22 Jun 2012

Delhi lives the longest day of the year

An expert of SPACE foundation educating the public on Summer Solstice at
Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Thursday. Photo: R. V. Moorthy
The Hindu An expert of SPACE foundation educating the public on Summer Solstice at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Thursday. Photo: R. V. Moorthy
While the Californians dance, the Swedes light bonfires and Britons go to Stonehenge to watch the sun rise on June 21, the longest day of the year, India thanks the rain god for the onset of the monsoon.
Though Delhi-based astrologer V. Kapoor dismisses Summer Solstice – the day when the earth is most tilted toward the sun – as a Western concept, he says that it marks the beginning of the rainy season in the country.
Others see the few longer hours of daylight in Delhi as an added opportunity. “I wish every day was extended by a couple of hours, I would earn a few more hundred rupees by selling more,” says Rajinder, a fruit vendor.
For Om Prakash, Assistant Information Officer at the New Delhi Municipal Council, it was the longest day of being quizzed by his colleagues. “As soon as we all gathered in the office they asked me why the phenomenon occurs.” Recapping his morning conversation, he suggested that they visit Jantar Mantar – the astronomical observatory on the other side of the road – as it would explain it all.
“Among the scientific instruments is one that can measure the length of the day and only on this day a shadow is cast by the instrument,” Mr. Prakash said, going into a barrage of the angles of sun’s inclinations.
At Delhi University it was business as usual, but the extended sunshine hours did not miss the intellectuals. Ramjas College Principal Prof. Rajendra Prasad decided to call it a day at exactly 6.45 p.m. and was struck by daylight, “I remember the exact timing because I got late going home as I was preparing for a speech to deliver at the Work Bank tomorrow. I knew it was supposed to be the longest day as I read it in the morning papers but I forgot by the evening,” he said.
Bipin Tiwary, who heads the university’s Equal Opportunities Cell, too realised the phenomenon only on his way back home. “I was stuck in my office, curtains drawn from noon and did not know it was the longest day. I stepped out at 7-30 and noticed something really strange. What was all the bright light doing so late,” he said
A few blocks away at St. Stephen’s College the gruelling process of sorting out application forms was under way as interview lists for applications are due for Friday. “I knew that it was the longest day, the science behind it and everything, but this time I really felt it,” said Economics Professor Nanditha Narayan.
Long hours of work were felt by others too, but it was Sachin Brahma of Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE) who put it in perspective: “The yearly dance of the sun when it moves from the Northern to the Southern hemisphere and back again saw its finale for the northern hemisphere today on Summer Solstice day. The sun will begin its journey to shower its light and life to the southern hemisphere. For us who live in the north, today was the longest day, while the south saw its shortest day.”

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