Girish Joshi

Sleeping With Eyes Open

3 min read
A Tragic Attempt at Comedy

A million voices may hymn the same rhyme but you must keep your tune. 

Every year in my school’s calendar we had a dedicated Science Week. Exhibitions, Book Stalls, Awareness Programs, Competitions, Events, Panel Discussions were held. There was a segment on the last day where ingenuine science questions were discussed, kind of questions you would not find answers to easily in books. I think they called it The Question Hour. I totally made that name up.

A decorated box was kept outside the staff room a week prior. Anyone could submit their question, the best ones would be taken up for the discussion.

See I was a high school junior back then majoring in science, I was least interested. Since I had already fallen into the trap and I wasn’t particularly as one would call it, a happy customer. We all have devil’s advocates in our lives, in my school, he appeared in form of my physics teacher. The subject I despised most. He made it compulsory for the entire class to come up with a thought-provoking question. That day’s attendance depended on a creased paper scribbled with ink screaming science.

And so we all took out a notebook, tore a page, and with pens twisted in hair or chewed by teeth started thinking of one such question. In one of his lectures a few months back this thought occurred to me, only if I could sleep with my eyes open? What a bliss it would be. So as a form of mockery, the comedian inside me wrote on the paper, ‘Can humans sleep with eyes open?‘.

When I showed it to my friends all of them laughed, as I expected. It takes a different kind of creativity to come up with such questions, I think I had a flare back then. There was one thing I was sure of that this question would never be taken up for the discussion. With a grin, I slipped the folded paper into the box.

Everyone was in the auditorium, the stage was set with a dais occupied by the chief guest, school principal, and subject experts. My physics teacher was about to host the highly awaited event, The Question Hour.

A question was being read and the panel discussing on it trying to convince the asker. Everyone certainly had a follow-up question. At times the microphone was directed towards the audience to answer. And really some of the questions were really ingenuine. The ones I remember fondly were, ‘Why do some people sleepwalk?‘ and ‘Why do me have moles?‘. There were some questions on space and quantum mechanics too but they never caught my fancy, thanks to my physics teacher. While this went on for a while, I kept talking to my friends unaware of my own prospects.

Girish Joshi has asked ‘Can humans sleep with eyes open?‘ announced the physics teacher, ‘Certainly, he’s not enjoying my lectures‘. There was uninterrupted sheer laughter. Everyone was roaring as if they have heard the joke of the century. I felt awesome. I knew I have a career in comedy.

The principal started saying, ‘There is no need to laugh, it’s an intelligent question indeed. The best one till now I must say.‘ I thought the principal was just extending the joke but then the panel started answering my question with at most sincerity. I still felt it was a practical joke on me, trying to control the laughs myself I pretended as if I was invested in them. They said there is a disease in which the patient has to sleep with their eyes open. It’s possible. The answer to that question did not matter to me that day. What struck me at the core was the fact, a million voices may hymn the same rhyme but you must keep your tune.

That question was awarded the best question award. You see that was when I decided that prospects look better in engineering than comedy.

Alas, I could never learn how to sleep with my eyes open.

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