The Perfect Grandmother

“I’m home,” I called, shutting the door of our house. I threw my backpack down on the floor and kicked off my shoes.

“Peter! How nice to see you again!”

I whirled around, and when I saw who had called to me, I almost groaned. Instead of my mother waiting to give me a snack after school, I saw my grandmother. In a wheelchair.

She wheeled over to me and asked, “How are you, Pete? I haven’t seen you in a while!”

“Where’s Mom?” I asked, ignoring her question.

My grandmother smiled brightly at me, her eyes dancing with joy. “She went to the grocery store to pick up some things for dinner,” she said and took my hands. I wanted to pull away, but I didn’t, and she continued. “so right now it’s just you and me, sonny, whether you like it or not.”

Whether I liked it or not. I didn’t like it. I tried to hide my glare by flopping my chocolate-brown hair over my eyes, but I nodded.

After freshening up, I slowly made myself a sandwich, as Mom would have done.

“You think you could make me one, too, Peter?” my grandmother asked. “I’m starving.”

My scowl darkened. I hated the fact that my grandmother was in a wheelchair, but not because I was sad. It was supposed to be the other way around. When I came home, my grandmother should have been in the kitchen, baking cookies for me, and asking me how my day was. I reluctantly made her a sandwich as well, and plopped down on the sofa and turned on the TV to my favorite show, The Office. Literally everyone in school watched it, and if you wanted to be in, you had to do what everyone did. I sat as far away as I could from my grandmother, but she wheeled over anyway, eating her sandwich awkwardly. Her right arm had been fractured badly during a fall when she was young, and the doctors could only do so much to repair it. At least that’s what I assumed. She never really told me. She ate her sandwich messily, and bits of cheese stuck to her face. I turned my face away, disgusted.

“Ha, ha!” my grandmother whooped. “That was funny, wasn’t it Pete? My favorite character is Jim Halpert, who’s yours?”

“Toby Flenderson,” I mumbled. I couldn’t believe I was watching TV with my grandmother, and that she enjoyed it. The reminder of her disability and that she could do nothing but sit down all day took all the fun out of the best show in the world. Where was Mom? Why wasn’t she home yet?

The show wasn’t over yet, and I still wanted to watch, but I still clicked the remote to switch off the TV. I hastily stood up to go to my room, but my grandmother stopped me before I could ignore her.

“Hey! Where are you going? The show wasn’t even over yet!” she croaked. She was still finishing her sandwich, and her face was covered in bits of tomato and cheese. She continued, “Anyway, do you want to go outside for a bit? I need to stretch my legs.” She waved to her paralyzed legs and laughed at her own joke.

“I can’t,” I told her quickly. “I have homework to finish.” Actually, we had taken a test today in class, so we didn’t have homework. I was just looking for an excuse to not be with my grandmother. She would bore me with her life lessons anyway. There was no real way to do anything memorable with a grandmother who couldn’t walk. Plus, I had the guitar to practice for the upcoming Talent Show at school.

“Really? Oh, well, then we could always go later,” she admitted. Just as I was about to close the door to my room, she stopped me again. “Wait, Pete, I want to give you something.”

I raised my eyebrows. What could my disabled grandmother possibly give me?

She wheeled into the next room, my parents’ room, and came back a few minutes later clutching a red and blue scarf, three hand-knit skyscrapers that were about a foot tall, and an embroidered picture of me. She smiled brightly as she handed me the pieces, and patted her wrinkled hand over mine.

“These are for you,” she said. No duh. But I let her continue. “I was in your room –”

“What?! You know not even my parents are allowed in there without my permission –” I raged.

“Pete, I’m your grandmother, I don’t need your permission. Anyway, I saw that you loved action figurines, so I decided I’d make a scene out of yarn for you to play with,” she gestured to the skyscrapers. She pointed to the embroidery. “That is a special gift for you so that you’ll always remember me and my embroidery and how much I love you.”

It took all of my willpower not to roll my eyes and shut the door at that last part.

Suddenly, her hands started shaking as she stroked the scarf, and tears welled in her eyes. Thick beads of water fell and stained the scarf. I stood there, stunned, and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t need to, because a minute later, my grandmother dried her eyes with the back of her hand and took a few deep breaths.
“Sorry, Pete, this is the hardest part,” she gasped. She managed to give me a small smile, but her eyes were still watery and the shine that was usually there in her eyes had dimmed. “This–this is the scarf I gave to your grandfather after we got married. And it’s not just any sc-scarf. You know what he said to me when I gave it to him?” she looked up at me intensely. When I shook my head blandly, she said, “‘Now I’ll be warm from head to toe, and not just from the heat’. Then he grabbed my hands and whispered, ‘from your love. I won’t ever let you down’. Your grandfather used to play the guitar, just like you do, Pete, and he asked me for a scarf to keep him warm so his fingers wouldn’t get cold and stop playing. He would play well into the night, but we never got sleepy. He would play, and I would sing.

“This is the same scarf I gave him. He promised me to keep it forever, but then he had to go and get himself blown up in that car crash,” she said bitterly, but then her face softened. “Those were great memories. And he never complained that I couldn’t walk or run or do anything that couples could do. He believed in memories, and he told me once that if he and I couldn’t go out and spend time, we could make better memories inside. He was an angel, he was. He did everything for me.”

Most people would tear up at this story, but not me. Sure, it was cool that my grandfather used to play the guitar too, but I still think that he was crazy. Why would anyone in their right mind want to marry a crippled woman? I’m not being insensitive, it’s called being practical.

Once I placed the rest of the gifts on my desk, I took the scarf from her trembling hands and wrapped it around my neck. I awkwardly patted her hand and said, “See? It’s really comfy and warm,” I commented vaguely. Any scarf could be comfy and warm.

The shine in her eye returned. My grandmother smiled and said, “I know, Pete. Your grandfather used to say that, too.”

Cool. Like I cared.

“Um, Grandma, I have to do some work.” I slipped behind the door and closed it softly. I let out a long, slow breath, finally free of my grandmother and her ‘emotional’ stories, and unwrapped the scarf and stuffed it at the back of my closet along with the other knitted objects, where I would never have to see it again. We, as in my parents and me, needed to have a serious talk. Grandma just popped in out of the blue, and I had no idea when she was going to go back. I wasn’t expecting much fun with her around and with my parents gone most of the time, so I would have to work something out, some way to avoid her. Maybe go to my friend’s house every day after school and play soccer to practice for the school game, and then either Mom or Dad could pick me up. I wouldn’t have to be with the old woman and bear the stench of old socks coming from her, or the boring stories about my grandfather. It sounded like a brilliant plan, all I had to do now was put it into action.

