Ganesha the God
An introduction to God
Humans have this unique propensity of being able to focus all their fears into the conceptualization of an entity called God and then worshipping it to overcome the very same fears that initiated the process. Every civilization has been through this course and they continue to be enmeshed in it with the objects or entities of their worship ranging from the formless to every conceivable shape.
In India, Ganesha - the elephant-headed god, takes the pride of place in playing this role. One can find the idol of Ganesha in every street corner, his framed pictures in most homes, his symbol adorning invitation cards for all events, and a prayer to him preceding every important deed. Life would come to a standstill for a Hindu without Ganesha, as it would for the followers of other religious faiths sans their own respective redeeming icons.
What follows is a fictional short story based on a real happening some time ago . . .
Ganesha the God
Aarumugam was an astrologer. Not by choice. It was the only profession that he knew and the only qualification that he had. Bestowed upon him by his father, this had been the family vocation for many generations.
He was a simple man and aspired not for material objectives. Endowed as he was with meager means, no woman had come forward to share his life. Arumugam had accepted his forced bachelorhood as a quirk of destiny. Acceptance was all the more easier, because he could see this situation clearly in his chart. His day began with a visit to the little temple of Ganesha at the street corner followed by a cup of steaming coffee and a pair of idlis at the roadside eatery beside it.
Except for a brief lunch break, the rest of the day was spent in waiting in anticipation of anyone who may turn up with a chart to seek his counsel. The day would end with yet another rendezvous with Ganesha. It was during one of these daily sojourns many years ago, that Aarumugam had met Mungu the ascetic.
Generally, asceticism is associated with wisdom and wisdom with advancing age. Many take to asceticism seeking spiritual enlightenment. Some however take to it hoping for material gains in the name of spirituality. Mungu was one such. Born to poor parents as the last in a line of seven children and being a school dropout, he could see only two avenues open to him to realize his dreams of courting riches and fame. One was thuggery and the other was pseudo-asceticism. Being a softhearted and peace loving man, the first option was foreclosed. So he took to the second, endowed as he was with the gift of oration and a very fertile imagination. Starting as a roadside preacher, he quickly rose up the ascetical hierarchy to become His Holiness Mungu Baba.
During his days as a minion in the ascetical order, Mungu had met Aarumugam, confided in him about his ambitions and had asked him to see his chart to see if they would be realized. The astrologer had answered in the affirmative but had also said that this would lead to his spiritual salvation. Both the counselor and the counseled were at a loss to understand how this was to be. Aarumugam had merely interpreted the celestial positions as described in the texts.
With his rising status, Mungu's meetings with Aarumagam became progressively less frequent, partly by circumstance and partly by design. But their common regard for the street corner Ganesha provided the occasional opportunity of a fleeting encounter.
* * *
Gajanan Godbolay was one of the leading industrialists of the city. Descended from a traditional and prosperous family that claimed hoary ancestors, Godbolay had everything that Mungu aspired for. Aspiration without contentment is perhaps both a virtue and a failing. It drives one to great achievements as well as to doom. Godbolay sought peace and salvation, things that were not bequeathed to him as part of his ancestral fortunes. He prospected for the former with the latter. It was during one such exercise that Godbolay met Mungu. Taken in by Mungu's oratory, he had lavished upon the latter much of his material possessions, transforming the mendicant to a reverend.
Once, when Godbolay had asked Mungu for referral to a good astrologer, Mungu had mentioned Aarumugam. It was thus that Aarumugam was in the possession of Godbolay's chart too. This chart was yet another enigma to the astrologer. It showed all the trappings of a materially fulfilling life and yet showed spiritual emancipation.
Ganesha was God. He was lawgiver, judge, witness, scorekeeper of sin and piety, and dispenser of justice - all rolled into one. Emotion had no place in his vocabulary, thought and action. There were times when the heart-rending confessions and appeals of his three regular and sincere devotees -Aarumugam, Mungu and Godbolay, had moved him. He had wanted to shower his blessing upon them. He had wanted to change the course of their lives. He had wanted to reveal to them the essence of existence. But he could not. He just stood rooted in his corner upon his polished granite pedestal. He was God!
Many years had passed since the time Aarumugam had analyzed the charts of Mungu and Godbolay. During this period the fame of Mungu Baba had spread far and wide. He had set up a mission with branches in many lands and frequent foreign jaunts had become the order of the day for him, much of this being financed by Godbolay.
Lately, Aarumugam was having this premonition of an impending change of a drastic kind. He would sit at the balcony of his dilapidated one room tenement every evening gazing at the setting Sun and contemplating the possible scenarios that were to come. It was one such evening that saw the astrologer in a pensive mood looking at the silhouette of the flag fluttering on the mast atop the congregation hall of Mungu baba's religious seminary nearby, in the background of brilliant orange. That day had begun with a bang and the events that followed were so fast paced that they defied logic.
* * *
The priest at the London center of Mungu Baba's mission had reported that the idol of Ganesha at the center had partaken of the milk offered to it! Within a matter of a few hours, the news had spread around every centre associated with the mission in every land, and thence to every Ganesha temple of every size and stature. There were un-ending queues of devotees with offerings of milk, vying to feed Ganesha. A few thoughtful persons did attempt to reason out the phenomenon and surmised that it was surface tension of the liquid and the smooth wet surface of the idol made of marble in contact with the liquid in the container that would have caused the milk to rise up the idol, creating a drop in the level of the liquid in the container. However logic was no match for mass hysteria. Or perhaps it was because this mismatch was but logical.
Milk flowed down the gutters incessantly. Ganesha was sick. And what was worse, as the day wore on the milk was becoming increasingly adulterated. He wanted to yell at the people to stop this nonsense. He wanted to curse them all and make sure that none of them ever realized any of their yearnings. But he could not. He just stood rooted in his corner upon his polished granite pedestal. He was God!
Aarumugam was one of the first to go to the seminary that morning on hearing about this incident. He could see the gleam in Mungu Baba's eyes as he schemed of using this opportunity to amass a fortune from the pathetic devotees. It had made Aarumugam retrace his steps to his own abode with a heavy heart. Thoughts had overwhelmed him for the day and sunset seemed to follow sunrise in quick succession. The long and loud honk of a horn jolted him from his reverie. Looking down his balcony he saw Godbolay arrive in a limousine and head straight for Mungu's chambers.
* * *..
Mungu was in a maniacal mood, pacing up and down the carpeted floor. Godbolay had never seen him thus before for Mungu had always endeavored to hide his real intentions from all his disciples. But today was different. It had the potential of creating wealth for him in excess of all that he had accumulated through the years. Mungu confided in Godbolay. He needed a friend to share his bizarre thoughts. Un-acknowledged but known to both, a deep bond of friendship and respect had developed between the two with time.
It was however a bolt from the blue for Godbolay. He had always considered Mungu as a man of God. And now this?! Slowly and unrealized, Godbolay had truly shed all his attachment to material trappings since he had come into contact with Mungu. The only bond that remained was his attachment to Mungu. Now, this too was broken. He quietly turned around and walked away, leaving everything - a free man.
It was then that Mungu realized his folly. Realized that his attachment to Godbolay was far greater and stronger than his desire for riches. With that bond shattered, he too resolved to end his pseudo-existence then and there and walked away a free man.
Aarumugam watched the two leave the place one after the other, calmness on their countenance and peace in their hearts and realized the significance of Time, its implications and the way it makes the world work. This was the impending change that he was anticipating.
Ganesha was ecstatic on seeing three of his ardent devotees shed the shackles that held them to life's bondage. He wanted to jump with joy. He wanted to do a song-full jig. But he could not. He just stood rooted in his corner upon his polished granite pedestal.
He was God!
* * *
© 2009 Ram Ramakrishnan