I was always aware of it and kept it covered with full sleeves. My back at the linear mark was always tender to touch and very painful especially if someone laughingly slapped my back as my brothers often did. I was the only girl in a family of five boys of every age and temperament.
The year of my birth my mother was a filling in as a Pakistani Hospital as a linen matron who was in charge of the whole hospitals linen including infection control. She was a supervisor over all the personnel that handled any and all distribution and disinfection of linen in the hospital. She worked as a volunteer in a Hospital severely hobbled by the overflow of injured men and women who came piled on top of each other in the trains from India during The Partition of British India. My grandfather and father were surgeons who tended to the wounded and my Grandmother and Aunt were volunteers for Nursing duties.
My mother in the month of my birth was working at the Office in the Hospital. On the day of the eclipse she was preparing a inventory register for the coming months as she was going to be on pregnancy leave. She wanted to leave everything in order for the woman filling in for her as linen matron.
At the time of the eclipse she was making columns in the Linen Inventory register. She was drawing vertical lines with a carbon pencil to divide the pages into columns. She recalls that day clearly and related it to me when I was old enough to ask her about my birth mark. She said:
“I was engrossed in drawing lines on the register for Inventory when a female nurse came running into my office and said “ Madam there is an eclipse and you must stop doing anything ” My mother who was totally not superstitious looked up and said “why?” The nurse stammered, ”……….Because it can effect your unborn baby”.
I guess my mother must be obviously showing her pregnancy at that time. My mother waved away the nurse and kept working drawing lines in the register.
Well according to my calculations and with the help of online research I was born shortly after the annular solar eclipse that engulfed all of Pakistan.
There was another solar eclipse the year before when my mother was in three months gestation with me, but as far as I know not did not affect the Indo Pak subcontinent.
I was born with a linear birthmark with an irregular edge. A long straight line on my arm from thumb to the top of my shoulder and over to my back. It would be a straight line if you fold up a baby in the fetal posture and straightened one arm.
I hated having a birthmark all my teen-age years as it was irregular, and I felt disfiguring to my young eyes. It was itchy at times and and at other times it would be extremely sensitive to touch.
When I got into my clinical years at the Medical school and was rotating through Surgery in one sub rotation I was doing surgery with plastics . One day my chief of plastics saw my birthmark across my arm when I had changed into scrubs. He offered to remove it surgically.
I agreed. However the result was unsightly as I could not take time off to let it heal and it left a scar worse than the birthmark itself.
This brings me to the present . When I heard that the complete solar Eclipse was to occur on August 21, 2017, I decided to go to Charleston SC beach to witness it. Half of my family encouraged me the other half were petrified that the eclipse glasses from Amazon were probably made in China and were no good.
Never the less I put my tawakul in Allah, tied the camel (figuratively i.e took care of all the safety logistics as per the sunnah) and sped to the beach with a friend.
An hour before the eclipse I walked to the beach. The air was thick with humidity and the heat was oppressive.
My colleague decided she did not want to go to the beach nor did she want to watch the eclipse. I think the doubt that these may be Chinese made glasses and perhaps not certified got to her.
I took my pink beach towel and walked to the beach by myself hijab and all.
Skirting the people under the umbrellas I saw two chairs out close to the water and decided to spread the towel near but not close.
I had made sure I had a full battery in my camera, and phone before I left.
As I tried to look through my Eclipse glasses the clouds came in and covered the sun. The sky was still bright and cheery and the waves were crashing like normal. The only change in behavior I saw was in the brown pelicans, they were no longer flying in their usual V but in a long undulating line away from the ocean.
I looked back at the houses at the edge of the beach and saw people standing in their balconies, martinis in hand watching the ocean in anticipation of a show which would soon begin.
Walking to the ocean I felt like a speck in the Universe and by good fortune I found two people or they found me who shared my awe, amazement and feeling of being blessed to to be here to see the eclipse.
Suddenly the scene turned grey as if I had put on sunglasses. The hue of the ocean and sky lost color and turned pale grey and slowly the deep charcoal grayness deepened changing the lovely cheery beach and people to ghosts in the night.