We had spaghetti for dinner that night. At least Dad was feeding my grandmother this time. She was chattering away between bites about how her day had gone and other stuff. I kept shooting my parents looks that hopefully meant we-need-to-talk-SOON.

“…and Pete and I had such a great time watching The Office together. I love the fact that my grandson has some of my genes!” I heard Grandma say.

“That’s wonderful!” my mom said, genuinely happy. She gave the side-eye, as if to ask, what-are-you-complaining-about?, and continued, “I hope you two can continue grandmother-grandson bonding like this. You should even go outside! It’s wonderful in California this time of the year.”

My grandmother sighed. “What can I tell you, Sarah, this boy’s a busy one. I asked him if he wanted to go to the park, but he said he had too much homework. Kids today! When I was a little girl and I could run and jump and play, I would always play games like hopscotch and jump rope with my friends. Teachers are drowning these poor kids with homework. In my day…”

And there we go again.

I twisted my fork around my spaghetti, not bothering to eat. I stared at my plate, listening to Mom and Dad, who were happy to hear how we spent our time together. A realization crossed my mind. My parents didn’t know that I didn’t like Grandma. They didn’t know that I didn’t want to bond with her. And if I told them…how would they take it? Would they be mad? Confused? Understanding? I don’t know. But I could tell they definitely wouldn’t like it.

Finally, finally, after what seemed like an hour, Grandma said, “I’m stuffed, dears. I would like to go to bed. Are you sure you don’t want me to help with anything?”

Dad got to his feet and picked up Grandma and placed her in the wheelchair. “No, Mom, we’re sure. We don’t want you risking anything in this condition. Just go to bed.”

I watched Dad as he carried her to her bedroom. Once I made sure Grandma was out of earshot, I quickly turned to Mom and dropped my fork on my plate, which still had cold spaghetti. “Mom,” I whispered. “We need to talk. About Grandma.”

She raised an eyebrow but smirked amusingly. “Okaaaaay. Do you want your father in this conversation?”

I bit my lip. Dad would probably be affected the most, but I still needed him to know. I looked over my shoulder and saw that Dad was closing the door to Grandma’s room. I gave Mom a quick nod before turning back around and waiting until Dad sat back down at the table.

“Mom was out like a light,” he whistled. “Anyway, I still have some work to do.” He took Mom’s plate, then reached for mine, then stopped when he saw it was half full. “You still eating?” he asked.

I continued to stare at my dad. He looked at Mom, who was also staring at him.

“What? Why are you both staring at me like that?” he asked, his hand still hovering next to my plate.
Mom glanced at me before saying, “Peter, um, has something to say. About your mother. I don’t know what,” she hastily added after Dad’s eyebrows shot up too.

He crossed his arms and leaned back against his chair, staring at me. “Spill,” he said.
I opened my mouth, but no sound came out. I just couldn’t get myself to tell Dad that I didn’t like Grandma. I knew it would be hard for him. I sucked in a breath and tried again. Still nothing.

“Well?” Dad said. He looked at mom again, who shrugged her shoulders.

I opened my mouth, and I decided to come right out with it. “I don’t want to be with Grandma. I wish she would go back to the countryside, where she came from.”

Silence.

More silence.

More, agonizing silence.

I looked nervously at both of them, hoping one of them would say something. Mom was speechless. Dad’s face was blank.

A few minutes later, Dad let out a long breath. “Well,” he began. “This is…interesting.”
More silence.

“Why?” The question came from Mom.

I gulped. “Because…because…because she’s crippled!”

“Don’t-” Dad started to yell, but Mom held up a hand to stop him. “Let him speak,” she said.
There was an angry and hurt look in Dad’s eyes. I couldn’t decide which was more painful to see. But I went on.

“We can’t do anything together, grandmas are supposed to do…I don’t know, what grandmas do, like bake cookies, pick me up from school, tell me stories, and you know…” I said. “But instead I’m the one making food, I’m the one who’s supposed to take Grandma on walks. It doesn’t work that way!”

Dad closed his eyes and rubbed his face with his hand. “Do you know why Grandma is crippled?” he asked without looking at me. He said the last word like it was something disgusting.

I shook my head, then realized he couldn’t see, so I said, “Not really. Didn’t an accident happen when she was young?”

He looked up at me, and I saw his eyes were tired and his face looked pained as if he didn’t want to relive the memory. He took in a deep breath and exhaled the longest sigh in the history of sighs. His sigh was the only sound in the house. Even the clock’s ticking in our living room had gone silent.

“That’s…not what happened,” he said quietly. “It happened just before you were born, even when your grandfather was alive. Believe it or not, Peter, your grandmother was once a tough woman. Her legs weren’t strong even then because she was affected by polio, and she could barely walk for a few minutes or stand for over ten minutes. But she was always happy. She fought through her difficulties and tried her best to do everything she could to make us feel comfortable after I married your mother. Everyone loved her. Her presence alone brought joy into a room. And then…” Dad paused for a moment and squeezed his eyes shut. I glanced at Mom, and even she looked like she was fighting back tears.

“And then came the day when you were going to be born,” he continued, collecting himself. “It was time to go to the hospital, and your mother was screaming for help. Mom and Dad rushed her to the hospital, while I was still asleep. They came back to get me and on the way…the accident changed everything.”

“Accident?” I asked, astonished.

Dad said no more, so Mom pitched in.

“Yes, honey, an accident. Both Grandma and Grandpa had several injuries, and at their age, it was very difficult for them to survive. And Grandpa didn’t,” Mom finished.

My mouth fell open. That’s why I never knew my grandfather. And why Grandma can’t walk at all.
“An accident,” I mouthed.

“It was the happiest and saddest day of our lives,” Mom continued. “You were born, and Grandpa died.”

“Why does Grandma seem so happy all the time, if she lost Grandpa?” I asked.

“Everyone has to go at some point, honey,” Mom said, glancing briefly at Dad. “You can’t keep clinging on to a person forever. And as much it hurts to remember them, that’s the best we can do. Remember Grandpa and all the happy moments we shared with him. And your grandmother knows that, probably.”

Something was starting to make sense to me, but I couldn’t quite understand it. It was like I knew something had changed. It was hazy and not quite formed, but it was there.

“Do you understand now?” my dad asked, collecting himself together. “I hope from now on, you’ll be more compassionate.” He glared at me so intensely, I had to look away.

“I have an idea,” Mom piped up. “Why don’t you take Grandma to the park tomorrow, like she wanted?”

Instinctively, I opened my mouth to refuse, but stopped before I could say no. I paused for a moment before slowly nodding my head yes.

Mom smiled brightly, and Dad exhaled a slow, long breath.

“Where do you want to go, Grandma?” I asked as I pushed her on her wheelchair through the large field in the park.

