Wednesday, July 22, 2009


It was 1979 and there was to be a total solar eclipse visible in Eastern India. I was at that time in Ranchi where the eclipse was about 90+ percent or so. All I had to do to watch the total eclipse was to go to Konark. But, a big but, the company I worked for was in doldrums and I had not received my salary for nearly three months. I had no money to undertake the journey.

I, however, had great fun. I had a cook, Munna, who knew no English. I was a recent immigrant to the "North" and when I had landed in Ranchi in December 1978, that is, a few months before the eclipse, I knew not a single word of spoken Hindi. I had however picked up enough Hindi in the intervening month and a half to lecture Munna about the phenomenon of eclipses. With a candle, a lemon and an orange I explained the phenomenon to him and convinced him about the harmlessness of the eclipses. So much so that on that great day there were only two people in the whole of Ranchi who witnessed the eclipse. Munna and yours truly.

However, Munna was not able to enjoy the whole thing because he decided to visit a doctor and family during the eclipse. He had earlier worked for the doctor and still maintained contact with the family. After seeing part of the eclipse, he strode out to the doctor's house with his new found confidence, all alone in the deserted streets of Ranchi. When he knocked on the door, someone from inside called out. "Who is there?". Munna announced himself. A door opened and a disembodied hand pulled him inside and the door was closed. He was soundly chastised for having ventured out during the eclipse and that was the end of his watching the eclipse.

This is how, I have been about the superstitions surrounding eclipses for a major part of my 54+ years. I have watched all eclipses that I could, eaten during that time and have lived to tell the tale, so to say.

However my confidence in the harmlessness of eclipses has been shaken in recent times.

Come eclipse and normally rational, intelligent and educated people go nuts. Cause and effect. Eclipses drive people crazy. Eclipses are harmful. QED! They tell you that there are negative vibrations (of what please!?) - a favourite word of the pseudo scientific. Food can go bad easily because of the reduced light - have these people forgotten the phenomenon of nights?

Now with the advent of TV, instead of rationality spreading, irrationality is spreading at the time of Eclipses. Today there was a Dr. something or the other Kapur, a lady, on one of the channels, who claimed to be an opthamologist
and she was mouthing such utter nonsense and unmitigated rubbish about the harmful Infra red rays and negative vibrations and what not that my blood pressure rose and my peptic ulcer acted up and I had to reach for my antacid and meditate to calm myself.

I tried to call the channel, which helpfully gave a couple of phone numbers, to ask them to throw that self styled expert out of the window - hoping that their studio was in a high enough place. But no, the lines were perpetually busy. Before I could get my call through, the show ended. Now I wonder if the eclipse affected my ability get the line? What?

Do you still have any doubts that eclipses are harmful? If you have, the eclipse has affected your irrationality and there is no hope for you......

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