Shue poro — go to bed. Simple words. Often said. But in these words there is embedded a deep affection that few other words embody.
I am told this often, by many people, given that I have the weirdest sleep cycle I know among my bondhus. I have chosen to operate in two time zones. This is not unusual for many people.
I remember the days of my research, and later practice, with the “outsourcing” industry operating out of Gurgaon and Okhla and how the notion of sleep was completely upended as the labor in India would adjust to the time of the customers in the USA. Americans controlled the sleep cycle of the youngsters in India. With horrendous outcomes. Global capitalism at its ugliest expression without conscience. I had promised myself then that if ever I found myself in a situation where I had to live a similar life, I would seek a balance. My time is as important as their time and this chronological colonialism must be stopped.
Thus I sleep when I can, and when someone says, “shue poro” it indicates to me a level of care that is unmatched. A bondhu recently commented, “Your desire for communal love .. it makes me happy … because it’s a gift .. hoping for reciprocity, without demanding it .. and that’s the nature of friendship.. it’s a territory of uncertainty and hope.” And that is exactly what the words, “go to bed” mean. It is the reciprocity, it is the answer to what the bondhu says, “tor modhyye ekta bhalobashar akulata aache (Google says: “There is a longing for love in him”). Simple words, “shue poro,” but they carry an emotion, that might not even have been meant, but to the listener it demonstrates a level of care that runs deep.
When I hear my wife tell our son, “go to bed” what is expressed is not just a command to rest, but the embodiment of all the love, and the accompanying anxieties, that those who are parents will perhaps recognize. Sleep. Indeed sleep. The temporary reprieve from things that keep you awake. Sleep is the one moment when you realize that you do not realize.
I can sleep anywhere. I remember sleeping on stacks of paper that used to be available on the platforms of Brajrajnagar station — the city with the paper mill on the Calcutta-Bombay line, sleeping stretched out in the middle seats of a wide-body aircraft on the 16 hour flight from Newark to Delhi, sleeping on a bench in Curzon Park because I was asked by a senior in college to secure tickets to a movie at New Empire, sleeping on several station platforms all across India, several airport benches all across the World and the magical sleep on the long couch in the living room after a comfortable lunch on a summer Sunday afternoon when the temperature was 110 (43) outside.
These were all sleeps of convenience. As we all know, at some point the body succumbs and you can sleep standing up, your head resting on your shoulders, as you hang on to the and rails of the crowded number 45 bus on the way back from school, or the drowsiness that leads you to find sleep in the cemetery on highway 52 by the Ohio river. But the real sleep is one that is preceded by the words, “shue poro (go to bed)” because at that moment the tiredness in your body has been acknowledged by a bondhu. A person who cares, a person who knows that at that moment conversations are halted because you need sleep. That is a sleep not of convenience but a sleep that comes with a peace of knowing that someone wants you to sleep because someone cares. It is the sleep a child gets when the mother says, “go to bed” or a friend says, “shue poro” because the care is built into those words. At the time when you feel, as the Beatles say, “I am so tired,” what you really need to hear is “shue poro (go to bed).”