“Anywhere you want, sonny. This place is beautiful! Pink, blue, purple flowers, the sun is shining, birds are singing –”

“Hey! Peter!”

I looked in the direction of the voice, and saw my friend Marc running towards me. He moved to California from France two years ago and I met him in school. He’s a pretty funny guy, and a little eccentric, so to speak. He walks around wearing a long-sleeved collar shirt and a vest and wears a stereotypical French beret with his blond hair flopping out on the side. And he speaks in French sometimes, forgetting that literally no one around him understands what he’s saying.

“Hey, man!” We high-fived each other like we were arm wrestling.

He grinned at me, and then noticed my grandma. “Your grandmère?”

“Yeah,” I said awkwardly. I wasn’t used to being seen with my grandma. I would die of embarrassment at school if my friends saw me with her. Before.

“Salut, Madame,” he said politely in his French accent.

“Ooooh, a Frenchie! Bonjour!” she replied in her terrible American accent.

Marc laughed out loud and winked at her. “Nice one!” he complimented. He didn’t say anything about her being in a wheelchair.

I grinned too. I guess Grandma could be funny sometimes, too.
“Whatcha doin’?” I asked.

Marc looked at me quizzically. “What did you say? That definitely wasn’t French or English, ami.”

I rolled my eyes and sighed. Sometimes Marc didn’t understand American slang. “I said, what are you doing?”

“Ohhh, I see. Nothing, I’m just here with my grandpère,” he shrugged nonchalantly, but his smile faded as he looked back toward where his grandpa was sitting.

I noticed the sudden shift in his mood, so I asked, “Are you okay?”

He turned his attention back to me and smiled half-heartedly. “Yeah. Just not him. My grandpère. He has Parkinson’s disease and dementia.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“He has difficulty moving, speaking, and blinking, and he’s very rigid and off-balance. He can’t keep track of time and he gets lost easily, even in our house! We have to take care of him, but he’s starting to forget his own grandson, too,” he replied quietly, speaking more to himself than me. “Mais il a voulu être dehors, alors… nous sommes venus au parc.”

For a while no one said anything. Marc just kept staring sadly at his grandfather, while I stared at Grandma, and she stared at Marc.

As I watched Grandma, that feeling came back to me, the one I couldn’t understand before. Except this time, it was a little clearer. Marc’s grandfather had it worse than Grandma. At least it was only her legs that were affected. It was amazing that despite her situation, she still had the same cheerful spirit and she never missed the chance to laugh out loud, all while keeping her memories of Grandpa. And then there was Marc’s grandfather, who couldn’t even remember his grandson. And yet, Marc was trying to make the most of the situation by bringing him outside. He was trying to make and remember happy memories with his grandfather, even if his grandpa wouldn’t remember anything.

It was truly an enlightening thought.

I gently placed a hand on Marc’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, dude. Seriously. I didn’t know he had it that bad. If there’s anything you want me to do, just ask.”

Marc turned around and smiled gently. “Merci, mon ami.” He held his hands up in the air. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make this trip depressing for you.”

“Oh, it’s fine, sonny, that’s what we’re here for,” Grandma pitched in. “Would you like to come with us for a short walk?”

“No, it’s fine, Madame, I must stay with my grandpère.”

“I see. Merci beaucoup!” Grandma said in her American accent again.

Marc looked at Grandma, confused, but then laughed. He walked away from us and we waved as he left.

“Poor kid,” Grandma sighed. “Anyway, it’s really hot, the sun is scorching! You wanna go back home?”

I thought for a moment, then grinned. “I have a better idea,” I said.

I swerved the wheelchair back onto the sidewalk and ran as I pushed her. I ran faster and faster, and the wheelchair rolled with such speed that Grandma whooped out in shock and glee.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa there, sonny! What’s with the rollercoaster?!” she cried.

I just laughed and kept running and pushing. The road zig-zagged and there were times when Grandma almost fell off the wheelchair because we were going so fast. But neither of us cared. We laughed hard in joy.
When we reached the end of the park, I stopped suddenly and tilted Grandma in her wheelchair backward.

“I bet you could do a wheelie with this thing!” I snickered, tilting it higher up until the wheelchair was almost parallel to the ground.

“Ahhh, stop, stop!” Grandma screamed, but she laughed at the same time.

I gently set the wheelchair back down and kneeled next to Grandma. We were both laughing so hard, tears were running from our eyes. It was pure joy from that short but exciting ride in the park. Believe it or not, I had fun with my grandmother!

When we were able to control ourselves, Grandma placed a hand on my head and asked, “Well, that was fun, Pete. Where to next?”

I had more plans up my sleeve. “Well, I was thinking of this ice cream shop that’s about a block away. We should go there. They have, like, the best ice cream ever.”

“I’m all for it. Oooh, do they have birthday cake flavored ice cream? That’s the best one. I also like mint chocolate chip, and…”

All the way to the ice cream store, we debated on which flavors were the best. It was a friendly argument. I found out that we both love birthday cake ice cream, but Grandma hated strawberry, and I loved it. She even told me about a toffee flavored ice cream, and yogurt parfait one. We talked about how many scoops we took at a time. When she was young, Grandma said, she had taken five scoops of five different flavors at once. She teased me about being unadventurous when I told her about my three-scoop record. We had so much fun we didn’t realize when we actually reached the ice cream shop.

“Five scoops of chocolate, coffee, rocky road, birthday cake, and orange pineapple ice cream for my grandmother, please. And two scoops of birthday cake for me,” I told the ice cream vendor.

He raised his eyebrows a mile high in disbelief. “Five for grandma, and two for you? Oookay, coming right up.”

Grandma and I grinned at each other. “You know, sonny,” she said to the vendor. “It’s no biggie to have five scoops. You think just because I’m old I can’t eat that much? Well, you’re wrong, wrong, wrong, sonny!”
The vendor said nothing, but chuckled to himself, and I high-fived Grandma.

As we sat down to lick our treats, Grandma said, “These days people underestimate old people. They think all we can do is sit around watching TV and play bingo at the club with the other oldies like us. Sure, I might be in a wheelchair, but I still like to have fun!” she said as she licked her ice cream. Grandma looked directly at me when she said that last part. Her eyes were sad, but her mouth was curved up in a smile. She quickly looked away, though, and said nothing after.

I cleared my throat, breaking the long silence that followed. “Well, if you really think so, you think you’ll be up for another ride?” I grinned mischievously.

Grandma sighed and patted her stomach. “Hmmm, maybe!” I helped her back into the wheelchair as she finished her ice cream. She gripped the armrests tightly and looked up at me. “Just go a little slow.”

I looked back and smiled again. “Slow is not in my vocabulary.”

And off we went, laughing all the way back home.

