While my parents were living in Bombay, they acquired an ornate wood carving of the elephant-headed god Ganesha and displayed him in our apartment, more as a decorative object than as a religious icon. They were extremely fond of this sculpture (my father still treasures him to this day) and called him by his other popular name, Ganapati, or, affectionately, Gumpy, for short. As a baby, I must have seen this figure hundreds of times and developed some sort of attachment to him, perhaps because of his plump, childlike form dancing a comical version of the mystical Dance of Creation and Destruction that his father, Shiva, performs. When it came time for me, at around my first birthday to utter my first word, it was not “Mama” or “Papa.” It was “Gump.” Not surprisingly, Ganesha has been a special figure in my life, and since material possessions can often turn into obstacles, I chose to give away a Ganesha today.
For those readers who are familiar with Ganesha, this might seem like a strange choice as an ending, since Ganesha is the Hindu God of Beginnings. As such, Ganesha is prayed to by Hindus before undertaking any new projects or embarking on journeys. He is also the God of Doorways, and his image appears cresting entranceways, a sign that he is blessing the worshipper’s entrance into a temple or home. Finally, he is worshipped as the Remover of Obstacles, and is prayed to for success in all endeavors, from school examinations to marriages and business ventures. He is often depicted with his vehicle the mouse, and together they can be counted on to remove all problems, Ganesha the large problems and the mouse the smaller ones.
I have a couple of statues of Ganesha – one beautiful stone one that was given to me as a farewell gift by the staff of Pacific Asia Museum when I left – to wish me well on my new journey. The statue has sat on our mantelpiece protecting our home for years. The other is a small crystal figure of Ganesha that a friend brought me from India over 20 years ago. This little amulet has lived quietly in one of my jewelry boxes for years. Today, I am giving it to my husband David (check your pants pocket, David!) to thank him for his support while I ransacked the house looking for things to give away, while I ran off into the night to give away last-minute gifts, while I sent another item via the USPS across the world, and while I sat at my computer late at night writing instead of watching tv with him. I also thank him for doing my Giveaway for me when I was in hospital earlier this year, and for being a loyal follower of this blog, sticking with it for the whole year, even though he has had his own struggles to deal with.
Though we are not a religious family, I know that it can sometimes be reassuring to have a lucky charm with us as we go out into the often-scary world, and perhaps Ganesha will help David overcome the various obstacles life has placed in his way. The amulet can’t help him with his physical disability, but maybe if he keeps it with him in his pocket it will protect him from stumbling and injuring himself on days when his legs are particularly weak. And although this amulet is tiny, perhaps having this charm with him will help make the difficulties he’s currently facing at work less insurmountable. Ganesha is also the God of Beginnings, so the gift is also a wish for a strong, obstacle-free start to our family’s New Year together.
At the end of this year-long project, my feelings are mixed. Over the last year, I have emptied out closets, drawers and bookshelves and given away easily over 500 items in total, but I know that I have gained so much more in return – smiles from strangers, notes from friends across the world, time reminiscing about friends, and most of all a valuable reminder that I have been blessed with wonderful people in my life. I am not going to stop giving things away, as I have become a bit addicted to it now! However, the blog must come to an end here. I am deeply grateful to my followers and readers for giving me the gift of their time, attention and comments this year. This was a tremendous gift to me.
On this New Year’s eve, as I part with my last object in this Giveaway, my hope is that 2016 will be less cluttered with material things and full instead of warmth, friendship, love, patience, laughter and compassion. They are what truly enrich our lives and they don’t take up any room on our shelves or in our closets.