Mr. Dev Bhardwaj was born on
November 20, 1948 at Village Marar, Tehsil Batala, Dist. Gurdaspur
(Punjab), India. He got his primary education at his village and
higher education at Chandigarh where he is settled since 1966. He has
written several books of short-stories, plays and children books besides
translating some world famous classics into Punjabi.
books : (1) Chouvi Ghantian Da Zehar (short-stories in Punjabi)
(2) Opre Bande (short-stories in Punjabi) (3) Akharbaaz (Play in Punjabi)
(4) Gaunda Punjab-Mele te Teohaar (a book
on Fairs and Festivals of Punjab) -Published by Publication Division,
Government of India, Ministry of I & B New Delhi. (5) Amrita Pritam : A Living Legend. (Ed.)
into Punjabi : Salome (a play by Oscar Wilde), Endgame (a play by
Samuel Becket), Early Joys (a novel by Fedin), I Dare : Kiran Bedi (a
biography), Inside CBI (by Joginder Singh)
activities : Director, India Inter-Continental Cultural
Association (Regd.), Programme Director, Writers Club International,
Editor, Kafla Inter-Continental.
Visited : USA, France, Italy,
Czech & Slovak Republics Bulgaria, Mauritius
Address : # 3437 Sector 46-C, Chandigarh-160047, India.
(Phone : 0172-2605738, Mobile : ++98728-23437 )
Meeting a Sleeping Man
(a short-story) by Dev Bhardwaj
The thought of meeting the sleeping man came to
me when I myself was in deep slumber. Though I was asleep yet it seemed I was
quite awake and was in my full senses. To be awake when asleep, or be woken up
when still asleep, or to sleep when awake... it can happen anytime, anywhere. It
has been happening.. as if it was just a natural thing. It acquires the habit of
being natural - it has been like this - so it goes.
Although I was asleep yet I was toying up with an idea, a scheme, "Why
donít I go and seek out the sleeping man." Someone was saying this... I
was listening. A sleeping man has a strange charm of his own, I could feel this
in the cozy bliss of my sleep.It was due to this reason that I didnít feel any
wonder when the thought to meet the sleeping man dawned on me in my sleep, that
is. Rather I felt that I was just fully awake at that time... I was talking to
myself, about myself, trying to know something.... to say something.
It was not that my desire was so extraordinary or so silly that it could not be
told to anybody... that I was not trying to tell it to anybody... Perhaps
someone may not like it... perhaps it may sound very silly and absurd to
someone... perhaps it may get lost on others.
But at one stage I felt it necessary to tell all about this. I thought ó I
should get a long leave from my office. But perhaps it could not be possible. I
had no hope of getting such a long leave, although I had not taken any kind of
leave for so many years. But who cares for these things in the offices? Who
thinks about this? Just keep on attending the office daily, your presence is
more precious than your work. Just last year I got an appreciation letter. It
was for my regularly attending the office without any leave throughout the year.
When the Superintendent read my application, it looked like he was suddenly
caught in a bind. It appeared that he felt that without me he would be just
"Cause of Leave?" The question was to be naturally put because I had
not mentioned it in the application.
"A personal work."
"You know how much rush of work is there these days?"
"It is always so."
"I advice you still to reconsider."
"I must go."
"I mean which work you are going to do during leave?"
I took back the application and wrote on it : To meet the sleeping man.
"This canít be called as an urgent work?"
"It is not necessary that urgent-sounding work is the only urgent
"But the work should at least look like an urgent work."
"From my angle this is an urgent work."
"I canít help you. Better you take your application to the boss direct
and get your leave sanctioned."
I took the application and put it on my bossís table. He was reading the
newspapers. He is very found of reading and writing. Maybe because of this, he
understands things so easily. I placed the application before him without any
"In case you were to meet a waken-person then it would have been different.
What is this... to meet a sleeping man!" He tried to be logical.
"Canít a sleeping man be met with?" I proceeded with my own
"But, what would you get out of this? What he would be able to tell you, to
give you.... What you would ask from him and what for?"
"It is not necessary that you meet a person to get something from him... or
to ask him for something... or to tell him about something."
"But when lots of people here are walking about wide awake... suffering
states of sleeplessness to earn their living, how come you are so madly after
meeting a sleeping person.? It is just nonsense. I would take this in a
"For example, it seems to me that that man can only belong to a category of
persons who escape from the crude reality of life, just not picking up courage
to face the life."
"But it could also be that he be chasing the life... trying to get even
"In case life was such an easy catch everybody would have gone to
"Every person here gets asleep after all, irrespective of whether he gets a
steady foothold on life or not."
"This is another thing.. but to get asleep while yet awake is
"And be awake while still asleep?"
