Dreaming in Black and White


Dreamworld is generally believed to be a very colorful world, but my dreams have always been, right from childhood to the latter half of the seventies now, totally in black and white, never in color. Objects of common adulation like the Rainbow or the Rangoli are alien to my dreamscape. With such a sort of color blindness in dreams, I have to be content with a dull monochrome in everything I see in my sleep.

I do not know whether mine is an exception to the general rule or the general rule itself. I had read about people having colorful dreams but had no opportunity so far to interact with anyone who had them. If seeing flowers and fruits, or the greenery around, in their vibrant, natural colors, or looking at the flamboyantly attired passerby, especially of the female variety, is pleasing to the  wakeful eyes, it goes without saying how more pleasing and sweeter it will be  to see them in a Sweet Dream.

But dreams are not always sweet, an adjective often tagged by people while wishing their friends a good night’s sleep -- ‘Sweet Dreams.’ They can be sour, unpleasant, illogical and  scary to the core, sometimes making one scream out so loud as to bring down the house.

So dreams are of two kinds, sweet dreams and sour dreams, the latter going by the more popular name of Nightmares. And what has a mare got to do with our sweet slumber?  It is not only a female horse that is called a mare. An evil spirit, female of course, also went by that same name in the Old English days. The belief then was that the mare, a frightening goblin, would sit atop a sleeping person and suffocate him or her. To give added stress to the spirit’s engagement during sleep, the word Night was prefixed to mare  by some thoughtful wordsmiths of the past.

The earliest dream I had, which I still remember vividly, was a nightmare. I was in the primary class and in the dream I found myself playing with friends in the school compound. There was quite a lot of running about, but then I  was suddenly transported to the far end of the school building, in front of a door which I presumed to be the door of my classroom. I opened it casually and was stunned. It was the sanctum sanctorum of a temple, with a flower bedecked deity in the midst of a multitude of lighted oil lamps. What was odd was that there was a live serpent coiled in front of the deity and, to my mind, both appeared to be having their ‘nivedyam,’ a time, I knew, when the deities would not like to be disturbed. Abject fear gripped me and I ran for my life, knowing that the serpent was after me. I ran around the school building several times, the serpent in tow, realizing to my horror that all my friends had vanished and I was all alone in the whole compound. Then, as I was about to reach the school gate the serpent made a long, quick, graceful lurch and bit me, bit me hard, on the thigh.

I screamed a feeble scream, not loud enough to bring down the house, but loud enough to wake up my mother. She tried to pacify me saying it was just a bad dream, but herself was worried when I told her that I still felt intense pain in the thigh. That prompted her to go to a temple for the next three days to propitiate the serpent god in my name.

I do not know how our dear old Freud would have interpreted this dream if I had an opportunity to bring it to his attention. Perhaps he would have conjured up his usual suspects, an Oedipus emerging from the shadows of the sanctum sanctorum or an Electra hiding behind a column. Such an illogical interpretation to an illogical thing as a bad dream of a child would  certainly be rubbish, to say the least.

I think the basic flaw in the interpretation of dreams, as I understand it,  is that it distinguishes the thought processes of the subconscious mind during sleep as something unique, or something put in water-tight compartments. To me there is no difference between sleep and wakefulness in the matter of dreams. We dream during sleep as we dream during the wakeful stage. Every moment of our wakefulness, our mind is at work, whether we are reading or writing or talking or driving or doing something else. A thousand odd images, mostly unrelated to each other, flicker through the mind every millisecond. We may be having an animated chat with our beloved, but even while doing so images of another man, another woman, another child, another place or another occasion may pass through the mind, without of course affecting the line of conversation. The same thing may happen during sleep as well, as the mind is never at rest, it works during all the 24 hours of the day, seven days a week.

Dreams that flicker though the mind during sleep are mostly forgotten. It is very rarely that a dream is remembered for long, as in the case of my childhood nightmare. All other dreams simply vanish the moment we come out of sleep. Perhaps we may have a very good recollection of it at that waking moment, but goes off our mind in another ten or fifteen minutes. However much we try   that dream can never be recollected.

The same is the case with our wakeful stage. Can anyone remember what all images that flickered through the mind just five minutes ago when reading a book, or talking over the mobile or watching television or chatting with wife? Most probably one will not be able to remember anything at all.

If this is the general case during our wakeful stage, why make a fuss about interpreting the wayward thoughts of a sleeping mind?

Dreams have generated a series of popular epithets like Dreamgirl, Dream Home, Dream Project, Dreamland etc. But none of them, except perhaps Dreamgirl, have anything to do with the dreams during sleep. Dream Project, for instance, is a cherished, long aspired project, meticulously worked out and impeccably executed. It cannot be a project that came to one haphazardly in a dream.

There is an immensely popular song Dream, Dream, Dream by Everly Brothers, a hit of the late 1960s, which is a beautiful expression of what dreams could do for a lovelorn lad:

Dream, Dream, Dream, Dream,
Dream, Dream, Dream, Dream,
When I want you in my arms
When I want you and all your charms,
Whenever I want you, all I have to do is
Dream, dream, dream, dream….

But the lover realizes the futility of such things in a practical sense when he says at one stage:

Only trouble is, gee whiz,
I am dreaming my life away.

Chasing the dream is good, therefore, but to a point only. Beyond that one would be dubbed a silly dreamer.


More by :  P. Ravindran Nayar

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