When I was around five or six, we had a servant who used to say that solar and lunar eclipses happen when God punishes the sun and the moon for their sins. Even at that tender age, I asked him how it was possible for men to predict the exact time and date of an eclipse. How could men know what God was going to do and when? He had no answer.

There were many myths in those days about the eclipses. Women (especially pregnant women) were locked up. Women were told not to use knives for cutting food and not to operate sewing machines. I don't know what Hindu and Christian women did during the eclipse, but Muslim women were told to pray all the time during the duration of an eclipse. Having sex during an eclipse was supposed to result in children being born with cleft lips or with brain damage. Perhaps that explains why there are so many retarded Indians and Pakistanis.

Nowadays of course, people don't believe such things. Today there is a solar eclipse in the afternoon and a distant female relative of mine has invited women to attend a religious ceremony (in connection with Rabi-ul-Awal). I wonder if some women will use the eclipse as an excuse to stay away.