I put on my Eclipse glasses and looked up and lo and behold I saw the bright yellow almost pure 24-carat gold crescent of the sun which shone down at me. At this time it was partially hidden by the moon. So many metaphors came into my head but the awe in my heart at the stupendous happening in front of my eyes kept me focused on the now.
I do have to say it is humbling and truly a feeling of pure awe as I watched the precision and timing of what happened next: The relentless advance of the moon covering the sun, the cooling of the breeze, the temperature falling from 84 degrees to 60 degrees in seconds and the hitherto warm humid breeze feeling cold on my sweat drenched shirt.
My two friends or guardian angels told me that the young woman’s phone had lost juice while they were trying to do a time lapse recording, I offered mine and they wrapped my phone camera eye with one of the glasses and pointed it up to the sky and set it to time lapse recording,
After a few seconds the young man told me that the battery had suddenly died in his phone too. The couple went to test the water and mentioned that the waves felt “heavy”
As the eclipse grew which I watched intermittently through my glasses, and took photographs of the surroundings with my other camera, I suddenly noticed that the battery that was full in my SLR Camera when I had walked to the beach was telling me that I had run out of battery.
Thus Allah Subhanawataala took out all our electronics and left us undistracted to watch his miracle of the dark of the moon relentlessly and progressively cover the sun and plunge us in darkness like the night. The wave tips were white in the whole darkened landscape which looked scary and ominous. The cool breeze rushed through my hijab as if to reassure me. Silence fell, and all the people, birds and breeze were quiet as if a witness in awe.
The young man I met told me his dream, which was ominous and totally possible. I was unnerved and sought refuge in the power of Allah. I stood up and asked to be excused as I felt I must pray. I then performed Salat al Kusoof as my new friends stood near and also prayed.
It was a humbling a moment when I knew that I had no control over anything and that everything and everyone moved by the command of Allah. Peace came on the wings of the breeze as I was freed from all electronics and all the strings pulling at me were cut. I felt as if I had floated out to the ocean and the grayness embraced me. In all of this I was intensely aware of His (Subhanawataala’s ) immense power.
Allah reminds me in the Quran:
Throughout the Qur’an, people are encouraged to look around them, observe and reflect on the beauties and wonders of the natural world – as signs of Allah’s majesty.
“Allah is He, who created the sun, the moon, and the stars — (all) governed by laws under His commandment.” Qur’an 7:54
“It is He who created the night and the day and the sun and the moon. All (the celestial bodies) swim along, each in its orbit.” Qur’an 21:33
“The sun and the moon follow courses exactly computed.” Qur’an 55:05
I knew that He Subhanawataala was there for me and there was no other force that could help in this moment. He was a Force that NO one on this earth could reckon with and even think of doing so would be stupid and begotten of ignorance. The planets were moving precisely on his command and the meagre moon had the gumption to cover the blazing sun albeit ever for a few minutes.
Just as the darkness had spread over the sand and the water, on its heels the light came and gently awakened the scenery, put color in the water and the trees and sand. The brown pelicans that had disappeared during the eclipse returned in an undulating line studding the pristine blue sky with their gracious presence saying “ We bow to the Almighty who created us, you too should bow to the Almighty!”
Enjoy every moment he has given you on this earth, you cannot take the earth with you, the earth will take you………..eventually. He Subhanawataala is the master of the earth and the skies, the sun and the moon and all in between. I saw it blazoned in the eclipse for those two brief minutes how day can turn to night, the heat to cool, the loss of all man made electronics, and then the return when the eclipse was over. My camera battery by the time I got back to the house had spontaneously returned to 100%.
I did not want to analyze scientifically what had happened though Allah says in the Quran “Look at the signs of Allah all around you and know that He is one and controls everything in the earth and the Heavens:
I felt the intense spirituality, humility of my place in the Universe and submission to a Power that is so huge that at His command the imperious powerful sun can be overshadowed by the humble moon and then move away back into their own domains.
The solar eclipse…….. A moment of spirituality, love, fear, awe and reverent submission to the Almighty.