For the next few days, Grandma and I followed a schedule: I would come from school, finish my homework in the next hour, and then take Grandma to the park. Sometimes I would even bring my guitar and play for Grandma under a tree that we had picked out as our spot.

I couldn’t wait to do it again. Seriously! I realized how much I enjoyed Grandma’s company and wanted to play more games, tell more stories, and talk more about her life. I never wanted these moments to end.
One day I planned to go to the annual spring carnival, and instead of going with my parents, I decided to take Grandma instead. That day, I ran home from school and pushed open the door, yelling, “GRANDMA! YOU READY? WE HAVE TO LEAVE FOR THE CARNIVAL NOW!”

I shrugged off my backpack and didn’t bother to take off my shoes as I sat down on the couch. I decided to watch TV while I waited for Grandma to come. It did take her a while in the bathroom. I clicked on the TV and watched The Office to pass the time. I figured I had a little time before we could leave.

“GRANDMA, COME ON!” I yelled again just to make sure she heard me come home.

I finished an entire episode of the show, and still Grandma hadn’t come. I was starting to get frustrated. Sure, it might take some time in the bathroom, but not a whole hour!

“GRANDMA!” I yelled louder.

Silence. Where was she? What was Grandma doing?

Still no reply.

I hurriedly stood up, ran past the kitchen, narrowly missing the corner of the dining table, and checked all of the bedrooms, but she wasn’t in any of them. All of the bathrooms were vacant as well. Something was very wrong.

I ran back toward the living room and stopped short when I found her wheelchair propped up against one of the kitchen counters. Empty.

Afraid of what I would find, I tiptoed into the kitchen and almost slipped. I grabbed the edge of the counter to regain balance, and when my eyes finally focused again, I almost slipped again.

There she was.

Grandma was lying on the kitchen floor.

Unconscious.

I opened my mouth, but no sound came out. I was frozen, and I didn’t know what to do. I kneeled down beside Grandma and checked for a pulse on her wrist. I couldn’t feel one. I quickly moved my fingers across her wrist and…there was a faint beat. I scrambled away from Grandma, whispering, “It will be okay, she’ll be fine,” the whole time. I searched the whole house for a phone, slipping on the hardwood floor the whole time, then realized I had one myself in my bag. I ripped open my bag, and dumped everything out on the floor. I rummaged through the sea of papers, notebooks, loose pencils, erasers, sticky notes, and folders until I found my phone. I looked back at Grandma, hoping she was still alive.

Punching in the numbers 911, I breathed heavily. I waited.

“911, what’s the emergency?”

“My grandma…she…just come!”

“What’s the emergency, dear?”

“She fell! Please, please come to 3522 Florentine Place, please, we need help! PLEASE!”

“Alright, calm down, help is on the way, dear.”

How could she be so calm?

“Please come, please!” But the line was already dead by then.

I ran a hand through my hair, which was drenched in sweat. I sat on the mess of school supplies, dumbfounded. I prayed to the gods that Grandma would be okay. I sat there with my head between my knees for fifteen minutes before I realized I should have called Mom and Dad.

“Hey, sweetie, what’s up?” Mom said when I called her. “Enjoying the carnival? What have you won so far?”

“MOM, STOP! SOMETHING–”

“Excuse me, young man–” she started to yell.

“GRANDMA’S NOT OKAY!”

Silence. “What?” Mom gasped.

“She fell I don’t know how but please come we need to go to a hospital please please come now, now, now, NOW!”

“Okay, honey, I’m on my way, and I’ll bring Dad too. Hang tight, sweetie, we’ll be right there,” she said.

I put down the phone and moved to Grandma’s side. I held her hand tightly, making sure every so often that there was a pulse. She looked so peaceful, as if she was in a deep sleep, as if she was…

I shoved that thought away immediately. “You’ll be fine, Grandma.”

I sniffed, trying to hold back tears. I suddenly smelled something burning, and it was a strong scent. I looked around in bewilderment trying to see where the smell was coming from. My gaze fell on the oven next to Grandma, and it was on, running for half and hour, according to the timer. I carefully stepped over Grandma and peeked inside. A huge cloud of smoke blew in my face, and I drew back, coughing loudly. When the smoke cleared, I leaned back in and saw chocolate chip cookies, burnt to the point where they looked like charcoal. Why were there cookies in the oven? Who made them?

There was a loud bang on the door, and I whipped my head around so quickly that I almost cracked it. My fear returned as my attention turned back to Grandma’s precarious condition. I opened the door as the paramedics were in mid-knock.

“Over there,” I squeaked, pointing to the kitchen.

The paramedics barged in, two of them carrying a stretcher, two of them rushing to Grandma’s side and carrying her. The fifth one stayed by my side and wrapped a shock blanket around me. I felt a little childish, standing there, a ten-year-old, shaking and wrapped in a blanket. I tried to insist I was fine, but my traumatized face said otherwise. The woman spoke softly to me, and led me out of the house, where I bumped into Mom. The woman smiled at Mom and left me with my parents. Both Mom and Dad were in tears, and Mom strangled me in a hug. We stood back, out of the paramedics way as they gingerly carried Grandma out. We watched as they put Grandma in and drove away, not knowing whether we’d see her smiling face ever again.

The next few hours passed by slowly, anxiously waiting for the doctor’s update. Dad sat with his face in his hands the whole time, and I silently sat, pale-faced. Mom was torn between rubbing Dad’s back and hugging me from time to time.

Three hours later, the doctor came by. Dad immediately stood up and peppered him with questions. The doctor kindly put his hands on Dad’s shoulders and quietly said, “Your mother is fine. It looks like she tried to stand up, but her legs gave way, causing her to fall. She hit her head and has a minor concussion, but other than that, she is okay. Make sure she gets as much rest as possible, not too much activity. Fresh air is good from time to time. If you want, you may visit her. Room 348.” He smiled at us and continued on his way.
Dad started walking quickly toward the room, and Mom held my hand as we caught up. My parents immediately rushed to either side of Grandma’s bed where she was resting, but I lingered in the doorway. All of sudden, tears streamed down my eyes and let out a sob. I turned away from Grandma lying in bed.

Mom turned around and her face sympathetically relaxed. “Oh, sweetie,” she said as she came over to me. She held me tight in a hug and stroked my hair.

“I don’t want Grandma to die!” I burst out.

“Oh, Peter, she’s not going to die–”

“It’s all my fault! I should have checked on her right after school! I shouldn’t have treated her the way I did! I should have done more with her! And now she’s gone!” I repented.

“No, honey, no, Grandma’s going to be absolutely fine,” Mom said as she pulled away and looked at me directly. She wiped away my tears from my face. I could see tears forming in her own eyes. “You will get to spend more time with her, I-I promise. And you know what?” She paused and continued only when I nodded. “It doesn’t matter what you should or shouldn’t have done in the past. What matters is what you do now, when Grandma feels better.” She smiled.

