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Penumbra? What’s That?

Almost Forty Years ago. The eclipse I viewed in Vancouver few days ago; and the eclipse we shared in Panaji-Goa. And what a difference – apart from what I saw then and now.

“Iconoclast! Radicals, good for NOTHING!”

I was branded as one – starting with late teens. The family first tried to shame me, and then shunned me. Except mother – she continued her exacting efforts to bring me back on the well trodden paths.

On the eve of October 12, 1977 – I was handed over the dictum

“Don’t go out tomorrow. There’s a total eclipse, and it’s not wise to go out.”

Just what the doctor order. That night, at our usual rendezvous, at Campal grounds – sitting on the old Portuguese Cannon, listening to Chhaya Geet, Satish and I tried to draw perfect circles with our Four-Square Kings cigarettes. And the plan was hatched.


Satish had no problems convincing his parents about anything (lawyer in the making); and I told my parents that Satish and I would be huddling in his house and studying Physics, the subject of our unrequited love! So early morning, I was at Ashwini, saddled with fat Physics Text-book, notes and guides.

We did study a little (honestly), and about an hour before the start of the eclipse, we sneaked out of otherwise empty house. Straight to Campal Garden, and our favourite restaurant Pica Peixe (only the people in their late fifties (or early sixties) now will remember it – it’s current version is called the Forrest). Mr. Barros, the owner, the chef, the waiter – an all in one person welcomed his usual customers warmly. The place was deserted, as expected.

“Have you got the dark glasses?”

“Yes – I had a broken bottle – and I held it over the open candle flame. It has become quite dark – see”

We shared the booty. And we were ready for whatever was going to happen.

“If you are pregnant, and go out during the eclipse – do you know what happens?”

“Why worry? We are not pregnant – and nothing is going to happen to anyone. Let the pregnant and old ladies worry about themselves.”

We downed a glass each of our favourite beer, and continued our serious discussions while munching on ‘freebies’ provided by the owner.

“Apart from astronomy, what do you know about eclipse? Do you remember the story of Jayadratha and Arjun from Mahabharat? I believe it was the eclipse that made the sunset; and Jayadratha came out of hiding. To be killed by Arjun when the sun appeared again.”

We went back and forth on various instances of eclipses. Lunar and Solar. We also recollected one of the stories (Mountain of Adventure by Enid Blyton) in which Jack pretends to kill the sun (when the children are captured to be sacrificed by sun-worshippers) and then bring it back.

Mr. Barros tried to join in the conversation, but was kept busy with sporadic duties of the restaurant. The birds continued their humming – mostly crows who were trying to out-perform each other. The wind blew through the fine pine needles, making a swishing sound, and the music of the lapping Mandovi waters was accompanied with the sound of our lapping up the beer. We hardly looked at my watch (Satish refused to wear one – even at that time).

Eclipse 2

It did start getting a bit darker – and we immediately took out our ‘gizmo’ and stared at the sun. It was slowly being devoured, and started disappearing.

“Wow! That’s neat! This calls for another beer. Mr. Barros – another beer please, and also a packet of Four Square Kings.”

Mr. Barros poured the beer, and requested us to allow him to look at the sun through our gizmo. We continued to sip the cold lager.

“Do you know what will happen if your parents come to know that we are drinking / eating / smoking during the eclipse?”

“The same thing as your parents’ actions”.

“Nah – they are not as orthodox as yours…”

Suddenly – it was like pitch dark. The ball dropped. Everything went super quiet. The birds stopped chirping, the crows went to early bed. The wind died totally; and so did the water currents. It was eerie quiet. Not a vehicle went by; no distant honking, no NOTHING! Except clinking of our mugs:


We banged our glasses, and downed almost full glass of beer – some of it splashing on our shirts. But who cared? It was the total eclipse; and the place; and the beer! After few minutes of solitude, there was a glimmer of sun; and then there was the LIGHT. The birds, the crows, the bees, the wind, the river, the traffic, the honking – everything was back to normal.

And so were we. Nothing untoward happened to us – though we were non-conformists and had broken all the rules.

This was then.

And now – a few days ago.

The media / the internet / radio everything was agog with the ‘total eclipse’ – the event of the century. And though in Vancouver, we were not going to have total eclipse – I was excited. It triggered the bitter sweet memories of Campal Garden and the works. I looked forward to witnessing whatever the partial eclipse we could see – sans Satish!

My meeting with the client dragged on; and when I came out of the Board Room, the eclipse was on its way of being ‘eclipsed’. I rejoiced to see the crowd below my office building – looking at the sun through the I-Phone, Pin-Hole Cameras, and other gadgets. No one had our special gizmo – a piece of broken blackened glass. And no one had even a drink / sandwich in one’s hands.

So much for the ‘Western’ culture – they followed the Indian traditions; whereas almost forty years ago – Satish and I were ‘real adventurers’! I am sure Satish must also have laughed a lot at the antics of ‘Canadians’.

Sunday September 17, 2017

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