

After wasting many productive hours, I came to the conclusion that sleep is nothing but the human soul in a state of absolute innocence.

“Every soul becomes pure and pristine in slumber. Only in slumber.” I derived.

If true, this finding had the potential to become a world-changing one.

All jails and reform homes could become sleeping spas, where culprits could simply be made to sleep to goodness.

Sounded great. But like fate, was flawed.

The first time I sensed this was when I was 12 and my brother 8.

We had had a fight and I had sworn revenge.

After he had slept, I decided to creep up to his desk and destroy a few of his favourite toys. But when I saw him sleep- mouth open, drooling, helpless and surrendered, I changed my mind.

How can you trick someone who sleeps in total faith that no wrong will happen to his world?

I forgave him.

But the next morning, I felt cheated when he told me how he saw a wonderful dream wherein he beat me to pulp and broke all my toys.

I realised dreams can be vicious, and that it was possible for a person to be more evil in sleep than when awake.

My hobby suddenly lost all its sheen.

But not my belief.

I was certain that there would be a moment- however small, insignificant and fleeting- when even the worst soul in the world would be in a state of absolute goodness.

If it wasn’t sleep, then it must be something else. And it had to be discovered. For the greater good of the world.

Bill Gates founded Microsoft, Jim Morrison formed Doors, Steve Jobs started Apple and Spielberg made Jaws.

I discovered the Yawn.

Yes, the Yaaawwwwn.

Rediscovered it.

Unlike sleep, yawning wasn’t corrupted by dreams. Or even thoughts, for it is difficult to think or do anything while yawning.

“The yawn is the purest state of the human mind!” I yelled for posterity, in a second attempt to have my life’s Eureka moment recorded. 

I had discovered the magic of this precursor to sleep by sheer accident.

I used to sell Life Insurance at that time. As all salesmen know, understanding the body language of the customer is everything.

When the customer smiles too much, it means he is struggling to be polite, but might not succeed for long.

When he widens his eyes, it means he is not interested, only pretending to be interested.

When he nods too much, it means he is happily agreeing with you because he has just bought one the previous day.

And yes, when he yawns, it means he is bored.

Or so the world thought.

Until I discovered how child-like the human mind can be while yawning.

When a man yawns, his mask falls, his defenses are lowered, poise crumbles, best-profile contorts, and he stands disarmed and vulnerable.

Most of my sales were based on the exploitation of this moment, summed up as a mantra thus:

“If you make them yawn, even the toughest would relent.”

Ask any army man. He’d tell you that sleep deprivation is one of the most popular techniques to make captured enemies spill secrets.

People yawn secrets out.

That’s the thing about yawns.

It has the ability to make even the gravest issues worthless. It makes our point of view meaningless, and the fight for it seem silly.

That’s because the yawn brings a universal perspective to everything, making our immediate attitude, thoughts and deeds seem petty in the larger scheme of things.

It is difficult to be cruel, envious and negative when you yawn.

Try it.

Think about it.

Do you think a yawning man can ever rape?


Or back stab?

Have you ever seen a terrorist yawn?


Yawning is an act of self-realisation, of actualisation.

If only more people yawned more often and longer, every soul would become a noble one. And this world would be such a good place to live in.

At least until people go to sleep and begin to dream those terrible dreams.


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