Vinayaka Chaviti or Ganesh Chaturthi has been more significant this year than previous for a few reasons. My mother made ‘undrallu’, steamed, coarsely ground rice-flour balls for the first time in the United States and I made a nearly healthy version of ‘payasam’ with coconut sugar to enable guilt free food festivities. And felt countless instilled moments of veneration, honor and devoutness for being a Hindu. My parents raised me inclusive of other religions and inculcated tolerance, the ability to never discriminate customs, and be a good human being.
After twinning with my mom, the customary puja, I stepped and in all my excitement ended up doing what has been a mythical offense. I never knew the anecdote but was always told not to look at the moon on this exact night. And not only did I glance at the moon but I must have done it several times although inadvertently. Much to my horror, my over-educated mom only reminded me of the consequences instead of telling me it is useless sentiment. Regardless, I was able to take some remedial action.
Ganesha was returning rather late one night, after a mighty feast. He had eaten too many of his much loved sweet dumplings and his ride, the mouse, was carrying his master in the air in a gamely routine. It was a full moon night and the moon was out in all his magnificence. Suddenly a snake traversed their trail and startled by it the mouse made a dash, displacing Ganesha. Ganesha fell to the ground, his belly broke open, and all the ‘modakas’ he ate rolled on to the ground.
He hastily stuffed all the ‘modakas’ back, grabbed the snake and tied it round his tummy to keep the ‘modakas’ in. When he looked around to see if he could spot his mouse when he heard a silvery laugh. The moon, having seen him fall, was laughing at him. In a fit of fury, Ganesha broke off one of his tusks and flung it at the moon, making a direct hit, and cursed that the moon would never be as glorious again.
Which is why the moon has a crater which we can see from the Earth. Hence, according to this, it is believed that one should not sight the moon on Ganesh Chaturthi. If a person sees the moon on Ganesh Chaturthi, they’ll be cursed. I was amazed how progressive the faith itself is for its teachings where someone who was made fun of was empowered to curse so the one making it would never repeat it on anyone one. I am sure if we use our powers right, we have the ability to teach anyone that intimidates, body shames and abuses, a mighty good lesson.
September 11th, the day after the festival, carries a deep significance in my heart. I was the happiest to see some people walk in the door that morning. Being new to the United States, I didn’t grasp very quickly that it was a terrorist attack. I thought it was a shoot for the ‘Pearl Harbor’ sequel until it really hit me what was happening. To this day, I am indebted for being protected by many from the hate crimes that followed, although some industries completely shut down the sponsorship program for international work visas. Getting jobs was so hard that many of my peers ended up getting multiple graduate degrees until they got a decent job. Perhaps, it was destiny that 9/11 compelled me into technology.
Both these days, I went from being the eternal optimist to feeling lost on why certain things happen just to me. But as the saying goes, “The world is so unpredictable. Things happen suddenly, unexpectedly. We want to feel we are in control of our own existence. In some ways we are, in some ways we’re not. We are ruled by the forces of chance and coincidence,” I’ve learned to maneuver to the best I can, enjoy the opportunities, respect failures, enable myself to stand for the right thing, and do good by those around me. Such is life and I am grateful for it.