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About Amit Varma

Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. He worked in journalism for over a decade, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007. His bestselling novel, My Friend Sancho, was published in 2009. He is best known for his blog, India Uncut. His current project is a non-fiction book about the lack of personal and economic freedoms in post-Independence India.

Bastiat Prize 2007 Winner

Recent entries

Two Villains

This is the 18th installment of Rhyme and Reason, my weekly set of limericks for the Sunday Times of India…

How This Nobel Has Redefined Literature

This piece was published today in the Times of India. It’s rare that when a prize is given to someone,…

To Defeat Pakistan’s Generals, Let’s Embrace Their Artists

This is a guest column published today in the Sunday Times of India edit page. I am a hawk when…

The Girl From Haryana

A slightly shorter version of this feature on Sakshi Malik was published in the October 2016 issue of Elle India.…

Hillary and Donald

This is the 17th installment of Rhyme and Reason, my weekly set of limericks for the Sunday Times of India…

17 June, 2008

A Night Owl’s Lament

Balzac may have worked through the night, “fueled by innumerable cups of black coffee,” but night owls are frowned upon at large. As Anne Fadiman wrote in “At Large and At Small”:

The owl’s reputation may be beyond salvation. Who gets up early? Farmers, bakers, doctors. Who stays up late? Muggers, streetwalkers, cat burglars. It’s assumed that if you’re sneaking around after midnight, you must have something to hide. Night is the time of goblins, ghouls, vampires, zombies, witches, warlocks, demons, wraiths, fiends, banshees, poltergeists, werefolk, bogeymen, and things that go bump. (It is also the time of fairies and angels, but, like many comforting things, they are all too easily crowded out of the imagination. The nightmare trumps the pleasant dream.) Night, like winter, is a metaphor for death: one does not say “the dead of morning” or “the dead of spring.” In a strange and tenebrous book called “Night” (which every lark should be forced to read, preferably by moonlight), the British cynic A Alvarez (an owl) points out, glumly, that Christ is known as the Light of the World and Satan as the Prince of Darkness. With such a powerful pro-lark tradition arrayed against us, must we owls be forever condemned to the infernal regions—which, despite their inextinguishable flames, are always described as dark?

I was reminded of Fadiman’s essay when I read Deepa Ranganathan’s piece in Slate, “Can a Night Owl Become a Morning Person?” In my case, the answer would be a resolute no. If I need to be awake at seven in the morning, I stay up, for that is easier than waking up at that undemonly hour, and I find that my best work, such as it pitifully is, is done at night. Like now, when it’s almost 2 am.

So what am I doing writing this post? Bye.

Posted by Amit Varma in Arts and entertainment | Excerpts | Personal

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