I turned away from Mom and shuffled over to Grandma’s side. I took her hand in mine. I thought about how I kept avoiding Grandma before. I thought about our time in the park. I thought about how we were going to go to the carnival. I thought of Dad’s hurt face when I told him my true feelings. I thought about how I should have been there with Grandma from the start. All of those thoughts, the guilt, the repentance built up inside of me and I hid my face in my hands, preventing tears from falling. One sneaky drop fell on Grandma’s hand, and I felt her hand flinch. I looked up. Grandma stirred, and managed to give me a weak smile. She reached for my cheek and I leaned forward, letting her stroke it.

“Don’t cry,” she whispered. “Why are you crying, sonny?”

“Why? Why did you get out of your wheelchair? You can’t walk!” I countered.

Grandma exhaled and turned her face away from me. “I heard you.”

Even Dad looked up at Grandma. I stared quizzically. “What did you hear me say?”

“At the spaghetti dinner. How you wanted me to do things normal grandmothers did.”

All the color drained from my face. “But-But you were asleep!”

“Sonny, look. I’ve known all along how you’ve felt about me.” She coughed loudly for an entire minute before continuing. “I know that you don’t like me because I couldn’t bake cookies, tell stories, or take you on walks like the perfect grandma. That’s why I tried baking cookies for you. But I want you to know that–”

“No, Grandma. You’re the perfect grandma. I couldn’t ask for a better grandma.” I wiped away remaining tears and hugged her.

She stroked my hair as I lay still and closed my eyes. “You’re the best grandson I could ever have,” she said softly in my ear. “And I’ll always be happy with you, your mother, and your father, even without your grandfather. You know why?”

I slowly shook my head, but I knew why.

“I will remember all of the good times we spent together. Oh, those days with your grandfather, such amazing times. They make me smile just by remembering them. And that’s exactly what we should do, Peter. We should make good memories while we have the chance so we have something to remember when that person is gone. You’ll end up regretting it later, sonny.”

I pulled away and looked at Grandma and smiled. “I think I get what you’re trying to tell me, Grandma.”

“I’m glad to hear that, sonny.” Grandma sounded tired, and she went back to sleep. Or so I thought.
“Dan–”

Dad jerked up and grabbed the edge of the bed. “Yes, Mom? What do you need? Are you okay?”

Grandma tried to laugh, but it ended up turning into a cough. After a minute, she croaked, “Why are you getting so worked up? Don’t worry, all I need is that book over there.” She coughed again and moaned in pain.

Dad glared at Grandma, as if to say, Obviously not to worry, HACKING IS NORMAL.

Still, he trudged over to the desk where Grandma was pointing and returned with a classic, brown leather notebook, placing it in Grandma’s hand. She relayed it over to me, sandwiching the book between our hands.

“I want you to keep this, Pete,” she said.

“Why?” I asked.

“To record every memory in your life, with me, with your friends, with your family, when you grow up, everything. Memories are the only things that stay with you forever, support you every step of the way, and remind you of the good in this world. Those are the real souvenirs in life, hanging proudly in your mind, something to be shared and spread. These souvenirs will make you smile, reminding you of the great things in life. Start collecting those souvenirs today,” she gestured to the notebook.

“I will.” I caressed the smooth leather, breathed in the smell of the pages, and imagined the ink of the pens sinking into the paper, immortalizing the people and places I loved. “Thank you. I love you, Grandma.”

“I love you, too, sonny.” And she drifted off into a deep, deep sleep.

❋ ❋ ❋

Dear Diary,
It’s been exactly 15 years since that day in the hospital, when Grandma gave me this diary. And I’m still writing! Not only for myself, but others, too. That’s right. You guessed it. I’m an author now. I write stories that other people can remember, something they will store in their memory. After a long time, I’ve finally come to realize that memories, the good ones, are what spread the most joy, to so many people. And I didn’t want to keep all these memories to myself. There’s magic in memories, and what good would those memories be if I didn’t share them? So, I just finished a story called The Perfect Grandmother. It’s about that time 15 years ago when Grandma came over. And guess what? My readers absolutely LOVED it. An unforgettable journey with my perfect Grandma.
To celebrate another success, I went out with Angela and our two kids, Izzy and Luc. Boy, was it crazy today! When we went to the beach, Izzy snuck up on Luc and pushed him into the sea. He got so mad, he pushed Izzy in too. They put wet sand in each other’s hair. They swallowed salt water. And then both were laughing like crazy. The nuttiest pair of siblings I have ever seen. We had to stop at home to get them cleaned up, and then at the restaurant, as Izzy was drinking her soda, Luc tipped her glass too far so it spilled all over her shirt! Angela and I reprimanded Luc and Izzy, but if Grandma had been there, I’m sure she would have laughed along. “This is what is called creating new memories to share later on in life,” she would have said.
Both were grounded when we came back home, but I could hear them giggling in their rooms. Crazy.
Next week I have to deliver a speech about my work so far, and I am excited to go! It would be a pleasure to inspire new authors, or memory-creators, as I call it now. I’m sure when I look back at all the stories I’ve written, I’ll smile as I remember the great times with Grandma and my other characters as well, all immortal through the power of memory. When I look back at these stories I’ve collected in my diary, I’ll laugh with sheer joy and nostalgia as I remember what fun I had with my family, and the not-so-good times as well. I’ll especially make fun of the crazy things my kids did, but for now, they’re grounded until next year.

To more memories!
Peter

Hidden Ingredients of a Fiction Story

Writing a story is not that easy. It requires a lot of planning if you want it to flow well and make sense with all the events occurring in your story. I’m no expert on writing, I’m just a fourteen-year-old aspiring author, but I love to read. And apart from enjoying the story, I “studied” ways the author wrote their story. Why did I like this story so much? What part of the book allowed me to relate? What kept me engaged? What details were added to make this story more interesting? What message was the author trying to send?

Some of the books I’ve read include Keeper of the Lost Cities, Harry Potter, Book Scavenger, Land of Stories, Series of Unfortunate Events, Because of Winn-Dixie, and a lot more (I recommend reading all of these if you haven’t already!!!). We’re taught in school that the ingredients to a fiction story are exposition, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. But. There were three other things that I noticed all, or most books have in common. I’ll go over what they are, as well as give some examples from the books I’ve read and from the stories I’ve written (check out my works here: https://www.dharwadkar.com/author/nandini/).

