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I’ve always wondered about dreams. Of their purpose in our daily lives, their significance in the grand scheme of things, even their function as warning signs for upcoming catastrophes. Something tells me I’m not the only one who’s curious. Remember ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’? ‘Final Destination’? Harry Potter’s crazy premonitionary dreams because of his connection to Voldemort? These are obviously over-the-top manisfestations of the possibility of dreams being magical in some way, and I’m not really referring to that. I’m thinking more about those dreams you have of your childhood, or of present issues with your childhood home or school or playgroound as a backdrop. If you’re anything like me, that is.

I routinely dream of current events/issues/stresses in my life set against the backdrop of my childhood home in India. In the dream, I’ll be doing something menial like playing cops and robbers with my my childhood buddies downstairs, when I’m suddenly faced with a situation where my entire family is dressed up and my mom is yelling at me to come upstairs and get dressed so that I can look presentable for the family of a potential arranged marriage proposal coming to ‘see’ me. It doesn’t take a psychic to figure out what’s going on here: I’m ‘of age’ to marry, I’m worrying time is running out and my family may try to set me up with some random person and it’ll suddenly turn into a spinoff of some old Bollywood movie where the girl has to look pretty, bring out the snacks, keep her eyes down, and basically only speak when she’s spoken to. The childhood home backdrop is a recurring theme and probably has been because I still feel like I’m too young to be at this point in my life already (although I’m not, technically). I associate myself with that place because my earliest memories are from there. The core of my being is still rooted in that tiny apartment in India from a hundred years ago.

The hilarious thing? My family isn’t like that at all. I’ve always been given the freedom to choose, to love as I please (as long as he’s not a bum on the street), to take my time with decisions like this, and to basically be the decider of my own future. So then what is the fear factor here? Why am I dreaming to such an extreme? That makes me wonder about the danger of dreaming. What if this dream has instilled an irrational fear of marriage in me now? Irrespective of the fact that my parents would never put me in a situation where I have to dress up like a doll, keep my eyes averted, answer questions about why I don’t have 20/20 vision, what I’ve studied, how much I earn annually, and other nonsense like that, I could develop this ridiculous fear of marriage if I continue to dream like this. So here I am asking the question again. What is the purpose of these dreams?

I also often dream of two close individuals in my life who have passed away within the past 5 years. My maternal grandmother, and my close friend, both of whom passed within months of each other. They are a part of my dreams as though they’re still alive, behaving normally, as though nothing has changed. I don’t remember them ever talking to me but I’ve seen them many times, completely blending in with the other characters in my dream. Now what is the purpose of this? My mind telling me I miss them? Possibly. My mind reminding me one of their birthdays or death anniversaries is coming up? Maybe. My mind making sure I don’t forget them no matter how much time has passed since their death? Could be. But what about other reasons? Paranormal ones? Can dreaming act as a channel between the spirit world and ours? Are they trying to communiate with me and tell me they’re okay wherever they are? Now we could be getting a little far-fetched. I’m a child of science, one who needs evidence and logical truth to explain curious events. However, I won’t completely thwart the schools of thought on parallel dimensions, past lives, spiritual realms, and so on. I’m just asking the questions.

When we’re ‘growing up’ we tend to get those crazy dreams where we’re falling off a cliff or into a hole or off a building. At least that’s the theory I’ve gotten from my mom over the years. “Oh it’s a sign of growing up,” she’d always assure me when I was a kid. Or what about the ones where you’re running away from a monster or a wild animal? I once dreamt a cheetah was chasing me (how I managed to run faster than the fastest land animal in the world I have no idea) and as it pounced, I suddenly saw myself through its eyes, and before I knew it, I was pouncing on myself and landed on something super soft (my bed), waking myself up with a start.

Well this is what I think. I won’t say ‘believe’ yet, because let’s face it, we have no evidence really. Or at least I don’t. But I think there is more to dreams than our understanding of them. Think about the dream interpretation business. There’s dream interpretors and A-Z dream interpretation dictionaries out there, that promise to explain the significance of your nightmares, flashbacks, daydreams, nightdreams, and anything else that falls into the category. Think of cultural objects such as dream-catchers from native American culture, used to ward off nightmares. Think of Kung Fu Panda and when Po’s adoptive dad got ecstatic when he thought his son had dreamt of noodles, signifying that he was ready to ‘take over the business’! Let’s face it. Dreams are viewed as mysterious and sometimes magical, thanks to their tendency to be anything from highly vivid to extremely vague . Cultures throughout the world have their own theories regarding dreams, as do great minds like Freud, with his psychoanalytical theory that dreams are our unconscious thoughts, desires and motivations. Some researchers theorize that a dream is your brain’s attempt to explain external stimuli as you sleep. Others say dreams are just a string of the random thoughts bouncing around in your head while you sleep. Oh, and let’s not forget Disney! “A dream is a wish your heart makes.”

To me, dreams will always be welcome phenomena. Something interesting my imagination conjures up while I slumber so I don’t wake up due to sheer boredom. I will also leave room for the possibility that when I sleep, my brain taps into memories I have probably forgotten and uses them to remind me of my past, consciously think about my present, and prepare for an unpredictable future. It gives me some comfort to think that even as I age and my memories grow fainter on a conscious level, my brain does keep them all in long-term storage, periodically bringing a particular one to light in response to familiar stimuli.