It seems that this year Ashok had made a half-hearted effort to get the scientific elements of the statue right. The left hand raised to the sky in blessing. In his right, he held a broken tusk. A flag waved above him with his mouse companion emblazoned on it. Last year, I would have been over the moon about this. I took in the clay statue of Ganesh on his throne. He had the head of an elephant, but his eyes were as penetrating as only a man’s could be. On every statue and idol that I had ever seen of him, the eyes that stared out were always deeply personal. I walked up to the idol and I stared into his eyes. Red sandalwood dripped off his forehead like blood as evidence that Prakash had blessed him. Of course, it would be too large and immodest to be effective for him, who no doubt tried to deliver Ashok a lecture on the impropriety of its largeness. How could you pray for blessings and communicate with the Lord Ganesh if you are grunting and pushing and pulling, due to the spectacle of the image? Simplicity allows the mind to focus and opens the channel to heaven.
One of my nephews opened the gate on the back of the truck and tried to remove the white sacks in the back of the truck.
“No, no! Leave them!” I closed the gate and put the stabilizing pins on the rim of the pick-up’s bed, ready to slide into the receiving holes on the idol’s palate.
“But you have coconuts. We counted 400 coconuts smashed today already!” Only one coconut was needed to release one’s karma, but the young men were always vigorous in their desire to break coconuts for bragging rights of the day.
“Those bags are mine. It’s time to put the Lord Ganesh on the back.”
As we worked to secure the idol on the back of the truck, the rest of the family started the chant we all sang on Ananti.
“Ganapathi Bappa Morya, Purchya Varshi Laukariya.”
Oh father, Ganesh, come again early next year.
I had sung that so many times in my life, but it never sounded as transparent in my ears as it did at that moment. The chant detached itself and floated away from the deepest part of my self – the secure place that once determined all my actions and gave me my sense of time and space. What was once a harbinger of good fortune now became an empty echo in an abandoned chamber. My recent discoveries broke the mold of reaction I had at hearing the chant of Ananti on this day in the light where once they had produced personal feelings of safety and goodwill.
Ganesh was hoisted up and installed to the top of the bed of the truck with the pallet screwed into the stabilizing pins.
Our signal to our family for readiness to the journey to the ocean triggered a wave of coconut destruction that littered the street with jagged shells and white meat. Everyone descended from the house to accompany me as I prepared to drive this massive profanity to the waterside. My nieces and their friends, who were all of an impressionable age, had matching orange and red saris that they wore for a coordinated dance - something they had pulled from one of the local cinemas, which they planned to do on the way to the beach.
“Uncle Razak! We were worried that you wouldn’t be here.” This was Ijaya, my fourteen-year old niece. Her face was made of pure innocence and unbreakable. I blushed with my own embarrassment at being absent. What possible answers did I have for her?
They had planned well; in fact they could think of nothing else for the past six months except how closely to the original version of their dance they could come to on Ananti Chaturthi. It was the first time they had ever tried to coordinate something together to represent our family. I thought about how upset they might have been if I didn’t return that day. They would probably remember these times well into their future.