Today happens to be Father's Day as well as Solar Eclipse. Father's Day or Mother's Day is a marketing concept, and hence I do not celebrate either of them. I respect my parents immensely. I value the immense love, affection bestowed and the sacrifices of my parents.
Today was a unique day. It happened to be Father's Day, and the solar eclipse came as a package from the calendar. Today also happens to be the longest day of the year. I don't know about the superstitions associated with the longest day of the year but definitely in the knowledge of those entwined with Solar Eclipse. During college, in private conversations, I used to invite my friends to have a cup of tea and pakoras with me, in a graveyard, during the solar eclipse. In this age of the easily offended, I don't think I would dare to post such an invite in any social media.
My father was a religious person with a moderate education. He believed in God till his last breath. He used to pray to Lord Muruga before leaving the house in the morning for work, and repeat the same on return. He went on yearly pilgrimages to various temples of Lord Muruga. Mary's feast is immensely popular in Bangalore, and it transcends religious beliefs. My father was an avid participant in these prayers. With such a background, it would seem that he had a lot of superstitions, but that was not the case.
He believed in God and his power but not the customs associated with the worship of God. Blind belief in the name of religion was not his cup of tea. I had never seen him suggesting black magic as a reason or solution for our family problems. He was a believer in thoughts but a rationalist in actions. He used to vehemently preach to us that instead of having movie stars as idols, we should have scientists as our role models. God was etched in his soul, but science was in his brain and heart.
He had given a vaccination for all his children as mandated by the Government. It started from my elder brother who was born in the late 1950s. Chickenpox meant treatment in the local government hospital though the regular South Indian religious rituals were followed. It might surprise the reader that this custom is practised even today in many Non-Hindu families in South India.
My father had a minor paralytic stroke in the early 1970s. Many of the relatives suggested to go in for black magic or native medicine, but my father decided to go in for allopathy and recovered fully well.
The usual treatment for Jaundice in South India is to grind a bunch of leaves called `Keelanelli' and administer it orally to the patient. However, my father was an exception to it and got me admitted to a hospital for treatment, despite a difficult financial situation at home.
Irrespective of whether it was a fever or the kidney ailment of my eldest brother, he always believed in allopathy. He always said modern science is proven and the only answer to the problems of life. How did an individual who had limited education possess such maturity of thoughts? Was he, despite his belief in religion influenced by the ideas of Periyar, the great social reformer of Tamil Nadu? I have every reason to belief that this was the case.
I remember during 1980 when there was a solar eclipse, he only restrained us from seeing the sun. Other than that, it was a routine day for all of us. There were no rituals on that day. From a young age, aversion to auspicious/ inauspicious time, day, or date was sown in our minds. We were never thought to be selectively vegetarian. I came to know about numerology and lucky stones only after I started seeing satellite TV. Watching science programmes on Doordarshan was mandatory.
I am an atheist, but going by the present definition of a pious Hindu, my father was an undercover atheist too. Thus, today ends with me neither celebrating Father's Day nor getting religious about the solar eclipse. Being childless helped my cause of disregarding Father's Day.