Just before leaving London in April 2017, my dear friend Diana gave me a tiny statue of the Hindu God Lord Ganesha. She chose it for me because he is the God of New Beginnings. He has done his job incredibly well for me.
After the death of my wife, and the demise of our company, I certainly needed a new beginning. I opened my heart and my soul and offered it to the world. Even on the second day of my trip I met people who have remained friends, following my journey, with one in particular offering me regular encouragement and friendship. Almost daily I meet new and fascinating people; the benefit of solo travel. As I have no means of cooking food myself, I take every meal in a cafe or restaurant. I sit down, on my own as always, and look around. Some remarkable conversations have followed. One diner in particular has captured my heart. Not an experience I sought or expected, but I haven’t resisted it either. Definitely a ‘new beginning.’
Lord Ganesha is also an obstacle remover and he has certainly been successful for me here too. Any journey like mine, or even a mini-adventure weekend away, will throw up problems. I am a firm believer that for every problem there is a solution. Some solutions are more difficult to find though. Riding through Europe and Turkey presented few significant problems but failure to secure permission to enter Iran was definitely a substantial obstacle facing me ahead. I applied for permission to apply for a Visa, as solo travellers from the UK (and USA and Canada) currently have to, 4 months before I reached Istanbul. A request for more information about me in the meantime was the only evidence of any kind of progress. So, I needed to work on a Plan B. This would either involve a substantial re-routing of my journey to the north, missing India and Indonesia, or a substantial series of sea passages from Turkey to India. Too much sea for a road trip! Out of the blue, the Ministry of Foreign Affaires in Iran gave their permission. Lord Ganesha, did this have anything to do with you?
It is late July 2017 now, and I have arrived in Mumbai waiting for my Triumph Rocket X to be released from the port - it came by sea from Dubai; I flew. I am seeing Lord Ganesha everywhere. He is in shop windows, on posters, and in workshops coming out of 10 foot high moulds. In the Mumbai slums I saw someone making small shrines for him out of old pallets. They are sold for people to put in their homes, with their statue of Lord Ganesha, and displayed together with flowers, incense and offerings. I have suddenly realised to my embarrassment, that this little chap is incredibly important to Hindus here. The number of people living below the poverty line is diminishing thanks to India’s healthy growth in recent years, but it is still over 150,000,000. That’s right, over twice the population of the UK. I have stopped to consider how hard the Hindu’s amongst this number must pray to Lord Ganesha every day for a new beginning. They need it more than I do that’s for sure.
Having said that, I need to call on Lord Ganesha again. I need my new beginning to continue safely. From what I have seen on the roads here, and everything I learnt before I arrived, I am going to need him to do his best for me. India’s roads are truly awful. Potholes, cracked concrete, sections of missing tarmac even on toll roads, no lines to follow, no junction markings, few road signs, huge speed bumps placed at random, and the list goes on.
The drivers are even worse. Trucks, cars, bikes, taxis and rickshaws all seem to have their individual set of rules. The blast of a horn seems to have at least a dozen meanings, including “I’m about to turn right across your path even though I can see you coming up beside me, so here’s a blast of my horn instead of using my indicator, which I don’t know how to use anyway”.
Lord Ganesha, I am praying to you.
Hindu God of New Beginnings.