The impression of the stories narrated by my mother before kissing me “goodnight” still lingers in my mind. The fairy-tales, often accompanied by mythological stories from the Quran, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Bible, crafted heroic pictures of the legendary characters in my imagination before I fell asleep. Once while traveling with my mom in an auto-rickshaw through a busy road in the city, I happened to see many colourful, small and large statues, which I thought to be of some elephant toy. I asked Maa to get me one. I was 4-5 years old then. My mom explained to me that it wasn’t a toy but the statue of Lord Ganesha.
“Who is he? You never told me anything about him!” I asked innocently.
Maa smiled and said, “Tonight I’ll tell you about him.”
Yet, curious as I have always been, I kept questioning about the fascinating baby elephant. “Is he a character from the Jungle Book? Mowgli’s friend? Why does he look like an elephant? How can he sit on the tiny rat?” I went on and on.
On reaching home my mom made me sit on her lap and began to tell me about Lord Ganesha in her usual style. Having shared all about the childhood mischiefs of Ganesha, she went to tell me the stories of his obedience. “For Ganesha, his parents, Shiva and Parvati, were his world.” She said. “His trust in them were so strong that it reflected as respect even in the most innocent gestures of little Ganesha.”
I listened to every word of the intriguing story very carefully. After my mom was done with the stories, I pleaded, “Mom, can I have a statue of Lord Ganesha? Please get me one.” Mom didn’t reply and got busy with all household chores. Next day when I returned from school in the afternoon, I saw a small statue of Ganesha on my study table and my happiness had no measure. I started carrying it with me everywhere, in school, at play, and at birthday parties, flaunting my priceless possession!
My dad used to take me and my brother around in the city of Mumbai to see the display of magnificent Ganpati statues. The music and the pompous celebrations enthralled me. Every year I eagerly waited for Ganesha Chaturthi. When I was 13, one of my friends told me that the children were planning to bring Lord Ganesha in their residential society and needed some help in raising funds for the same. And there I was, going door to door collecting funds for the Ganesha Festival that year. When I approached the Hindu families, no one asked me my name. When I approached the Muslim families, no one asked why I was doing it. Everyone just smiled and extended whatever they could.
That year, we, the children put up a small statue of Ganesha in the society. It was appreciated by all, irrespective of faith. With time we all became busy with our routines, but these are some of the fondest childhood memories very close to my heart. Today, 22 years have passed since I got the tiny statue of Lord Ganesha. I still have it. My mom’s gift, a meaningful lesson and my possession for a lifetime!