Diaries from the past: Annular Eclipse in Varkala by Neelam Talwar

Full of hope and courage we set out one cold, wet & foggy Delhi morning, from Hazrat Nizamuddin, to rail southwards more than three thousand kilometers for hot weather, sunny skies and a record breaking ‘Ring Of Fire’ of the third millennium. We had with us about 500 kilos of eclipse equipment. 43 hours later we reached Tiruvananthpuram by the Quick Rajdhani Train. We were dreaming of fish curry, appams and serene backwaters.

We reached Varkala in a big tata winger. Our hotel S.S. Beach Resort was located at a place with a open vista, a cliff on the sea. The place was beautiful, a lane full of eating joints, commercialised and expensive and full of German tourists. We would end up everyday at a place called ‘Little Tibet” with our kids freaking out on nutella pancake and we on all kinds of food, but fish curry!! This was a family reunion for me as my khandan had come down from Bengaluru. We thoroughly enjoyed the beach and also tried catching crabs and fish with bare hands.

One of the days before the eclipse we visited the Tiruvanathapuram Planetarium where Ajay gave a small presentation as to how to photograph the night sky, eclipse etc… On the way back from the planetarium we finally ate chicken curry and appams in a small dhaba like place.

Ajay and his fellow astronuts setup many cameras and binoculars on the hotel terrace. There were eight cameras operating and one binocular for visual. The Annular Solar Eclipse was a memorable one. Although the Shimmering Corona was missing, we saw a Wide Gold Band and a Pearl Necklace which I would love to possess. In the middle of annularity, Arjune did remark, Its not getting dark at all, what kind of eclipse is this? The longish eclipse went on, well, slowly for four hours!! Our first ever Annular Eclipse.

We stayed on at Varkala for a few days more. A day prior to our departure from Varkala “The God’s own country” gave us a jolt making us realise that the language barrier of the north and the south still persists. We enjoyed the backwater at lake Ashta mudi meaning “Eight fingers”.

Back in Delhi, which had encountered a severe cold wave while we were getting tanned at Varkala, it took Ajay about two weeks to process the Eclipse photographs and we are very happy with the wonderful photographs and video recordings.

It was our first ever Annular Solar Eclipse, happy to have witnessed it.

Neelam Talwar.

The Author is one of the founder members of AAAD

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