It’s fascinating to scan the night sky these days, not long after the Ramzan moon. The Evening Star is just as bright as the Morning Star, and some look at both and make a wish like their forebears, who enjoyed English teacher Anne Taylor’s nursery rhyme, "Twinkle, twinkle little star…",written in the second half of the 19th century.
Despite the recent rain the heavens are not as clear as they should be. No wonder the Belt of Orion or the "Three stars in a Row" are not visible to the naked eye. According to ancient Norse belief, it was not the mythical hunter Orion’s belt but the spinning wheel of Friga, wife of the father of the gods,Oden, who (sic) spins fleecy clouds every evening while sitting in her rainbow palace window.
Not so long ago, The Statesman regularly printed a special quarter page feature on the night sky every month of the year. It would have been "The Night Sky in July" now. Supplied by the Met office in Calcutta, it was considered "must" for use on Page 5, which used to be the features page.
There were instructions on how to hold the chart, with the constellations marked on it, above the head, to identify the main stars. First it was James Cowley, Evan Charlton and Philip Crosland as Resident Editors in Delhi,and then their successors, who sent the feature to the Newroom and woe to the chief-sub,who missed using it on the first or second of the month. People read it with great interest and sometimes their remarks in the Letters’ column or even in the New Delhi Notebook made good reading, for they were all keen sky watchers.Now too, The Statesman is probably the only paper, which announces full moon and new moon days, besides the first and second quarters of our nearest celestial neighbor every Sunday. However, because of pollution, the Delhiwallahs are unable to see the whole "Jhilmil" sky filled up with twinkling stars, the Milky Way dividing it – with the Big Bear and Small Bear prominent too. So, "taron bhari raat (starlit sky)" is now confined to film songs, grandmother tales and to places far away from polluted cities. What a pity!