And so the moon went into eclipse recently. And what a drama people made out of it. The Man from Madras Musings is no atheist (in fact, he is more of a theist than anything else) but he did find the goings-on stretching the very limits of credulity.

Mind you, this is not the first lunar eclipse that MMM is witnessing. When he was young, MMM has seen people offering prayers at temples during eclipses as the time was considered particularly holy and it was all done with a certain grace. Not so any longer. Loudspeakers were pressed into service, temples offered darshan at special rates, and many of the faithful took the opportunity to avail of half-a-day’s leave from office. No matter that the moon went into eclipse only after the sun had set. These people wanted time off to prepare themselves for the holy period. It was on the tip of MMM’s tongue to ask some of them if they were going to battle Rahu so that he did not swallow the moon, but he, MMM, opted to keep quiet. These are orange times and you never know when some fringe element sees red.

Many of the photographing variety went to the beach and other open spaces to take pictures of this celestial event. But these numbers were matched by several others who preferred to stay indoors in order to protect themselves from the harmful effects of the eclipse. MMM who had always assumed that this was a tradition among pregnant Indian women was surprised that a number of men decided to lock themselves in as well. This fear psychosis was well fed by numerous godmen going on and on in the media about how millions of microbes fall dead on us at this time and if such a disaster happened to them what about us humans? There was one guru, whose facial hair begins where his tresses stop, who spoke at length on this.

But all of this was nothing compared to the popular TV channel that is named after the other celestial body that goes into eclipse once in several years. Though at one time professing rational ideals, this media house has long come to realise where the money is – namely pandering to blind beliefs. So they had an interview with an astrologer who held forth at length on the powers of the planets. One question posed was as to why only the sun and the moon have eclipses. The answer was that these were the only two that had light of their own. And then, while MMM was still digesting this pre-Galilean theory on the skies, the camera cut to a village outside Trichy where apparently each time there is an eclipse, an iron pestle stands erect and remains so until the sun/moon is ejected by Rahu, or maybe Ketu, or may be both. It is a wonder that manufacturers of performance-enhancing drugs have not yet adopted this place. The anchor-person interviewed several of the villagers about this and they all vouched for such a happening. MMM was busy scoffing when someone sent him a longish tract on WhatsApp, which explained in so-called scientific terms why this happened.

The question is, are eclipses capable of such havoc only in India or is it the same in other countries of the world? Did the Queen of England’s granddaughter-in-law for instance, who with amazing regularity gets into the ‘family way’ as they call it here, lock herself in?

Now, Chief, let us sit back and await those letters that will come in asking us if MMM would have dared criticise minority community practices. To that MMM has only one answer – he is not from a minority community and so does not know enough about them to criticise them. Time the majority learnt to laugh at itself anyway.