Eating a little longer and sleeping a little later!
Columns, Over A Cup of Evening Tea

Eating a little longer and sleeping a little later!

May 12, 2024

By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD

These days we find that almost all our cities have changed a lot from what they were until just a generation ago, with more and more people taking to congregating and eating late into the nights. But the restrictions and restraints that used to operate on the activities of citizens in public, have continued to remain unchanged over a century, without evolving with the fast-changing times.

While in the past, almost all working people used to work by day and sleep by night, except for factory workers who worked in shifts, these days, a good chunk of our working citizens work round-the-clock, like the latter. This is particularly true of all our software technocrats who while residing within the country, work for firms outside, where the sun rises and sets at times vastly different from the times it does here.

Depending on their needs to keep their lives going by the standards and goals they have set for themselves, while they certainly earn a lot more money, they lose the great boon of being awake by day and sleeping by night, as ordained by their biological clocks. And they do this while their counterparts who work for firms within our own country, work by day and sleep by night, like how normal human beings are meant to work and sleep, while being content to earn a lot less.

It is a strange and also a sad irony of our lives that while almost all of us look at the former with awe and envy too, as the lucky few who have better futures spread out for them, we look upon the latter as the not so lucky ones, who have missed the flights to greater prosperity.

But I feel that this is actually a very lop-sided view, taking into account the fact that to gain something inordinately greater, you have to invariably lose something, inordinately greater. And, while the gains are, an enormously augmented wealth and a life of great opulence for all those who are after it, the downside is a loss of freely available friends and relatives, the free time and tranquillity to enjoy that accumulated wealth, until after the person retires from work and an entire lifetime spent in paying off inordinately long-term mortgages.

If you look at it, this whole business of keeping our working and resting schedules synced with those of the Western and European world, is a very strange and sad thing too, because while we are forced to lose our sleep and work, those who provide the employment for us, ensure that they get their sleep at the right time, in the right measure, according to their own circadian rhythm. It is only because we need work to keep our lives going and they are the ones who provide it to us, that we have to put up with this inconvenience.

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Considering the fact that those employers are as much in need of our services as we are in need of employment, I wonder why we have not tried any leverage, all these years, to reverse the trend and tell them that we will work according to our time zone while they can make the necessary adjustments to adapt to it. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? I am hoping to see the day this happens and I’m sure it’ll happen very soon only if the Indian government makes up its mind to let the world know that we have arrived too! And, considering where we stand today, shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world, on par with it in every way, it shouldn’t be very difficult.

Bun Uncle On Night Rounds: S.A. Manjunath, who goes around the city from 12 in the midnight to 7 in the morning on his two-wheeler, selling hot cups of tea, coffee and buns. [SOM dated Feb. 16, 2020]

Now coming to the plight of those of our countrymen who work late into the nights, here in our country, for whatever reasons, among the few other inconveniences, they are being forced to put up with, the paramount is the problem of not being able to find eateries and restaurants that remain open throughout the night, where they can quickly grab a morsel whenever they find themselves hungry. The latest that they can do this now, is close to 11 pm or just a wee bit later, when all eateries, restaurants and food carts are forced to wind up their business by government legislation.

I am told that this has been relaxed quite a bit but I have not seen it in practice, at least here in our city. I say this because I regularly see hungry night shift workers and passengers, who alight hungry from trains and buses that arrive in the city at night and who crowd around roadside food carts, being shooed away mercilessly by the patrolling Police personnel who drive around at night, doing their assigned duties. I feel sad to see these hungry people, who have nowhere to go in the middle of the night to sate their hunger or even to find a loaf of bread with a cup of coffee or tea, desperately pleading with the Police to be allowed a few minutes to pick up something to eat!

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And, that is why, I think our authorities should earnestly consider relaxing the presently operating curfew hours and allow all roadside eateries and restaurants, except bars, that are located in commercial places and around our bus and train stations, to continue to peacefully ply their trade throughout the night too.

Needless to say, this relaxation would be worthwhile to mitigate the sufferings of people who feel hungry at night and seek to find some food at odd hours, for whatever reason. Since these food outlets will not be serving liquor, there is no way their customers would be disturbing peace in the neighbourhood, by creating any kind of commotion and nuisance.

And, since these days, our roads are no longer deserted and lonely like in the past, with many people being present at almost all commercial places even late at night, there will be no threat to the safety of any individuals.

If this does not seem very feasible or practicable, the government should at least establish food complexes at convenient locations in all cities, where restaurants are allowed to remain open round-the-clock, on all days, so that people in need of food at odd hours, can head there and have their fill without any difficulty.

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