Ganapati (better known as Ganesh) plays an important part in our family lore. We have statues of him, books about him, dozens of sketches of him, and even songs about him.
Elephants are my favorite animal, but they haven't always been. It's actually a really odd story...
When I was about 18 years old, I had a dream that I forgot as I climbed out of bed and headed for the shower. The only thing that lingered was an unshakable desire to "wake up in India and ride an elephant." It literally came out of nowhere and would. not. go. away. All day long, I wondered how I was going to make this happen. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was something I had to do.
The next morning I arrived early to my anthropology class and sat in the small lecture hall eating yogurt waiting for the professor to show up. Before he came in (anthropology professors are notoriously late for everything, I think), another professor showed up and impatiently waited by the door. As the anthropology professor walked in, the waiting professor, Dr. Nair, approached him in an assertive style I would quickly come to associate with him. After a few seconds of quiet discussion, Dr. Nair approached the podium and started speaking to us with an Indian lilt in his voice, "Hello, my name is Dr. Nair and I am with the Sociology Department here at Cleveland State. I am taking a group of students to India and would like to....." I never heard the rest of his speech. I didn't want to be impolite, but as he walked out of the classroom, my muscles were poised to run after him. It took all my self-control to sit through the anthropology lecture, knee bouncing and mind nowhere near that room.
At the end of class, I bounded to Dr. Nair's office and told him I was ready to sign up. It was going to be outrageously difficult to pay for my rent and bills and school and car and still have money to go, but I was determined to make it work. It never occurred to me that it might not, which I think was probably the main thing I had going for me.
At one point during the trip, we visited a little ceramic shop where about half-a-dozen workers were making these hollow elephant statues. Ganapati, our guide told us. It wasn't even a question, Ganapati was coming home with me. For about $4 I had found myself a treasure.
A few weeks later it was time to head home. Dr. Nair convinced me that I should wear a sari home to show everyone what I had been dressed like all summer and because it was actually pretty impressive for a girl my age (Indian or not) to know how to tie their own sari.
At any rate, there I was at the airport ready for my 26 hour trip. I checked one bag and had a backpack as my carry-on. In my backpack, I had Ganapati wrapped in a sweater and my passport. Nothing else.
So of course my connecting flight from New York to Cleveland was cancelled and I was stuck overnight without a toothbrush, hairbrush, fresh clothes, clean underwear, or even money for food.
But Ganapati is the Hindu god of obstacles, luck, and new beginnings, so I wasn't too worried. He and I made it and have been together ever since. I love him even more for having had the journey with him.