An eclipse of the mind?

NOTE: I am getting a lot of hits on this post from searchers who are trying to determine whether eclipses have any effect on pregnant women and whether or not they (and others) should fast during an eclipse. In case it is not clear from this post and my replies in the comments thread, I DO NOT believe that eclipses are harmful to people unless you look at them with the naked eye, in which case, you can be blinded.

Now to resume the regular service (i.e., the original post)

There was a total eclipse of the sun today, which was seen in many countries across the world. An eclipse (Greek verb: ekleipĂ´, "to vanish") is an astronomical event that occurs when one celestial object moves into the shadow of another. Such a simple explanation, isn't it? We can predict eclipses, not only when they will happen and where they can be viewed, but the precise timings of each phase of the eclipse. A total solar eclipse is something that everyone must experience at least once in thier lifetimes. It is one of the few times when we can actually see the cosmos in action, outside of planetariums, observatories and the National Geographic channel.

But there is another aspect to these occurences. A shadow of fear that falls over the minds of people. It has to be seen to be believed. That people can actually assert that there is a scientific reason for believing that you should throw out all the cooked food in the house because the eclipse (as shadow of the moon passing between the sun and the earth) will somehow contaminate them. Or that pregnant women need to be shielded from eclipses because their children may otherwise be born blind or deformed.

When I was very young (not sure, I think about 5 years old), there was to be a total eclipse of the sun. My mother scared me and told me to lie in bed quietly till it passed. I did as I was told, of course, as she had told me that a "rahskas" would come and gobble up the sun (and who wants to see something like that!)

Then someone gave me a book for my 7th birthday, called "The Sun, the Moon and the Stars". That's when I figured out that the sun is a huge ball of hot gas, and started wondering how would a rakshas every gobble it up. I was a much wiser 12 year old, when I experienced my second total solar eclipse in Indonesia. Our schoolteachers had dark filters for us to view it through and were walking us through the whole eclipse with lots of valuable gems of information. It was an experience I cannot compare with anything else. The moment of totality, when everything goes dark, and then suddenly the corona of the Sun appears around a seemingly black hole, is a moment of gasps and wonder.

That's why, when I hear a senior and respected colleague of mine tell me that he has been fasting all day because there is an eclipse and he wasn't supposed to eat anything all day, or when someone says that a solar eclipse causes a lot of "germs" to come out and infect the food, then I am filled with a different kind of wonder. I wonder at how such rational and reasonable people can be blinded by fear and tradition so much that they refuse to stop for a minute and use their own brains, the most important organ that thier so-called "God" is supposed to have given them.

ETA: For fun
Running Around in (Elongated) Circles

Newton said as he gazed off afar,
"From here to the most distant star,
These wond'rous ellipses
And solar eclipses
All come from a 1 over r."


Temptation, just out of reach

This is the view from my bedroom window. Imagine waking up each day, watching these luscious beauties ripening gradually, waiting for them to turn a golden hue... Unfortunately the tree is in my neighbour's yard. But some overhanging branches do have a few of the mangoes on them which I can reach from my roof!


The phenomenon of irritating music

As I listened to the strains of "Ek baar aaja aaja..." issuing from the TV in the office cafeteria, I wondered about this phenomenon. Of extremely irritating music by some composer/singer being played all over the place, from music channels to discos to paan-tapris. Why is it that only the horrible songs catch on like this? I mean think about Altaf Raja. There was a time where you could not get onto a bus or an auto-rickshaw without hearing "Tum to thehre par-daaay-seeee....". Aaaaarrrrggghhhhhh!!!! Some more I can think of were Ataullah Khan* (of "Accha sila diya" fame) and Hassan Jehangir* (Hawa hawa).

So why do you think these songs catch on all of a sudden and dissappear even more suddenly? Is their popularity due to the fact that they appeal to the great unwashed masses, with their plaintive cries? Or is it the other way round, and we feel irritated by a certain set of songs, if they become very popular and are played over and over again (hark back to Saathiya ringtones!)

* My heartfelt thanks to Akshoy for reminding me of the names of these singers!!!

ETA: I found the answer!!!


A Pot of gold, right outside the window!

Sometimes, you only have to look out the window to find joy. Like this rainbow which brightened up the dreary Monday afternoon.