Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Total Eclipse of Reason

Some schools declared it a holiday. Some will start late. Apparently to facilitate the watching of the total solar eclipse of the century. I don’t just have doubts, I’m hundred percent certain as any of you is that it is to facilitate ritualistic baths and purification.
Not a single morning walker was seen till 7.15 AM. The teeming crowds of school kids on bus stops had dwindled. Schools where we send our kids to learn and question, rhyme and reason, get to the bottom of things and get a more rational/scientific view of life and world tell them to stay at home because it’s a solar eclipse! Come on, you just taught them in class 2 that it’s but the shadow of the moon.
Everyone is free to keep their faith. But please do it quietly. Don’t impose. Don’t propagate. Don’t influence and don’t create hysteria around normal, scientific occurrences.
I am a traditionalist, make no mistake. I follow tradition from sheer regard for the logic and thinking that goes behind it and from the fear of not losing beautiful things. I will do a million Surya Namaskars. I will visit temples and other places of worship because of their positive energy which makes me feel peaceful. But I will not bathe, clothe and feed my gods every morning. If I can do it so can HE. But I have no grouse against those who do. It can have a very calming effect as any repetitive, mechanical task and daily routine can. Also, chanting and meditation have benefits far beyond our estimation.
If you have older people at home who would like things done in a specific way, please oblige. It’s difficult for them to come out of it in a hurry. Because when the skies grew dark at midday and the sun was very systematically getting eaten up by the darkness; the birds grew restless and the cows mooed; they prayed and kept themselves half dipped in holy waters and asked pardon for their sins. Lo and behold! The gods heard them, forgave their sins, the sun was restored and life returned – all because of their faith and prayer. So it continued. Now don’t we know better? But the insecurities in the human heart tug. Rituals are a small price to pay. Kya jata hai? I will bathe in milk if it gives me shanti. Fair. Do it but do it in private. Schools that declared a holiday must have about ten percent or fewer students who would have stayed behind at home to follow rituals. But by declaring it a holiday they have made the other ninety percent rethink. What’s a bath? A few tulsi leaves? Let’s do it for the peace of our minds.
Insecurity. God forbid if anything was to go wrong this day – like say, a total all-day power shutdown, I would be taunted for sitting on the pot while the morning was turning night.
Do what makes you feel good but for goddssake don’t draw the impressionable minds into regressive rituals. It would have been so heartening if a school had organized a sighting and a session about the eclipse and made students come in early. Even if they had to close early afterward so they could go home and catch on the sleep, food or even the turmeric baths.
For a week now, I’ve shut my ears to all dos and don’ts and those nonsensical TV channels that have proclaimed doomsday and adverse effects on my rashi. But I have listened to the advice of not looking at the sun directly – it may damage the retina. Fair. Good. Thank you for reminding.
I hate confrontation. I do what I want to do – what I think is correct – logically, scientifically. I’m not strong on any - logic or science (sisters will comment that I don’t know why the roti puffs up because I never did study science). So tell me what the eclipsed sun does to my food and water how the tulsi will purify? Tell me how the early morning eclipsed sunrays will enter and spoil food that is not covered? Tell me how my chanting mantras will save the sun? Tell me how the bath will rinse away my sins? Tell me HOW?
The stories will come in all day today – I toh did not let anyone touch food! We stuck tape on our mouths afraid a word may slip. I am ready to turn my deaf ear. You didn’t know I had one? Good.


  1. Ah, I was wondering why the Yoga club did not turn up for practice today! The penny just dropped.

    For all our pretensions to being "educated" and "enlightened", we continue to wallow in centuries old "Aisa kehtey hai" tradition.

    "Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the
    dreary desert sand of dead habit;
    Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought
    and action--
    Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake."

  2. Wow Shefali, Wow Slightly Bald
    It is sad that many schools missed this great teaching learning opportunity. They could have showed children the eclipse and discussed the science (may be lectures by physicists) + geography + history of eclipses (when was the last, when would be the next, why after so long) + rituals (how, why) + how different cultures view this great celestial event and plausible reasons...

  3. usually i don't go for morning walks but on 22nd i specially went out to watch the eclipse but of course i couldn't due to clouds but surely all the regular walkers were missing and then we call those people illiterate who took their children for healing in holy mud.

  4. admirable thoughts.

    probably something related--- an old thought refreshed: