I don’t know which of the suggestions expressed in Prakash’s list regarding what not to do and how not to act escaped the ignorance of my family, who, ironically, seemed to live for nothing else but the celebration of Lord Ganesh’s journey home as he took our misfortunes with him across the water, granting a successful year ahead. Prakash gave up a long time ago trying to bring our family’s statue of the god in line with the proper discipline of spirituality. The science of it was always embarrassingly off, ensuring an empty sacrifice. After years of unheeded counsel, he has been reduced to giving it the cursory blessing and smear of red sandalwood paint – an ornamental gesture, but not before giving me some personal words of spiritual encouragement, knowing that in this house of reckless worship, there was at least one person who cared. I couldn’t bear to be in the house two years ago, when my brother-in-law, Ashok, who has always crafted our family’s statue, fashioned the Lord Ganesh as dressed in his favorite football team’s jersey with both hands raised in victory, as if Ganesh would give special consideration to the movements of a 12-inch sphere of latex that accomplished nothing. There were too many evenings wasted in argument about the lack of respect and the danger of improper construction of the idol between Ashok and I. He would inevitably reply: “If you care so much, Razak, you should make it yourself,” knowing that I was gone from home often and had no artistic ability. Ashok was the one who controlled our statue and it reflected whatever whim struck him that year as I labored in a archaeological pit somewhere or was holed up in a laboratory. To my dismay, his team did win the cup that year, giving credence to his devotional artistic liberties and fueling the apathy of my family toward the correct way of channeling harmful yama frequencies.
My small white pick-up truck crept through the massive crowd as I headed toward home. It had been a long thoughtful ride back from the dig. I had needed to secure the contents of the bags in the back before I left the team. I was the only one who knew the true meaning of their contents and my answers would need to be extracted from the Brahmin. My team was more concerned with the architecture of the temple and the nearby battle-site, giving me exclusive access to the throne room. At Kanyakumari, we had made a crucial discovery that I had to deliver from the site, even though I knew that everyone at home would resent my missing a majority of Ganesha Chaturthi and that I had the family’s only pick-up truck large enough able to carry the Lord Ganesha to the river side. The size of our statue was, of course, another malpractice, and was typical. Ashok had made the statue far too large out of some sense of false power that was completely contrary to Prakash’s direction to make the Lord Ganesh of a modest size in order for him to be immersed properly, instead of clumsily dropped into the ocean.
I found myself in another mental projection: one half-second after I strike with my pick up truck with maximum velocity a statue perfectly formed and scientifically accurate, small molecules of clay and Plaster of Paris violently taking every possible trajectory away from the moment of impact caused by me in a blaze of destruction, just as the first few micro-seconds after the Big Bang saw the universe on a path through every possibility in the blaze of creation.
Through the streets, worshippers gathered around large white canvas bags full of the traditional coconuts, used in a devotional breaking ritual. They were identical to the ones that were in the back of my truck. The incessant crunch of broken shells under my tires signaled my lateness to the festival, increasing my anxiety as I knew my family would be irritated at having to leave for the ocean so close to evening.
Pulling close to the garage next to our house, I could see the Lord Ganesh on a platform in full display, waiting to be driven to the water’s edge and cast in. Milling around the main house and the garage, there were brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins of all stripes, and relations of questionable association. Cheers accompanied by applause tinged with sarcasm broke out as I drove up to the happy throng. I put the truck into reverse to back under the scaffolding that held the Lord Ganesh. Ashok stood out amongst the celebrators, coconut in hand. He didn’t wait for the truck to come to a full stop before yelling into the windshield. Of course, Ashok was not concerned about any disregard for the holiness of the day, but my lack of concern for his own personal convenience From inside the house, the television was at full volume showing coverage of celebrations around the country. My family had the odd habit of incorporating the celebrations of strangers on television into their own. I had always felt it crass. Whatever tirade Ashok was shouting through my window had burned itself out by the time I opened the door. He fixed me with a evil look and handed me a coconut. Traditionally, I was supposed to pray to transfer my karma into it, and then smash it on the ground to release the offering, which would allow the Lord Ganesh to take it away to his home across the water, thus ensuring good karma for the rest of the year. I tossed the coconut in through the driver’s side window, where it lay unbroken.