"Yes, this is the thing which is unique, special... Now talk about this. Is
there anyone like this you know?"
"Yes.... Perhaps no." I murmured in such a feeble voice that hardly
could be picked up by him.
It seemed to me as if my boss had posed this question only for the sake of his
own self or for myself. I knew that he got up everyday at 3 O. clock and got
absorbed in work or got himself yoked to his work. When all around every one is
in the arms of sound sleep, he is up and working. He shakes himself free from
sleep to catch at the meaning of life. I was just about to say that the person
he was talking about is known to me well but I kept mum. I fell silent because I
was never wonder-struck by his nature. Because his this habit is not of the kind
to set you wondering. Man, no matter, may get up at three Oí clock or so, no
one can always remain awake. He must get asleep anyway. It has always been
seeming to me that none can remain awake for ever, similarly none can remain
asleep for ever. Some persons must appear from nowhere to disturb his sleep. The
sleeping man, wherever he is... in his own home, in the jungle, on the surface
of a wave-less sea... he must get his sleep disturbed.
I got up silently after placing the application on bossís table. I had by now
made up my mind to meet the sleeping man.
....I did not have much trouble in locating the sleeping manís house and to
get him in his own house. But this does not mean that I had run into him without
any effort. I had his address but had never been to that city. When I reached
the street where he lived even then I was not able to get his whereabouts in an
"The sleeping man !... We have heard about that..... He must be living
"Have you ever met him?" I would ask every person I met or ran into.
"Many a time the thought of meeting him came but there was no time."
"It is strange residing so near him you canít find time to meet
him?" Most of the people would have left before the question was fully
articulated. Even if somebody was still about listening, his stock-reply would
be, "Just I didnít think it necessary to meet him - you see how many
important things are there to do. One canít do away with the chores of the
awake and you ask to run after a person who is asleep in his den."
"This is the difference, my friend."
"There is no difference... there is difference of oneís views on things
"Take it that way. In case we canít know the awake for some reasons, at
least we should try to understand those who are asleep."
"This is just nonsense. Dear friend, if we get some time spare after
understanding the awake only then one can think of doing that."
So I would stay back all alone...
People were coming and going and a smile was playing on my lips now. Sometime I
was almost on the brink of laughter but the pressure or the flow of laughter was
so intense and sharp that it almost brought tears to my eyes. I would sometime
shade up my eyes or my face with my kerchief. I thought : how strange these
creatures are! Someone was lying asleep in their lane but these people turned
deaf ears to him. Then I thought : perhaps these people think that sleeping is
not a brave act - all go to sleep... all get awake from it. Going to sleep and
getting awake is a human activity.
After this I again thought : If they canít think it necessary and worthwhile
to meet a sleeping man they should at least find time to think about a person
who had come all the way to meet this sleeping man. But here, these persons do
not pay any attention to me also. As if my coming to this place or not coming to
this place does not matter to them. Do they take me like the sleeping man...
perhaps I might also appear to them as asleep. But no... This canít be like
this because I am in my full senses and am not sleeping. Only the thing is that
I am looking for the sleeping man.
I thought.. rather I decided... now onwards I would not enquire anyone about the
sleeping man. I would try to find him on my own. I would be able to identify the
house in which he be sleeping.
But I didnít stay at this decision either for long. Perhaps it is human not to
help asking questions in such a state of mind. But this time I did not select an
aged person, whom we in our parlance, call a wise man for asking about the
sleeping manís house. I, on the other hand, asked a child playing marbles
alone in the corner of the street.
On hearing my question the child put marbles into his pocket and took me towards
the house of the sleeping-man. When the house got quite near, pointing in the
direction of the house, he said, :
"Look at that-sky blue house... But no one ever goes there."
"I donít know. I sometimes come this side to play marbles."
"Then you donít live in this street?"
"No... in the adjoining street." Saying this he again started playing
marbles at that very place.
I had some hesitation to go into the house and tell about my mission. How I
would explain and to whom, the motive of my visit. God knows they even allow me
into the house or not. May be they would not even open the door to me and would
not converse with a total stranger that I was. And I knew that I would not be
able to argue with them much being not known to them before.
At long last I gave a ring. A boy of twelve years or so rushed from the gallery
to the door. The boy not only looked quick-footed but was also clever of speech.
Without asking me - how I was and why I had come there - he said from behind the
"Papa is sleeping.... Come sometime again."
Just as I was about to open my mouth he went back into the house.
I stood there in a state of actual crises. The words of people.. especially of
my boss at once flashed my mind. Had I only come to know that he is sleeping.
This thing I had known even at my home.
I wanted to return although unwillingly because there was no other go except
that. But I could not kill my desire to stay there for a little more time.
