Letters to Lord Ganesha

From the very start, Ankur had been against sending the invitation letter to Lord Ganesha, but had reluctantly agreed upon Roshni’s resolute insistence. Even though he didn’t want to begin their marriage with yet another argument, he couldn’t help himself from scoring a point or two. “What?” he said with clenched teeth, as if he were trying to bite his tongue, but not really biting it at all, not keeping that acerbic tongue of his under control, “Do you think Ganesha is really  going to show up at our wedding? Should we set the table with an extra plate in case he decides to accept our invitation? They say his elephant head has given him a prodigious appetite, ready to eat the cutlery and even the wall decorations if we don’t feed him every last morsel prepared for the guests.”

She did not respond to his sarcasm, merely shrugged in the direction of her mother and his mother in the next room, conspiring and muttering together, both of them adamant that things be done in the traditional way, that the blessings of the God with the face of an elephant be invoked as the initial step to happiness, the couple needed to invite Lord Ganesha to their banquet, no matter how much the bridegroom considered himself a thoroughly modern man, determined to sweep into the dustbin of history the excessively superstitious practices from the old India that were holding this country of ours back.

It was the replica of a dispute they had been engaged in since they had first met, when he had espoused the need for radical, immediate change, and she had retorted with  “It’s best not to overthrow a king unless you can guarantee that his replacement will do a better job.”

A tired discussion that Ankur preferred not to revisit, not now, not with the delights and tensions of the wedding looming ahead. And besides, of all the Gods, it was Ganesha he liked most, he had always had a soft spot for elephants. If you can’t beat them, join them, he silently mouthed the words to himself, and in order to compensate for his mordant mockery of Ganesha as The Dinner Guest Who Never Showed Up, he surprised Roshni by suggesting that rather than a form letter, the typical clichéd expressions that adorn so many marriage invitations, with cream colored paper and golden bangles flittering from the sides, he and she, Ankur and Roshni, should write something real, should ask for concrete, tangible blessings, and use the occasion to imagine their future and cement their love.

And, indeed, they enjoyed composing the letter, full of sweet words and eternal vows.In the years ahead they would come to cherish those many hours spent side by side, the experience of writing a message with input from one and then the other, creating out of nothingness a perfect creature, as if anticipating the child they hoped to someday forge from within their bodies. Constructing their infinite tomorrows word by word by word, he so deeply communing with his wife-to-be and she with the man who was soon to share her bed and much more, that one evening he admitted to her that perhaps there was a deeper wisdom to the ceremony, that perhaps they should go and deliver their love letter and appeal for benedictions, do so in person. If Ganesha will not come to us, we should go to him.

She deflated the proposal like an old crumpled balloon. Though pleased that he had been enlightened, at least in this matter, she reminded him of the prohibitive cost of such a journey, time consuming precisely when he was working extra hours at the office in order to help pay for the honeymoon, and besides, she said to him, as she would often do over the years as their marriage foundered, you were against writing the letter in the first place, you were so thoroughly modern, so thoroughly up to date, against everything that reeks of old India, and now, typically, you want to make amends in a jiffy, not so quick, my dear, not so easy.

The text above was just an excerpt. The web versions of our print articles are now hosted by Duke University Press, Tikkun’s publisher. Click here to read an HTML version of the article or to download the PDF version.

Tikkun 2018 Volume 33, Number 3:57-64

Ariel Dorfman is a Chilean-American author. His latest book is Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile. Seven of his books have been translated into Farsi. He lives with his wife, Angélica, in Durham, North Carolina and, when time permits, in their native Chile. He teaches at Duke University.
 
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