A Time magazine photograph of Barack Obama’s hands, displaying his favorite charms, sported this caption: “Amongst the things that Barack Obama carries for good luck is a bracelet belonging to a soldier deployed in Iraq, a gambler’s lucky chit, a tiny monkey god and a tiny Madonna and child.”

The tiny monkey god has been interpreted to be none other than the Hindu god Hanuman. Why would he choose this lucky charm? It is widely reported that Obama, whose father was a Kenyan and mother a white woman from Kansas, spent initial days of his life in Indonesia where Hinduism is a popular religion. So is this an influence from his Indonesian childhood?

Hanuman is the god that Hindus, especially young children, are taught to turn to when they are afraid of something or get bad dreams at night. Hanuman is said to be the protector who keeps evil away. This extremely powerful son of the wind god is said to be incredibly strong, invincible, the most intelligent being on earth, and immortal. Known as the “remover of distress” Hanuman is especially known for relieving difficulties. In Hindu mythology, Hanuman is also considered the incarnation of Shiva, the destroyer of all evil.

Usually the image of Hanuman is seen with only two arms, but as with Obama’s charm, the monkey god is also represented with four arms in some regions of Southeast Asia, like Thailand. (The Chinese also are reported to have a monkey god. But while neither Obama nor his aides have said anything about this or his other good luck charms, all inferences assume his little monkey charm to be Hanuman. Interestingly enough (and predictably), over the last couple of days every Indian newspaper has carried this story and photograph, with “Hanuman” and “Obama” on practically every headline.

Whatever his reasons are for choosing his lucky pieces, Obama is certainly is a nominee who represents an atypical cross section of people. And surely seems like the popular Hindu monkey god is an apt charm for this presidential contender. With all the mudslinging and squabbling that is going on, Obama could certainly use all the help he can get to ward off evil and difficulties.

In contrast to Obama’s many charms is a lucky penny that Republican candidate John McCain carries with him. Time magazine reports that he also carries a lucky nickel and a lucky rubber band, which he wears around his wrist. Apparently he also has a lucky sweater and a lucky hotel room in New Hampshire, according to the caption on his photo.

Will this trivia help us vote? I’m not sure, but it certainly gives voters a peek into the nominees’ minds and mental makeup. As I see it, there is one who is different and represents change for those that are looking for a transformation, and then there is one who is plain old, the kind of old that suits those who are comfortable and happy with the way things are …

–Visi Tilak

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