We have been on the road since about 11:00 in the morning on Wednesday. That makes it about 30 hours of travel time, so far, with another seven hours before we reach the U.S., plus 10-hours layover in charming LAX before we can make the two hour hop up to Portland. Somehow we leave Mumbai and arrive in Portland on the same day, and we arrive in Los Angeles before we leave Hong Kong. It is no great mystery, but it is strangely mind boggling that it is even possible technically, and that the human body can make the adjustment.
Before we left Mandya Mama gave me a Ganesha, and said if I hold it close and say in my heart three times over, “Ganesha,” all my troubles will dissolve for a safe journey. So far so good. The trip from Oregon to Karnataka was long and exhausting, and the biggest problems were not getting the business class upgrade we paid for between Hong Kong and Mumbai, and getting so dehydrated my nose bled like a gusher as we were getting ready to depart Mumbai. This morning, I woke up with mild flu-like symptoms: not a good way to start what would feel like a never ending day that would be spent on mass transit and in airports.
The Ganesha has been good fortune. Mama must have wished us well in the early hours of the morning when she got up to make idly and sambar for breakfast. Greg woke up feeling quite well. He has not been unwell, but has been increasingly “iffy” for the last two weeks. We also got our seats upgraded for the last leg of the journey a day or two before we left Mandya. Somehow, on the train ride to Bangalore, the hour bus ride to the airport, on various flights and in various airports, despite less than ideal sleeping conditions I was able to sleep off most of the aching joints and nausea enough to feel pretty well before boarding the 13-hour flight to Los Angeles.
Can the Ganesha do all that? Who knows. If the symbol of the elephant deity helps us focus on positive outcomes, then yes. If an elephant can remind me to think about what I need to do for safe and healthy travels, then I’ll take the help. I was not in any condition this morning (30 hours ago) to argue the logic of it, and our gracious host family may not have appreciated such disrespect anyway.
In real life, the elephant is a beautiful and powerful creature with no natural enemies, living in communities. It is no great surprise that an elephant symbolizes the ability to remove obstacles. I can remember the Ganesha to help me focus on clearing a path for success. This may not be the purest interpretation of belief in Ganesha from a Hindu or Jain or other perspective, but it works for me. India’s diverse religious base is an important demonstration that spirituality, personal credos, and norms of respect and communal behavior need not be tied to a common religious base or belief system. What works for one family need not work for another and the two families can live as part of a productive and healthy community.
Pragmatically, I’ll take all the help I can get for a safe and healthy trip.
Ganesha, Ganesha, Ganesha.