Saturday, August 2, 2008

"Eclipse Shuts City Down!" (Page 2 headline, in the Times of India)

Honestly, this is why I love India...

Such a mix of old and new: The Ganesha Birthday Party Shop and Infosys, automobiles and bullock carts, Spar Hypermarket (home of Belgian Beer and imported cheese and shiny shopping carts) and City/Russell/neighborhood Market (home of Brinjal, Banana, Giant Bags of Rice, Caged Live Chicken and Freshly Butchered Goat), Washing machines and The River, Sarees and Blue Jeans, and that bullock cart driver wearing a longhi with his cell phone pressed to his ear... There is no place on earth quite like it and no other place that could carry off the contradictions with only a well-timed head bobble. Some of these contradictions can be humbling or even horrifying, some frustrating and others so full of mirth and joy that they serve to make life a little MORE...

You may know that yesterday there was a Solar Eclipse. You may even know not to stare directly up at the sky. What you probably have missed, is this:

-No eating after 2 pm, assuming your eclipse begins some where between 4 and 5 pm. Stronger ultraviolet rays may enter your food and cause potential harm. Apparently, it's okay to eat if you are aged, a child or an invalid, which I kind of don't get:

"Honey, mom and daddy won't be eating tonight to avoid too much UV radiation...but you go ahead...dig in! No, no, don't worry about the funny glow your soup's good for you!

-Do not go outside during the eclipse.

-Especially if you are pregnant, nervous, psychologically unwell... (heck, that's at least 50% of the expats!) Or if you're alive.

-Tulsi leaves (a local wonder-herb...also known as Holy Basil,) may mitigate the effects of all that radiation. Put some in your water jug. Put some in your food. Actually, that goes for pretty much all the other days of your life, as well... Just shut-up and take the Tulsi, dammit!*session*id*key*=*session*id*val*

-When it's all over...don't forget to shower! Or else... You may become Unwell. Or Cursed. Not an auspicious plan, you fool!

Now, I'm kind of a superstitious person and I'm here, only, to tell you, that living in India has given me a whole new set of variable circumstances in which to test my fortune...

Mythologically speaking, the Hindu story behind the Solar Eclipse is "...the tale of the 'Samudra Manthana' when the divine churning of the milky ocean brought forth the elixir of life. Cleverly disguised as the beautiful Mohini, Lord Vishnu gave the ambrosia to the devathas and not to the demons. Two demons who slipped in and tried to feast on the ambrosia were caught with the help of the Sun and the Moon. And every once in a while, Rahu and Ketu take revenge on the Sun and the Moon by 'devouring them'..." (Times of India)

Scientists say that an eclipse is "a result of the natural movement of the bodies of the universe." Scientists claim that there is no proof that the solar eclipse is dangerous or unhealthful. But then they only believe in things they can see and they sometimes suffer from an utter lack of imagination...

Which story do you like best?

Back to India: Plenty of people in India don't believe the mythology. And, there are alot of Fine Scientific Minds here. That doesn't stop the city from shutting down, though. Or schools from letting out early. Nor does it stop mythology from intertwining with, influencing and easing every day life. You'd never get away with that in the U.S...sure, you're free to believe whatever you want, people...and the major Christian holidays definitely have their own story and influence...but commerce so rarely stops long enough to honor history, much less a mysterious act of nature, in the same way that it does here.

And you never might become Unwell.

The Fischers
Who Do As They Are Told,
In India

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