Theme/Central Idea

You may already be familiar with the concept of a theme, but in the case of fiction writing, it tends to be a broader subject. The theme can be an idea, an emotion, or a topic, such as music, love, good vs. evil, friendship, power, or talent. The theme can be a tangible object as well, such as an heirloom, or a person, or a prized possession. Whatever you choose as your theme, it must be the hub of the story. It should serve as the main purpose behind the characters’ actions. What are the characters fighting for? What is the purpose behind their adventure? What are they trying to save? What do they love the most? The theme is the driving force of any story.

For example, in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series by Shannon Messenger, the main theme of the books is power. There are two secret (well, not that secret) organizations, one good and one evil. Both are trying to make peace in their world, but the evil organization keeps trying to take power and control the whole world because they believe that is the way to make things right. How does this serve as the purpose of the series? The main characters are constantly trying to figure out the evil organization’s plans and try to stop them (it’s more complicated than it sounds).

In my next story (will be posted soon!), I chose the theme to be memories. This theme serves as the hub of the story because in the end, all of the characters’ actions, thoughts, and feelings connect back to making memories with loved ones. After all, memories are what keep us connected. But that’s enough spoilers for now!

Side Stories

Side stories are a small part of the story and may or may not relate to the larger theme of the entire story. Side stories are often used to show the main character’s personal life or other problems that affect their actions. These types of side stories give readers insight into the character’s personality, such as who they really are, what are they dealing with. For added effect, authors add personal side stories as a turning point in the main story to surprise the reader; at this point, they connect to the entire theme of the story. They are also included to show another event happening simultaneously, but it is used to cause dramatic irony because the main characters do not know it is happening. Side stories can also be small, insignificant snippets that are just meant for entertainment. In general, side stories make the whole story seem more realistic and relatable. If a story just included parts where the characters make progress in their journey, the story itself would be bland and just a series of chronological events; this happened, then that happened, then this, then that, and so forth. Side stories help readers connect with the characters and make the story more complex because they are considering multiple aspects of the entire story.

In the Land of Stories series, the author, Chris Colfer, adds side stories for dramatic irony. While Alex and Connor (the main characters) are off on an adventure, he adds a side story that shows how the villains of the book are planning something that the main characters do not know about. Colfer also writes about Alex and Connor’s personal lives, such as their mother’s second marriage. This type of side story is insignificant but helps the reader empathize with the characters.

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling contains side-stories such as Harry’s love life, Ron and Hermione’s bickering, and Quidditch matches. And don’t forget Professor Snape being horrible to Harry and his friends! These side stories show Harry’s personal life, that of a typical teenager. It wouldn’t exactly be realistic or entertaining if he was a teenager who only thought of ways to defeat Volde — sorry, You-Know-Who.

Very Detailed Details

Details. The wonderful words that bring a story to life. Like a theme, details are a vast subject. Many things are classified as details. The tiniest, most insignificant part of a story can prove to be a major detail in the story later on. Dialogue is considered detail. The color of the characters’ shirts is a detail. The hand on which someone wears a ring is also a detail. Authors put in multiple details in their stories so that it is easier to visualize what is happening and keep track of the events. We tend to think of details as just what something looks like, but it actually includes much more than that. Much, much more. To write a really good story, describe the scene using more than just sight. What does the place feel like? What does it smell like? What sounds can be heard? Using all or most of our 5 basic senses, you can make the reader feel like they are actually inside the book, experiencing all these things, and it makes reading much more enjoyable. It also helps to explain what the characters in the book feel in this setting. Does it make them uncomfortable? Is it pleasant, but eerie at the same time? Does the character feel depressed? Describing the characters’ reactions, thoughts, and feelings in the story helps readers understand the story and the characters’ situations better.

Another way of explaining details to allow the readers to understand the action in the story and the purpose of these actions is to include narration, or live-action details. Live-action narration includes what the characters are doing at the moment (use verbs, adverbs, adjectives), what they are saying (dialogue, in other words), at what time the characters are doing something, and you can also include their emotions. In my experience of reading books, readers are more likely to stay engaged if they know what is going on and can clearly visualize the scene in their minds. Stories can become bland and boring if those juicy details aren’t included. Think about it like this:

Which of the following examples can you imagine? Which one keeps you engaged?

A. After practicing for hours, the team was finally ready. They played their best in the final match, closely beating the opponent with a score of 3-2. They had finally won.

B. Carlos bent his knees, staring at his opponent. His red uniform was green from sliding, but he didn’t care. His heart was beating faster than a humming bird’s wings. Beads of sweat ran down his face. His team had to win. He had to win. There was only a minute left in the game, and both teams were tied, 2 to 2. If he could score that last goal, they would win the championship. He took a deep breath and kicked the ball under his opponent’s legs as soon as the whistle blew.

Carlos dribbled the ball across the field, left, right, left, right. He willed his legs not to lose control of the ball. His only focus was the goal.

“Carlos, pass!” cried a teammate to his right.
“Carlos, I’m open!” another teammate called.
“Carlos, pass to your teammates!” he heard his coach say.

He ignored their voices and only focused on the feel of the ball on his feet, his brow scrunched in concentration. Focused on the wind rushing past his face. Focused on his feet gliding across the grass, only kicking the ball. 15 seconds left.

Dodging the defenders, he sprinted in front of the goal and gave it his best shot.

Everything went silent.

It felt as if at that moment, everything went slow-motion. The goalkeeper’s mouth open, eyes wide as he outstretched his arms toward the ball, all of the players turning their heads around to watch the ball, and the ball itself rolling slowly, slowly in midair toward the goal, just about to hit the goal…


In a split second, everything was back to normal. Carlos was attacked by a horde of players, his own teammates. His eardrums were about to burst from all the yelling and screaming coming from his team and the stadium. Carlos grinned, and he felt like the happiest person on Earth. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, his uniform was covered in grass, and they had won the game.

Have you chosen yet? Good. So, I’m assuming you chose B. But why? Both examples describe the same event. However, example B included so many aspects of the scene that it made it more intense and engaging, while example A was just a summary and didn’t generate as much excitement. As long as you don’t overuse them, details can be wonderful and very useful things.

Voilà!

Once you have chosen a theme and decided on the side stories that will reflect your characters’ personalities, you can combine it with your plot and write a smashing story, along with a lot of details. Theme, side stories, and details are really important to your story because it gives your story content, and it makes it more interesting, rather than just a cause and effect.

The next time you sit down to write a fictional story, think about how you will incorporate theme, side stories, and details to enhance all aspects of the story.

Check back later to find a worksheet that I made to help you plan your story and think about how it will flow. It will really get you thinking about each aspect of the story, including the three hidden ingredients.

Happy writing!

The Missing Horcrux

“How many times have you read that book, Aimee?”

Aimee Vass was propped up on her elbows on her bed, reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for the seventh time. She didn’t look up from her book, but she sighed in response.

