|From Times of India|
Sporadic monsoon clouds smudge the night sky as I look out for the moon which struggles to shine through the haze. There’s going to be partial lunar eclipse tonight, the newspapers say. I’m interested in eclipses. I am an eclipse myself.
The most memorable eclipse was when I was in Shillong. It was in the last decade of the millennium. I was sitting with a friend in his room when the air outside resounded with sounds of tin drums. We came out to see what was happening. Everybody was celebrating something. Our landlady rushed to us with two tin drums and asked us to join. It took us a while to grasp what was going on. There was a solar eclipse. The people believed that a dragon was swallowing the sun and the tin drums were meant to scare the dragon away. Since the landlady insisted that we join in liberating the sun from the dragon, we did lest we be accused of gross neglect. How criminal it would be to let the sun be swallowed by a dragon? Moreover, it gave us much thrill to think that our tin drums were going to make themselves heard 150,000,000 km away. It gratified our egos, to say the least. My friend and I contributed our bit to the cacophony.
I don’t know how many people in that whole horde of drum beaters actually believed that they were delivering the sun from the dragon. The passion with which most of them beat the drums indicated that they were indeed serious about their mission. Aren’t quite many of our rituals similar ego-gratifications? How great we must feel to perceive ourselves as warriors against the powerful devils out there in the vast space around us!
If the heavens permit me, if the clouds clear, I shall stand outside tonight, beneath the diaphanous sky, in the penetrating quietness of the bucolic darkness except for the vibrating tymbals of cicadas in the leaves, I shall stand gazing at the moon being eclipsed slowly, partially, slowly…