I have fond recollections of Ganesh Chaturthi growing up as a kid in a large household, the food, the decorations, new clothes etc…who am I kidding?? it was mostly the food.
There was another more crucial experience 14 years ago. I was travelling to Japan for my first international business meeting and this was my first international trip and I was going to meet Top Corporation Heads and their PR departments –needless to say, I was fraught with anxiety and excitement. In the run-up to the trip, I found that the gifting culture in Japan was very high, so, While I was trying to figure out what I could take across – someone in my office suggested tiny idols of Ganesh, I loved the idea as I figured it would be good conversation material along with being a superb gift.
Little did I know, the elephant Headed was determined to be part of the story even before I landed in Japan. I was suitably inebriated on board the 10-hour flight when I was filling up the disembarkation form –Someone sidled up to me and asked for help in filling the form and was clearly more anxious with this trip. So, while I was filling up the form, When I asked him his occupation –he said He was a mahout, so far, so bizarre! What was a mahout doing on a flight to Japan? Well, it turned out he was escorting an Elephant to a zoo in Hokkaido – India’s gift to Japan. As soon as we landed, the poor sod was whisked away by the ZOO authorities for a photo op and a meet the press event. The last image I have, when I was leaving Narita Airport was watching the Elephant walk down with my Mahout friend amidst a flurry of flashbulbs.
My first meeting in Japan was at Honda – My colleague and myself reached a bit early and we were escorted to a conference room and our Japanese clients started pouring in. To meet two media guys from India, there were 12 people in the meeting, suffice it to say – I was busy switching cards in a bid to remember the names of our clients, I duly abandoned that effort. After I finished my presentation –everything thing started unravelling..I flipped my Laptop bag and out went rolling 10 Ganesha idols jumping out of their wrapped boxes, there were enough squeals from the women seeing a strange idol –a man with the Head of an Elephant and a serpent on his tummy sitting on a mouse, what followed next was a 20 min storytelling session on Ganesha !! At the end of the session, we were no longer “gaijin” –“outsiders”.
Ganesha helped me in more than one way that month in a far off country 14 years ago!!