Perhaps someone from the house would come out to listen to me... try to
understand me. But even staying there much longer did not draw anyone from that
house. It appeared that none here had any knowledge of my presence at the
house-gate. A strange kind of silence prevailed inside the house as if all
inmates of the house were sleeping. Such an intense calm as if there was no life
I did not want to return, although I had already decided to do so. Actually it
was not possible for me to go without meeting the sleeping man. But was I
actually going to meet him? Even in case I am able to meet him that could not be
called a meeting in the real sense. Meeting is a two-sided act and requires a
dialogue. But here the other party was a sleeping person. I knew that I would
not be able to talk with him because he was sleeping. Still I wanted to meet
Perhaps, with this thought in mind, I had again rung the bell. This time that
boy did not come. In fact no one appeared at the door. So I again rang the bell.
This time, walks to the door, a woman, with a light gait. From out of the
fly-door I judged that she must be the wife of the sleeping man. From her face
it could be fairly judged that like her, her husband would too be of an age
which does not come under the category of the aged. He must be of an age, which
still grows desires. From the make-up of her face and neat clothes she was
wearing, it could be safely presumed that she must have kept the house very
Opening the door, by placing a finger upon her mouth she had forbade me to
speak. Making a gesture with her hand she escorted me into the house.
Light-footed, we entered the bedroom crossing the gallery adjoining the drawing
room. The two children were playing there. Both of them turned their heads to
look at us and then again busied themselves in the Ďsnake and laddersí game.
One of them was who had come earlier to answer the door bell. He gave me a hard
stony look as if he had seen me for the first time. I wondered what kind of
children these were who were playing their game without making any noise. As if
they didnít play a game but were just sitting still or were just asleep.
A section of the drawing room showed up from the common door of the bed room ó
it did not have any light. Windows too were heavily curtained to make the room
still darker. I had no difficulty to guess that the sleeping person would be
nowhere else then in the drawing room. Would he be lying on the sofa, on the diwan
or on the floor.... I stood there figuring out.
"I think you would take some water." The women said in a low voice.
"No. Donít trouble yourself." I said feebly.
"It is not a trouble? You have come from so far."
"From far away? How you could guess it?"
"Because someone only from far off place can come to meet him." She
"None from nearby?" I also tried to smile. But in this whole
conversation it seemed I had remained absent. In-fact my attention was more
drawn towards the drawing room. I wanted to know at once :
"How long he has been sleeping.... and why....? When he didnít wake up
from his sleep the very first day, how it looked to you and how you felt when he
continued to sleep for days and months on end?.... And how do you feel now after
all this long while?"
But the woman at once put her finger on her lips. I got her gesture and fell
silent... completely silent. Then I felt I had put very stereo-typed and
traditional questions. I am not a scribe. I must act wise.
I pointed towards the drawing room. Her face flowered with a new-come smile.
Perhaps she liked the language of gestures more.
"Come... do come... After all you have especially come to meet him."
She flickered a smile.
We, then entered the drawing room light-foot, saw into the semi darkness ó He
was fast asleep in a rest-chair. He had put a large sized hand-kerchief on his
"During day-time he stays in the rest-chair. And in the night on the sofa,
diwan or just the bare floor," the woman explained half in gestures, half
with the help of words, "We donít know at what time he shifts himself
from chair to the sofa.... and from sofa to the diwan... and from diwan to
floor. In fact at that time we are also sleeping." I turned to look at the
sofa, diwan and the floor. Then my eyes stayed back at his sleeping chair.....at
the man sleeping in the chair.... the man who was in the thick of grand sleep
who looked free from the cares of the world.
It was due to our presence or something that it seemed he turned sides in the
chair. The kerchief covering his face too slipped a bit from his face.. his red
lips now turned visible seemed to be smiling in sleep. As if the man was
welcoming my presence. The hair on his head also swayed a bit giving an
impression he would soon get up and embracing me warmly would say :
"Hello!" Then we would both talk much with each other. His wife would
bring tea for us while we would still be busy talking. He will talk more... Then
he will eat something more and drink something more and would then again go to
sleep ó a deep sleep.
I stood up. I mean to say that I walked out from there, as all the time I stayed
there I had been standing. Whatever I had experienced it happened to me while
standing out there. Whatever I had said was too said standing up.
I did not have the guts to stand there any more... I neither had the strength to
talk any more. I was totally broke now.
I was walking back... with a feeling as if I was left behind there or that man
had come with me. I was not awake although I was fully awake. It seemed I had
fallen asleep while I had walked. The sleeping man was walking with me too...
continuously very much like a person who is awake...wide awake. As if I was
sleeping though still fully awake...
Sleep was what was myself now.
(Translated from Punjabi by Gurdev Chauhan