January 3rd, 2013
I rarely suffer from jetlag when I go back to India. However, for the last 2 days here in the US, I have been severely jetlagged. On day 1, I fell asleep at noon and woke up at midnight, after 12 straight hours. When I woke up, I seriously thought that I was dead, since I never ever remember getting sleeping uninterrupted for half a day. On day 2, I tried keeping myself awake for a while, went to work, did some grocery, and fell asleep by 7 pm. I woke up exactly at midnight and have been up ever since. On day 1, I did not even have the energy to do grocery, and on day 2, I had no energy to cook. This is surprising, given I faced no such problems in India. I landed in Calcutta in the evening, had a heavy dinner, and went to sleep. I woke up at 5 am, and throughout my stay, I kept waking up at 5 am every day, weekdays and weekends. Mine was a sleep regime I would love to emulate in the US. So what went wrong here? Here is my theory- the three basic ingredients that keep us happy and kicking.
Flying eastward, I was usually in broad daylight most of the time. Whereas when flying westward, I started from Dubai at around midnight, and then saw darkness for 17 hours straight. As I looked at the world map projected on the screen, I realized that the sun chased me almost for the entire duration. Only when I was an hour away from landing in the US did I see some sunshine. Now my body is confused, because whenever I wake up, it is dark outside.
I never had to worry about procuring food in India. Home cooked, nutritious food was always available, and that too, the kind of food I loved. I would have 2 breakfasts everyday (not 2 courses). Since I woke up early, my first breakfast was at 6 am. The second one was when everyone was having their breakfast, around 10 am. I refused to eat anything I ate in the US on purpose. For example, breakfast would never be milk and cereals; it would always be freshly made roti and subzee. I never ate burgers and fries in India, it would always be the food I grew up eating- baingan ka bharta, saag, chicken curry, anything. My body was happy, and so was my mind. I had no issues digesting anything, and despite having my fair share of street food like paani puri and chaat, I never fell ill. But what’s happened here? I barely have the energy to do grocery and cook, and have been mostly living on the peas paranthe mom packed for me, with some fruits and sweets. I can hear my system screaming in pain. Sleep eludes me thus as I struggle to get my eating right.
No matter how much I hate nosy neighbors and pesky people in India, there is something valuable to learn about the socialization culture there. With my roommate gone, I end up not speaking to anyone for hours. It is too late to call anyone by the time I wake up at midnight. So I have been calling my mom and chatting up a lot. Even the routine sounds of the newspaper person outside, the vendors selling fruits and vegetables, the maid chitchatting with you, or the next door neighbor visiting with a bowl full of sweets is missing. People are busy here, period. No one had the time to catch up with you unless it is a weekend,. Even in lab, the guy hugged me and wished me a happy new year and went back to work. The only audible sound was the clicking of the keys as we typed furiously on our respective laptops. And then the adviser came and asked me to respond to a dozen emails, another form of silent communication. Suddenly, my daily life has become so quiet, I long to hear a human voice, even if it that annoying neighbor next door wanting to know why I have put on so much weight or am not moving back to India.
So that is my theory about the reasons why I am having difficulty coping with jet lag in the US and am suffering in silence, in darkness, and on an empty stomach. I think I would do much better sleep wise if I was giving myself good food, lots of sunshine, and lots of opportunities to talk and vent my heart out. And that is why I am awake at 4 in the morning, furiously writing blogs. When I was young and inexperienced, I had no qualms about abusing my body, by skipping meals, depending on caffeine, staying up all night and studying, never working out, and so on. Over the years, I realized the importance of nurturing my body with the right ingredients (not just food) so that I could do well in what I was doing, remain calm, and feel happy and emotionally connected with myself. Ironically, I seemed way in shape then than I am now, although now I put more effort into eating and sleeping right, working out, hiking, reading and doing the right stuff, cleansing the mind and body, and staying out of issues that disturb me. Although I am suffering due to this jetlag, I am more conscious of my suffering than I used to be before. And while people in India smirk and scoff about the ease of my life in the US, I realize the immense challenge and responsibility that is associated with living alone and committing yourself to a healthy lifestyle without the support of family, mom’s love, and home cooked meals that appear miraculously and free of cost on the table. It is almost like magic, only if you believe in magic.
On a different note, here is a picture I took during my trip to Qutub Minar this time.