“The Dream that Doesn’t Let Me Sleep,” by Nazia Kamali
Dream is not that which you see while sleeping it is something that does not let you sleep. – Dr. Abdul Kalam
Coming from a family of doctors, the only dream that I was allowed to nurture was one of becoming a doctor or – maybe, alternatively – that of being an engineer or civil servant. But the problem with those dreams was they made me drowsy instead of waking me up from slumber. The only thing that made me lose sleep at night was the ending of a story I had left incomplete, or the line that didn’t quite fit right, or a character that didn’t come out on paper as well as it was etched in my mind.
While writing was considered to be a reputable hobby, it was “acceptable” only as a sidekick and not as the protagonist in the story of my life. Selection of any essay for publication in a magazine of repute was supposed to pad my resume and not become its highlight. The only career options I felt allowed to pursue were ones reliable enough to provide a job as soon as the pursuit of a degree ended. Being a writer entailed uncertainty and, hence, the profession was off-limits.
However, in my case, writing fueled me. Anything that happened in my vicinity found place in my journal. It was/is my go-to thing. Feeling happy? Write about it. Feeling sad? Write about that, too. Feeling confused? Well, you know the drill. In fact, the guilt that I felt for disappointing my parents (by not wanting to pursue the professions they wanted me to) was also poured out of my heart into papers through written words. Time and again I was told to dream big, to dream of achieving the unachievable; but my sights were on something else: the thing that gave me happiness, that made me forget about the rest of the world.
In order to please my father, I tried studying for the civil service examination. He was over the moon when I told him about my decision. I joined an excellent coaching academy and bought all the books available in the market. Ordinarily, when I put in that much effort into anything, I end up achieving the target; but not this time. My repeated attempts to pass the preliminary round reeked of failure. I am still trying to find a way to let Dad know that I am not cut out to be a civil servant. I live in the world of dreams where words float around my grey matter, nudging me to create characters and situations.
As a caring parent, Dad wants me to have a secure job so that I have a roof over my head and rest peacefully at night; but the more I think about it, the more I have realized that I do not want to sleep cozily in a bed. Rather, I want to stay awake till wee hours of morning, pondering whether a certain comma was misplaced or whether the combination of adjective and adverb that I used to beautify a sentence was right. All I want is to write till my fingers feel numb and my eyelids refuse to stay open. It is the only thing that takes my breath away.
Nazia Kamali is a reader, writer, and teacher who volunteers with organizations working for women’s empowerment. Her writings have been published online with Indus Women Writing, The Whorticulturalist, and in anthologies by Cape Comorin Publisher, Other Worldly Women Press, and PCC Inscape Magazine. She lives in Uttarakhand, India.