Dibyangshu-Sarkar

INDIA, GANGASAGAR : A Hindu devotee dressed as Hindu Godess Kali begs for alms at the Gangasagar Island around 150 km south of Kolkata on January 12, 2016.  More than 500,000 Hindu pilgrims and sadhus - holy men - are expected to gather at the confluence of the River Ganges and the Bay of Bengal during the Gangasagar Mela to take a ‘holy dip’ in the ocean on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, a holy day of the Hindu calendar considered to be of great religious significance in Hindu mythology. AFP PHOTO/DIBYANGSHU SARKAR 

It’s 11 at night in a busy commercial section of Chennai, a city of nearly 5 million in Southern India. All around me people are sleeping in the open air. Men are curled up in the back of rickshaw wagons. Entire families camp out in shelters made of cardboard and tarp. A woman in a blue sari smiles and waves for me to come over.

She tells me her name is Anjalai — like some in this part of India, she goes by only one name — and says she’s got the most basic setup: a woven blue mat laid out on a patch of dirt by the side of the street.

I ask her, “What’s it like to sleep in this spot?”

Her smile fades.

“It’s difficult,” says Anjalai. “There’s so much noise from vehicles coming through.”

The traffic isn’t the half of it. People have tapped the power lines to hook up televisions right on the street — the blare echoes late into the night. Drunks wander by, shouting incoherently. Loudest of all: the dogs.

This scene — masses of people sleeping by the side of a noisy road — is pretty typical across some of India’s biggest cities. In fact you see it in low-income countries around the world.

A Bad Night’s Sleep Might Do More Harm Than You Think

Photo: Dibyangshu Sarkar /AFP/Getty Images

INDIA, KOLKATA : Indian Hindu devotees collect rice as offerings distributed by the temple authority on the occasion of the ‘Annakut’ festival at the Radha Madhav Temple in Kolkata on November 12, 2015.   People in large numbers gather at the temple and collect the rice offerings in the belief that the rice will keep them in good condition and never in life will they face poverty or scarcity of food.    AFP PHOTO/  Dibyangshu SARKAR                        

INDIA: A tea seller waits for customers as Hindu devotees gather to take a dip in holy waters, at the Gangasagar Island around 150 Km south of Kolkata on January 14, 2016.
More than 500,000 Hindu pilgrims and Sadhus - holy men - are expected to gather at the confluence of the River Ganges and the Bay of Bengal during the Gangasagar Mela to take a ‘holy dip’ in the ocean on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, a holy day of the Hindu calendar, which has a great religious significance in Hindu mythology.  AFP / DIBYANGSHU SARKAR                        

INDIA, KOLKATA : Indian tribal dancers dressed in costume pose as they prepare to perform a traditional ‘tiger dance’ on the occasion of International Tiger Day in Kolkata on July 29, 2015. International Tiger Day which came into being at the Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit in 2010, is held annualy on July 29, to give worldwide attention to the reservation of tigers and it is both an awareness day as a celebration.  AFP PHOTO/ Dibyangshu SARKAR                        

INDIA, KOLKATA : Indian social activists and children release ribbons and balloons during an event to mark World AIDS Day in Kolkata on December 1, 2014. According to the UN AIDS programme, India had the third-largest number of people living with HIV in the world at the end of 2013 and it accounts for more than half of all AIDS-related deaths in the Asia-Pacific region. In 2012, 140,000 people died in India because of AIDS. The Indian government has been providing free antiretroviral drugs for HIV treatment since 2004, but only 50 percent of those eligible for the treatment were getting it in 2012, according to a report by the World Health Organisation. AFP PHOTO/Dibyangshu SARKAR

January 15, 2012. An Indian Sadhu (Hindu holy man) takes a dip in the sea at Gangasagar, about 155 kms south of Kolkata. Some four hundred thousand Hindu pilgrims gathered at the Gangasagar Mela (Fair) to take a dip in the ocean at the confluence of the River Ganges and the Bay of Bengal, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, a holy day of the Hindu calendar considered to be of great religious significance in Hindu mythology. | Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images

INDIA, KOLKATA : An Indian rickshaw-puller transports goods along a road in heavy rain in Kolkata on August 5, 2104. Weather officials have said that the momentum picked up by the southwest monsoon in July is likely to continue in August with normal rainfall expected next month. AFP PHOTO/Dibyangshu Sarkar

INDIA, KOLKATA : Members of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) dance as they wait to participate in a full dress rehearsal for the upcoming Republic Day parade, in Kolkata on January 24, 2016. French soldiers will march down Rajpath on Republic Day along with Indian troops in the presence of President Francois Hollande, who is the chief guest for India’s upcoming 67th Republic Day, to be celebrated on January 26. AFP PHOTO/DIBYANGSHU SARKAR / AFP / DIBYANGSHU SARKAR