Which, in Marathi, means prayers offered to the Goddess of Sleep.
And whether you are a theist, an agnostic or an atheist, you will agree whole-heartedly. If you’re a Punekar, that is.
It does not matter if you are a pensioner at home, or a go getting manager at work. A practising lawyer, or an eminent doctor. A housewife or a shopowner. In our little town, it is the law. If it’s the afternoon, you should be asleep.
There is a deep and deathly silence all over the city post-lunch. The quiet lanes go even quieter, and even the otherwise busy thoroughfares are a little less crowded. Phones are taken off the hook (really, I assure you), and Do Not Disturb notices are hung on doors (again, ditto). The curtains are drawn, the fans are switched on and shawls draped over resolutely prone bodies.
And for as long as your system demands (this varies from half an hour to a fully stretched, no holds barred two hours), you will lie comatose in stately repose. Children may not disturb you, salesmen will not tinkle your doorbell. Woe betide the fool who dares to traipse in on your sacred privacy.
For never is a Puneri more aroused with righteous wrath than the time when his trip to Slumberland is cut short. Seriously, I mean it. A Punekar deprived of his afternoon siesta is a frightful sight to behold.
In the building in which we used to stay, there resided a cantankerous old grouch. And when I cantankerous, I mean it. Every Punekar is granted the right to be a bit of an old so-and-so. These rights are increased with age, and we expect our geriatric department to be mean old cusses. That’s how a Punekar is supposed to be.
But even by these lenient standards, our oldie was a bit of a stretch. He would yell at us whenever we played downstairs. He would threaten to complain about us to our parents, he would threaten to write letters to the society, and he would confiscate our ball if we ever hit it into his balcony. Regular old fuss pot, the kind that every building has.
One day, at an early stage in the sumer holidays, there occurred an altercation. I don’t remember exactly what caused it, but battle lines were drawn between the Children and the Old Man.
Our plan of battle was simple, ingenious and cruel. Downright cruel. We shifted our cricket pitch to a neighbouring building. Every afternoon, one of us would creep up to his door, ring his doorbell and run away. He resorted to turning off the doorbell, of course, and we upped the ante by banging on his door.
For two months, all through April and June, we did this. Every single day, without fail.
It worked. In the sense that he was insanely angry about it, and we got our revenge.
But today, when each member of that happy-go-lucky gang suffers the pangs of having to stay awake in offices the world over, it doesn’t evoke the same happy memories as it did earlier.
We could have removed the air from his car tyres, we could have cut his TV cable, we could have tried to break his window panes. But we should have let him sleep in the afternoon.
He’d agree, I think. Gladly.