Most people are unaware of the fact that I spent the better part of my life in the world of Indian business. When I was just twelve, my father would send me to Munimji, the chief accountant in our Mumbai office. His task was to train me in the two most critical words in the world of business: debit and credit.
I was always a voracious reader. The reading habit was due to my grandfather who had established a wonderful tradition of gifting me a different book each week. No sooner did I receive a book from him, I would get busy reading it in whatever spare time I had. Thus, Munimji would often see me reading different books during my lunch breaks.
My grandfather lived mostly in Kanpur but spent many months each year in (what was then) Bombay. The old man was not only an astute businessman but also a scholar, traveller, foodie and poet. Ensconced in a comfortable armchair, the old man would crack jokes, narrate anecdotes and proffer advice to the uninitiated like me.
The attention that I gave to my grandfather’s books annoyed Munimji. “I really wish you would concentrate on bookkeeping rather than book reading,” he would say to me. “If you must read, then why not read a balance sheet? That will be far more valuable in your business career.”
Munimji’s blinkered vision eventually got on my nerves and I confided in my grandfather. The old man took a puff of his favorite State Express cigarette, a bad habit that hadn’t yet become taboo, and considered my predicament. He suddenly laughed. “Become Ganesha,” he said to me by way of guidance.
I was bewildered. Seeing my baffled look, he clarified further.
“Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge,” he said.
“Lakshmi is jealous of Saraswati. When Saraswati gets up to leave, Lakshmi follows her. The problem is that the moment Lakshmi arrives at a destination, Saraswati gets up to leave. That’s why you find wisdom flying out the window when wealth arrives.”
Lakshmi and Saraswati
I could barely tell what the old man was going on about but he bravely plodded on. “Lakshmi without Saraswati or vice-versa is no good,” he explained.
“It is only when Lakshmi and Saraswati sit together that one can prosper. That is precisely the reason why you see Ganesha, the symbol of prosperity, sitting between Lakshmi and Saraswati. Ganesha is the ultimate connector of Lakshmi and Saraswati. He is the only one who can keep the two goddesses together. Hence my advice: become Ganesha.”
Those lessons probably explain my rotund physique. It’s simply my quest to be Ganesha!