Ganeshagate

If you were paying close attention to Kevin’s blog entry of June 23rd (and I know you were), you would have noticed among Barack Obama’s lucky charms a “tiny monkey,” which, it turns out, is a miniature representation of the Hindu god Hanuman. It ended up in Obama’s pocket the same way many other items have landed there: “I have all these things that people give me—all these different little good luck charms.” The other day the Washington Post blog reported that Bhavna Pandit, a political fundraising consultant, believes that the quickly spreading news that Obama is toting around this little Hindu monkey will go a long way with the Indian American community. The blog entry says that “women and men of [Pandit’s] parents’ generation” are “suddenly taking note of Obama in a way they had not done before.” The article suggests that if Pandit is right, Hanuman may help Obama carry the Indian American vote, which had previously been largely aligned with the Clinton campaign. See the story HERE and HERE.

What’s interesting about this is not just that I’m a big Obama supporter, but the shared understanding on the part of both Obama, the consultant interviewed, and, presumably, the person who gave Obama the monkey in the first place, that Hanuman inhabits a space that is at the intersection of faith and superstition, religion and luck. And I had an experience recently about just this topic that ended on a somewhat less positive note.

I was at CW 11 (a local network) to be interviewed for a short piece they were doing about lucky charms for Friday the 13th. They had asked me to bring some charms to discuss so I had a bag full of things I have collected or been given since I started working on the luck book. They include pennies, a four-leaf clover, a wishbone, a daruma, a maneki neko, a pair of red underwear, an evil eye amulet, and a Ganesha. One of the production guys had taken away the charms to create the table display for the spot and I was sitting in the “green room” waiting to go on. A woman came into the room to inform me, angrily, that she had taken the Ganesha off of the table. She began to explain that Ganesha was a god, not a good luck charm, and that people worship him. I began to say that I know that he is a Hindu god and she cut me off, stating that she was Hindu and that he is “the mover of obstacles.” I tried to say that, as I understood it, he is thought to bring good luck to difficult endeavors but again she interrupted, snapping that I wouldn’t have put a baby Jesus on a crucifix on the table along with red underwear, would I have? I considered this for a moment, thinking to myself “Well, actually I would have but the baby Jesus on a crucifix isn’t considered lucky,” but I (wisely, I think) kept my mouth shut and she stormed off.

The thing that is complicated about writing about luck, or talking about luck, is that it really comes down to belief, and that’s a pretty serious subject, whether it’s shared by an organized religion or an individual. We here at the Luck Guide try to be sensitive when we’re talking about these things, but we don’t always get it right.

I’m not sure if it was a mistake or not to include the Ganesha on that table along with the red underwear. I just know that when I had hit a really rough patch writing the book, I happened to walk by a store where there was a display of Ganeshas in the window. I went in, bought one, and when I got home I put him on the mantelpiece in the room where I was doing my writing. The next morning I woke up and started writing again. I’m not sure what the turnaround was about—religion, faith, luck, the power of positive thinking, or a good night’s sleep—but I suppose I reserve the right to believe he brought me luck, regardless of what anyone else says.

–Deb