This piece was dormant in my mind till I read Sunil Nair's poem.
Vaguely I remembered that a thinly sliced moon that drowns itself
too soon, usually engulfed by clouds appearing from nowhere like
hoodlums and whisking it away.... so when an astronomer from a
very well-known institution asked me to join him and his colleague
to go outside Pune city and look for the moon, I could not resist.
We drove towards Pirangut, where as soon as one leaves Bavdhan ghat
the city haze and the smog fades off. Near Bhugaon lake we decided
to halt and the two very uncomfortable-looking memebers of the Hilal
Committee who had come to witness this momentous event with us three
astronomers [two being amateurs] were soon chattering on my getting
down to explaining the genesis of my name. Their respect for science
showed in the intellgent queries they made about the moon.
We climbed a hillock on foot, and the first look at the mountains in
the West took my breath away. It was a clear sky when we had started,
now suddenly those hoodlum-like gangs had emerged and reddish glows
of innumerable shades filled the sky. In fact Nilesh, the other
amateur astronomer with me agreed when I pointed out a thinly sliced
moon at least 10 degrees away from where it should be. It was the
perfect moon, the right size, the right shine, the right place but
something was wrong. Nilesh said it was not slanting, yes indeed,
it has to be a slanted moon, a vertical moon seems like an artefact.
It turned out to be a refletion of the sun on a thin piece of cloud.
We searched high and low. The weight of our decision increased like
a bundle of dry clothes becomeing wetter with an imaginary rain. It
was going to be only 25 minutes, as far as visibility goes, and the
narrow five degree zone allocated by Arvind the professional astronomer
was too narrow for us -thus the pressure started building up.
Sophisticated binoculars were used, which changed hands. The sky also
changed, the clouds went away and a stillness without the moon stared
back at us, glumly and sternly. The bearded mullahs wanted to break
their fast -so they produced some simple food. A couple of juicy dates,
a few pieces of papaya and watermelon. I noticed no water... the little that
I have learnt about this terrible roza keeping exercise is that one
just is ready to kill for some water towards the end. However they
being used to these travails, probably found watermelon slices good
enough to quench the deadly thirst..
That was sure. So wound it all up and drove back. Hundreds of calls
came flooding in on their cellphones, and all of us felt slightly
relieved that the Idd was postponed by a day. What does that mean?
Nilesh the youngest amongst us asked them. One more roza, said Altaf.
But Nizamuddin the older one had a joke there : one more day for the
hard-pressed tailors to go easy on. New dresses for Idd, can mean a
workload up to ten times the normal one, he explained.
I wish the moon had been there. It would have made an interesting
footnote to a new experience.