Friday, July 24, 2009

Total Solar Eclipse-Varanasi

22nd of July was an interesting day. i will only with one part of it. I reached Varanasi by the Varuna express from Lucknow which unlike its name is not very express at all. In fact it is down right non-express. It stops, and it crawls most of the way. Whenever I could I got out to look skywards, and wishing strongly that the clouds keep away. Most of the way they, did, the stars twinkling brightly enough. But as the train neared Varanasi, it started becoming cooler, windier and there were definite clouds. I became superstitious and tried everything I could to keep the clouds away. Ultimately, I made my way out of the station with about ten thousand other people for company. I mean i was truly astounded at the mass of humanity that was sleeping, walking, talking, moving around on the railway station at 1 am in the morning. Why, even the monkeys were asleep. Anyway, I reached the hotel after some walking around, feeling hungry, ordered some food, formatted my memory cards, charged my camera battery, found that the focusing ring on my 135 mm nikkor had come loose and found out that I could still use it. I set the alarm for 3.45 AM, a small matter of one and a half hours of sleep. I woke up with a start, deep asleep I had been. But I got up, and peered out of the window, the glass was too thick and grimy to see anything outside. The suspense was killing me so I made a precis of all the normal morning bodily functions and got dressed, picked up my stuff and was ready to go. I reached the Assi ghat at about 4.30 Am and it was mostly deserted. There were a few clouds on the horizon but it was mostly ok and things looked good. I walked around and that's when the trouble really began. A huge bank of clouds started blowing across the eastern horizon obscuring most of the sky. It was like holy shit, no, go away. Collective gasps of disappointment from all photographers. The eclipse would have just started, a man in the background asking god to show himself again and again. And then the sun peeked out with a bite taken out of its top. And there were none of those pesky, big opaque clouds around, all those silly things I had done the night before seemed to be working after all. And soon enough it started getting duller, the light started to take on a very strange quality. As the eclipse progresses beyond about 50%, the light starts dropping dramatically, the birds become unhappy and the shadows become strange. Its like taking cannabis and looking at the world. And suddenly, the sun is completely obscured by the moon, thousands of people emit a collective gasp as there is this huge world wide natural power cut, the stars twinkle above, the sky is a blue that you can never see otherwise, the sun is surrounded by a bright halo, I was so excited that my hands trembled, and throat went dry, all my pictures got screwed due to the fact that my hands just would not stop shaking from the excitement. Just watch it, just watch it is all I can say or think, wow, holy shit, fuck, it all goes on, the biggest show on earth is not the world cup or the Indian general election, it is the Varanasi total solar eclipse. The crowd is crying out for the sun to reappear, the beggars and the priests are gathering alms furiously, the photographers are clicking away furiously, and I am watching furiously. And then it is alright all of a sudden, the 3 and a half minutes of pure celestial orgasm ebbs away in a flash with the diamond ring and thereafter, that light goes away pretty quickly. There is a spontaneous applause from the crowd, slogan shouting for the god has come back again and it is all bright and happy once more. The Ganges dipping resumes with even greater gusto. And I am feeling drained and tired. I go around taking some pictures. I run into an old lady who looks at me and decides that she likes me, she tells me with some strange premonition that when god could be in such a soup as to face an eclipse and get out of it, humans can too. I agree with her and move on. Later, I take a boat ride to the opposite bank of the Ganges where I have a dip in the river and find that my sins cling on to me stronger than before. Some things never ever change.

No comments:

Locations of visitors to this page