Her mother walked into the room and snatched the book out of her hands and made her way across the room to Aimee’s desk.

“Mum!” Aimee cried, her hands still grasping the air. “What are you doing?”

“You’re wasting way too much time reading these silly Harry Potter books. Do something else! Get ready for school! I’m not even sure you’ve finished your homework from yesterday,” her mother replied as she slammed the book down on the desk. 

“Mum! Watch out for–” Aimee started to say.

Too late. The book slid off the desk and onto the floor with a thud, taking Aimee’s tiara that she had bought at a gift shop. The label claimed that J.K. Rowling herself had fashioned it for her fans. The tiara split in half as it started falling with the book on its tip, and Aimee’s mother pulled the tiara back.

“Mum! Look what you’ve done!” Aimee leaped off the bed and started to grab the two pieces, but her mother had already thrown them away in the trash can next to her bed. 

Her mother huffed and said, “Why do you need it anyway? It’s just another piece of plastic, you can always get another cheap one from somewhere else!”

“JK Rowling herself made it!” Aimee protested, throwing her long blond hair behind her shoulders. Her brown eyes flashed with irritation.

Her mother smiled at her daughter’s childish folly, and said, “That’s what they say, so kids like you buy it. Anyway, pack your things now, or you’ll miss the bus,” and walked out of the room, picking up Aimee’s fake Marauder’s Map and placing it on her bed on the way out. 

Aimee sank into her chair, frustrated at her mother for once again, not accepting the fact that Harry Potter was the best series around. It wasn’t like her mother loved to read that much anyway, so why not let her? And she wasn’t one of the foolish kids who would believe anything the label told her. She was just an aspiring author who read books to “study” writing techniques. There is a huge difference.

When she opened her computer, she noticed she had just received an email from none other than JK Rowling herself. Aimee was such a big fan that she had dared to email her favorite author two months ago and had expected a response. She hadn’t gotten one, so it was surprising that Rowling would email her now.

The email wasn’t a “Hi, how are you doing”, but instead it contained an invitation.

Hey Harry Potter Fans,

Hope you still love Harry Potter! I’m hosting a book signing tomorrow afternoon at the lighthouse near the lake. It reminds me of the place where the Dursleys had run to when Harry started receiving thousands of letters from Hogwarts!  I’d love it if you could come, and make sure you bring your books!

J.K Rowling

Aimee read the email three times before finally believing it, and pumped her fist in the air, shouting, “YES!”. Without waiting for her mother’s call, she skipped out the door to catch the bus.

During lunch at school, Aimee took off to meet with her usual group of friends at their meeting spot: the library. They met every day at school to discuss further developments in the books they read or write a part of the story they didn’t like. They called themselves the Harry Potter Fan Club. So original.

As Aimee skipped into the library, the librarian, Ms. D, called to her.

“Aimee! I have something you’ll like!” she said as she waved a book in her hand.

Aimee walked over to the counter and squinted at the book held in the librarian’s hand. It was another copy of The Deathly Hallows, but she already had that one. She was about to say so when Ms. D interrupted her.

“I know you’ve collected all the books already,” she said, placing the book down on the counter, her benign blue eyes twinkling with excitement. “But this one is different. J.K Rowling herself annotated inside the book and wrote down her thoughts for many of the scenes. I thought you’d like to read it since you are such a big fan.”

Aimee’s eyes lit up and she reached for the book. “Oh, yeah, of course! Thanks!”

She made her way to her table, and seeing that none of her friends were there yet, flipped through the pages, reading each annotation. They were mostly about what inspired Rowling to write these pages. When Aimee came to the end of the book, she was about to skip reading the last annotation. She had skimmed through the pages and found the annotations to be similar, so she decided not to go through another one. She stopped when a particular word caught her eye.

“Horcruxes?” Aimee whispered to herself. 

The note read:

To those of you who have the annotated copies, you might be interested in knowing that I have a challenge for you. In the book, Harry has found all of the Horcruxes to kill Voldemort, but wait! There is one more yet to be found. 

Riiight, Aimee thought. Another Horcrux? One part of Aimee felt that this was a joke. Why would Rowling hide a Horcrux in London? She hadn’t even announced that she was planning a game. The majority of Aimee felt curious and excited about participating in this new challenge. What would it be like if she found the Horcrux? Then she could call herself a true Harry Potter fan.

“Aimee?”

Aimee jumped and yelped. Covering her mouth and giving Ms. D an apologetic look, she looked up to who had spoken to her. It was her club member and friend, Georgie. 

“Hey! You frightened me,” Aimee said, quickly stuffing the annotated copy into her bookbag. 

“Sorry,” Georgie grinned and sat in the chair next to Aimee. “What’s up?”

“Nothing,” Aimee quickly shook her head, but then blurted, “Did you hear about the book signing tomorrow?”

“Yeah, me mum told me. I was going to tell our group about it today. I think I’ll go,” he said.

“You think?” Aimee cried. “You have to! It’s about maintaining our reputation as Harry Potter fanatics!” She was about to tell him about the challenge that Rowling had written about on the last page, but decided to when she confirmed it. The prospect of winning the challenge was all the more exciting as she thought about it more every minute, but…

She could wait.

The next afternoon, Aimee wore her best shirt, a lemon yellow with blue flowers dotted all over the cloth. She stuffed all of her Harry Potter books into one large bag and ran off to the lighthouse. Unfortunately, it was a rainy day, and the water soaking her hair and falling in her eyes wasn’t helping her reach quickly. She swung off her bag and covered her head with it, determined to ask about the challenge as soon as possible before she had to wait any longer. 

She skidded to a stop in front of the park gates, splattering mud all over her jeans. Just past the gate, in the park, she saw a long line of people, holding up their books and cheering. Well, it wasn’t a line, it was mostly a blob clambering to get under the canopy for protection, but fans were still flooding out of the covered area. She would get lost in the crowd as large as the sea.

Aimee pushed the gates open with a screech and trotted inside, but she went around the crowd. Some people called to her, telling her to get back in line and wait her turn, but this was more important than getting her books signed. She needed to know if the challenge was real, or if it had happened before already, and how many people knew about it. This was too important for a Harry Potter fan to just stay back and wait.

She pushed her way through the crowd and into the tent, where she caught a glimpse of a woman with reddish-brown hair. J.K. Rowling! 

Aimee sidestepped people trying to push her back and eventually made it past the jostling crowd to the front, right in front of the renowned author.

“Ms. Rowling!” she called. 

The author was signing a small boy’s book for him, and when she finished, she handed it back and smiled. Aimee couldn’t hear their conversation, and Rowling couldn’t hear Aimee either over the chattering crowd and thundering rain.

“Ms. Rowling!” Aimee repeated, a little louder this time. This time, two burly men standing under the tent beside the author noticed Aimee, and one of them walked toward her. 

