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Sunny side upshot

What is it with Indians in the 21st century obsessing about an eclipse? Having spent a considerable part of the previous hundred years living with power cuts, an extra hour in the dark is certainly not headline news.

india Updated: Jul 21, 2009 22:49 IST

What is it with Indians in the 21st century obsessing about an eclipse? Having spent a considerable part of the previous hundred years living with power cuts, an extra hour in the dark is certainly not headline news. Wednesday’s outage, in sharp contradistinction to the man-made variety, comes with adequate warning, as it has ever since Thales of Miletus predicted the first solar hide-and-seek in 585 BC. Most of us will probably have slept through the dawn penumbra, umbra and antumbra, in any case, and the rare early bird would have a celestial reason for some extra shut-eye. So why the fuss?

Be very sure fuss there will be. A godawful one at that. For the next 24 hours you will be subjected to the passage of the moon across the sun caught on television camera. Every excruciating second of the seven-minute spectacle will be analysed on the squawk box for hours. Astronomers and astrologers will have been pulled out of the woodwork to give hysterical anchors time to catch their breath, religious fervour will be captured from across the country, even the monkey in the zoo will be shot sporting a solar filter. The misery does not end there. Newspapers the morning after will have ‘Star gazers gathering food for thought’, ‘Sun worshippers swaying to a cosmic dance’, and ‘Cocks crowing twice’. All in big bold type. And all alongside images of a suspiciously similar dark circle. The three-ring media circus will have its day in the sun.

Those of us who shut our eyes to the longest eclipse of the sun this side of the millennium will have to pay the price. There’s one way out though. Grab a pair of those special sunglasses they hawk during these events, and keep them on all of today.