‘Hey, did you see the moon tonight?’ ‘Go out, guys. Check the moon! It’s so beautiful’. ‘It’s huge and shiny!’
Across several chat windows, my phone was buzzing. It was the night of sharad purnima (the full moon night, typically during autumn), auspicious for several communities in Eastern India who also perform Lakshmi puja that day.
‘Wow, it really is something!’ Saying so, my friend spams my phone with a few hundred photos of the moon. Little does she know that I had snapped the moon so many times on my camera as well. The irony of the act kills me sometimes. Trying to capture a celestial object thousands of miles away, from a device that fits on my palm, but incapable of zooming in more than a few yards. Yet, we try. Sometimes, doubly ironically, we try to reduce the distance by stretching our arm out towards the moon. Okay, the 384,400 kilometers is now reduced to 384,399.995 kilometers. The moon is still grainy on my phone.
I quietly opened Instagram that night, to post my silly photo of the moon and a befitting song; a lilting lullaby from a Tamil movie from the ‘90s. Perfect, I think to myself. Then, quickly I see other moons on the stories and the feed. Golden, untainted by the craters, seen by the human eye but not picked up in a pixelated image.
What is this human urge to see the moon? And also to hope that our beloved sees the moon. The beloved here could be anyone – a friend, a brother, a teacher, a romantic interest… But why do we hope so much that the beam in the night sky delivers the same joy to someone else who is not with us? Perhaps in that moment of calm and cool, we are so connected by the single act of staring into the night sky. The noise of the world around is subsumed by the quietude of the mind.
As a child, I remember peering from the window panes of moving trains and buses, from behind the cool glass of a car, and wondering how far the moon will travel with us. The chugging wheels and the passing breeze lulls the mind into a slow rhythm that matches with the clouds that hide the moon one moment and reveal him the next moment. The child me in played hide and seek with a celestial body. That child awakens on solitary nights even now and continues to see the moon. Still I wonder, how far will the moon travel with me?
Then there are nights when I have taken flights. The cityscape becomes a blur of twinkling lights and moving dots, as if the night sky has descended on the ground and I am suspended above in darkness. Even then the moon has appeared on the sides of the plane, beyond the wings. Even then I have wondered, so near, yet how far will the moon travel with me?
Isn’t it serendipitous that our seers saw how much the moon and the mind are connected? It is not a coincidence that the word lunatic draws from the same root word ‘luna’ meaning the moon. The word ‘mathi’ is used to refer to both the moon and the mind in Tamil. And world over there are enough studies that indicate how the lunar cycles also affect the functioning of the mind. Waxing and waning, as it were, in one’s own emotions.
Now, as I grow older – even if not much wiser – I am able to connect some dots. I can observe the mind, just as I observe the moon. I can feel for myself which are the days I am stable, and which are the days I feel dull. I can mark the days when I am clouded with doubts, and I can count the days when I shine forth.
When I now look at the moon, I see him not as a celestial object, but a reflection of my own being. And I think I know how far the moon will travel with me.