V.V. Ganeshananthan

An Agnostic or Maybe Atheist Hindu’s Plea for Sanity, Or If That’s Not Possible, Some Snacks

O whomsoever is up there,

You, and you, and you also, since you’re simultaneously aspects of one—

—grant us patience with the bearded white hippie who, at the gym in suburbia, says namaste to us instead of hello, and thinks that for this he should receive karmic points, and perhaps even more hilariously, that we in our mystical brownness might be capable of distributing such, even though we know no one other than he who greets another person in this fashion;

Or alternatively, make us capable of distributing such points, none of which shall go to him, but shall only go to people who have had namaste said to them unsolicitedly on the basis of race;

And should that be the case, may all such points be redeemable for fresh mangosteens, which we have had overseas but which are in any case only available on the black market in the United States, and who knows why, because they are delicious and might go far towards distracting from the irritations of unsolicited namastes;

Or, since it must be said, the irritations of people assuming we do yoga, although we prefer soccer, which for some reason seems to surprise them;

And, o whomsoever is up there, give us the strength to bear with the low-grade curry powder at the grocery store, which is so weak as to make us weep from lack of chili rather than its presence, being made for the concept of the bearded white hippie rather than for the actual we, and being shelved in the aisle of ethnicity, as it is so vaguely rendered;

Or alternatively, and frankly this might be easier, make it actually spicy;

Or alternatively again, or maybe even in addition, permit us to be correctly spice-profiled at all restaurants for the remainder of all our lives, should we be so fortunately reincarnated;

And, O god and God and God of gods, bestow upon us the wisdom to know that just because someone asks whether Hinduism is monotheistic or polytheistic does not mean that we have to answer the question, since in our opinion this is a ridiculous binary and also who died and made us the spokesperson for anything, least of all to a random dude at a random gym in a town where we don’t live and are just on a visitor’s pass anyway;

Or alternatively, if we are to be constantly asked to be a native informant, may the questions and micro-aggressions at least be more intelligent, and may the person who died and made us spokesperson be reincarnated as a…

But, o whomsoever is up there, make us not so ungracious and unkind, lest we also be reincarnated as something unpleasant that never gets to eat good food;

And O whomsoever is up there, maybe even Ganesha himself, give non-Hindus something other than Ganesha to use as a metaphor for multi-tasking, because although we have a special affection for his elephantine face, this usage wearies us so;

Or alternatively, may his image also be a universal symbol of the presence of very good food, since he is known to appreciate such;

And may we in our weariness stumble upon a place that makes tea properly and rejuvenates us with the strength of both caffeine and belief in you—

And O, when someone expresses great shock that our Asian parents did not insist that we all be doctors, let us be silent—

And let us go instead to the temple, whereupon we shall eat of the snacks that our “beautiful culture” has, in fact, so graciously provided, and let all the people there talk of social justice, and especially talk of caste and how its wrongs might be recognized and subsequently addressed;

Because you in your wisdom make generous allowance for bountiful meals in which we might take comfort, even if we occasionally and inconveniently do not believe in you because of seeing mostly injustice, which we understand some others term the problem of evil, and for which you no doubt have a solution;

And we guess, o whomsoever, that the arc of justice must be really long, and how many reincarnations are we going to need for this? Because when you come right down to it, that unsought namaste is kind of the least of it;

And may the canteen of the temple deserve its four-star restaurant review, being one of few religious institutions to be so reviewed; and may the yogurt rice and the sour rice and the crisp dosa be plentiful and cheap, and the chutneys and sauces and kulfis and puddings varied, and accompanied by fake imported mango juice and real coconut water, the kind you get from hacking into a young coconut with a machete, but very safely of course, under your benevolent protection;

And may you also enjoy what we have offered you, and next time we hope to be better and to do better,

And may the family at the next table include a little girl smaller than her dosa, who is not yet as jaded as us, though she be as hungry for what tastes good.

V.V. (Sugi) Ganeshananthan

V.V. Ganeshananthan is the author of Love Marriage (Random House 2008). The novel was longlisted for the Orange Prize and named one of Washington Post Book World's Best of 2008. Her work has appeared in Granta, The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Columbia Journalism Review, and Ploughshares, among others. She previously taught at the University of Michigan, and in 2015 will begin teaching at the University of Minnesota. She is a 2014 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow and a 2014-2015 Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.