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Nothing to beat a refreshing siesta

English poet Leigh Hunt said, ‘Stolen kisses, like stolen reading, are always the sweetest.’ English humorist P.G. Wodehouse added naps to it and made a comprehensive mantra : “Stolen kisses and afternoon naps, like stolen reading, are always the sweetest and most refreshing.”

So very true. Who doesn’t love to steal forty winks after lunch? It indeed is one of the best things that can happen to a person. Afternoon nap or siesta (originally a Spanish word) came from the Latin sexta , the sixth hour of the day. Bengalis love their siesta as much as they love mustard hilsa, Rabindra Sangeet, and rasogulla. A real Bengali would love to have bhaat-ghoom , as it’s said in Bangla ( bhaat : rice/ ghoom : sleep).

In Pune, many residents even have a board outside their residences with a clear instruction: “Not to be disturbed between 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.” It's their time to have a siesta! Even the workaholic Japanese take a customary snooze after the midday meal to rejuvenate themselves. The Chinese love their snooze as much as they love their noodles.

Among monks

Buddhist monks at the pagodas in Myanmar sleep for 15 minutes after a lunch and then they write a page from the Dhammapitak. Sri Lankan monks, who practise Thervad Buddhism, sleep and meditate after having a light lunch. They believe the Buddha also had a snooze to give rest to his mind and body and called it Nivarnik in Pali. The word arnik in Sanskrit is a synonym for nidra (sleep) and niv means day in Pali. In fact, Spaniards believe that la costumbre de la siesta empezo en Asia (the siesta custom began in Asia).

Break at the hottest

The justification for the sieste ( Faire la sieste in French) may also be to avoid working during the hottest time of the day. This is usual in the parts of France with a hot climate, like the Caribbean islands of La Guadeloupe or La Martinique or the South American French department of Guyane, yes, close to Guyana and Suriname (the former Dutch Guyana), between Brazil and Venezuela.

Many schools make this sieste mandatory so the kids do not have to work when the temperature in the classroom is close to 30 or 35 ºC. Arabs love their siesta as the hot climate of the Arab Peninsula induces midday drowsiness.

Indian preference

The Greek explorer and traveller Megasthenes, who came to India more than two millennia ago, wrote in his book Indica that the people of India loved to sleep during day-time, especially after taking the midday meals.

He further said that these people are like the Greeks, who also loved a siesta! Greeks even had a goddess, who they believed induced afternoon drowsiness! In 8 Reasons Why Rome Fell , Evan Andrews subtly ascribed the Romans’ collective obsession with afternoon naps to their decline! Romans seldom had naps after their heavy lunch; they slept like logs for hours.

The great German philosopher and misanthrope Arthur Schopenhauer, who hardly slept at night, would love to have his siestas and at that time, his pet dog and crow would also have the forty winks!

Siesta has health benefits as well. In Ayurveda it’s known as Vaamkukshi and is recommended to those who suffer from chronic constipation, indigestion and arthritis. But it mustn’t exceed 30 minutes.

One must draw a line between sleep and siesta to get the health benefits. The medico, writer and poet A.J. Cronin wrote: “Siesta should never be so deep as to turn into sleep.”

The Prophet advised people to have a siesta. The Koran advises Qailullah (Arabic for snooze). Asadullah Khan Ghalib was so fond of the siesta that he wrote on the door to his house: Shab-bedari ki khatir, so leta hoon din ke waqt (Because of the habit of not sleeping at night, I often sleep during day time).

In other words, it was an insinuation that he shouldn’t be disturbed during daytime. Urdu poet Daagh Dehalvi compared a pleasurable wink or siesta to accidentally hold a damsel’s tender and chiseled finger, Ek halki-si jhapki, jyon haath aayee kisi naazneen ki ungli.. .

So hold the hand of a siesta and walk a few steps with it every day.

sumitmaclean@hotmail.com


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Printable version | May 27, 2022 11:32:55 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/nothing-to-beat-a-refreshing-siesta/article24842689.ece