“Get back in line, miss,” he said in a deep voice. 

Aimee stared at him and shook off his hands on her shoulders. “No, I need to talk to her,” she pointed at the author. “It’s important!”

“That’s what all of you fanatics say, but get back in line and wait your turn,” he said, a touch of irritation in his voice.

Aimee stood her ground. She needed to talk to J.K. Rowling about this urgently. She had waited long enough. “I need –”

The guard pushed her back, and Aimee realized he was not going to let her get any closer. With all the energy she could muster, she yelled, “MS. ROWLING! I NEED TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT THE HORCRUX!”

This time the author did hear her and looked up, bewildered. She had just handed back the book of another child and noticed Aimee waving to her with the annotated copy of The Deathly Hallows in her hand.

“Norman! Bring her over here!” Aimee heard Rowling call to the guard pushing her.

Without waiting any longer, Aimee tore past the guard and stopped in front of the author, her hair dripping, and her shoes completely soaked. Face-to-face with her literary idol, the words had stopped short of her mouth. Aimee couldn’t find her voice.

J.K. raised an eyebrow. “You said you know about the Horcrux?”

Aimee tried to say “yes”, but choked on her words. She cleared her throat and managed a croaky whisper. “Yes.”

Rowling smiled mischievously. “Your name, love?”

“Aimee. Aimee Vass.”

“Nice to meet you, Aimee,” Rowling held out her hand, and Aimee couldn’t believe she was shaking hands with the one and only author of Harry Potter. The author gestured for the guards to close the book signing for a lunch break and led Aimee into another tent where they could sit and talk. Finding two plastic chairs, Rowling motioned for Aimee to sit down and took one for herself. 

Aimee pulled out the annotated Deathly Hallows and started explaining what she had found. When she finished, the author looked at her with an amused expression on her face. A few minutes passed before she spoke.

“So. You’ve found it,” JK said.

“What do you mean?”

“Well,” JK paused, carefully thinking about her answer. “It’s like this. I annotated a few copies of the Deathly Hallows and I’ve hidden them around London. You’ve found one of them. It’s a hunt –”

“You mean other people have found the rest of the copies?” Aimee interrupted, unable to contain her excitement.

“Yes. It’s a hunt where you have to find one last Horcrux that’s not included in the book itself, but I’ve made it up,” JK continued. “You need to decipher some clues that will lead you to the Horcrux.”

Aimee was confused. “Like a treasure hunt? And where can I find the clues? And why are you telling just me? You said there were other people too? I don’t remember you announcing the game!”

JK grinned. “Way too many questions at a time, love. It is like a treasure hunt, and I’m not telling you where the clues are. What’s the fun in that? Secondly, I already announced it two weeks ago.”

“Oh. I wasn’t in England two weeks ago,” Aimee sighed. She rose from her chair, clutching the book to her chest. “Thanks, anyway.”

She waved at JK as she ran out of the tent, and she thought of only one thing.

She needed to find that first clue.

For the rest of the day, Aimee thought about where the first clue might be. It wouldn’t be wise to search all of London for it, the city was too big for that. But it had to be somewhere related to Harry Potter. And how many clues were there? 

Aimee lay plopped on her bed, reading secretly under the covers. If her mother suspected her of reading another copy of the book she had read before, then she would be in trouble. Serious trouble.

It was half-past midnight, and while everyone else was asleep, Aimee lay wide awake, searching for the clue. The warmth of the covers and the softness of the bed tricked her into closing her eyes once, but she snapped back awake immediately and had chided herself for doing so. She needed to concentrate. If the clue was anywhere, it would be in the book, she had deduced. She must have read the book three times just searching for the clue. It seemed as if every part of the book could be relevant to the clue, but it just wasn’t there. Maybe Rowling had placed the clue in another book? Aimee was about to close the book when she saw it.

“But the only object anyone seemed to associate with Ravenclaw was the lost diadem…”

Right next to this line, Rowling had written:

A Horcrux is stored in a precious object. Things, places, and people. You must go to the place, where Harry first met his precious people.

Aimee could almost hear Rowling’s voice, singing the poem-like clue in her head. It felt like Aimee knew the answer, but she couldn’t place it. Harry Potter’s precious people? The Dursleys definitely weren’t precious to Harry, and his parents had died when he was a year old. His friends, maybe? Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger? They were precious to him, and they had come with him everywhere. Ginny, Ron’s sister, was precious as well, to Harry. But where had he met them first? Aimee closed her eyes and searched through her mind, clawing through all of the information she had stored about the books she had read. And then she knew the answer. Her eyes flipped open, and she sat up in bed.

She needed to go to King’s Cross Station. 

Aimee was the first one up the next morning, and after leaving a note for her family telling them where she was going, she grabbed a piece of toast and stole away into the haze of early morning. The station wasn’t too far from her house, and she wasn’t surprised to see it bustling with action and full of people even so early in the morning. But the real question was: Where was the next clue? Where could she find it, in the midst of the sea of people swarming in and out of the station every minute?

She turned to find a station guard, in case JK Rowling had stationed people to be in on the game. She called one of them and tried to ask about the challenge, but over the thousands of voices echoing off the wall and the voice of the person announcing the next train arrival, it was pointless.

As Aimee stood rooted to the spot, frantically looking around for a place that might have the next clue, she was pushed around by the travellers either boarding or getting off the trains, shouting at her to get out of the way. Her head spun from being kicked around like that, and she almost stumbled to the floor. It was easy to get lost in a large station like this one, and there were hundreds of platforms on which the next clue could be. 

When she exited the station to get away from the chaos, she noticed another station guard walking around in front of the station, holding a golden goblet in his right hand. He seemed to be asking people whether it belonged to them. The goblet looked familiar, and an idea sparked through Aimee’s mind. She ran under the overhangs, keeping her eyes on the guard. She couldn’t lose him. 

She tapped him on the shoulder. “Excuse me, sir, I think that’s mine,” she said, holding out her hand.

“Sorry, that’s mine.”

Aimee looked around, trying to figure out who had said that. A boy who looked to be about her age appeared to her left. Spiky brown hair sticking up and wearing frameless glasses, the boy looked victorious. When he caught Aimee looking at him, he scowled at her, and she immediately fixed her gaze back to the guard.

“Okay, children, don’t mess with me. I found this goblet left in a trolley between platforms nine and ten, and neither of you were there before. I was standing there all morning,” the guard reasoned. “Run along now, quickly, before I have to take you to the inspector.”

At the words “between platforms nine and ten”, Aimee sucked in a breath. This had to be the next clue she was looking for. The Hogwarts train stopped at platform nine and three-quarters, and the goblet was so exquisite that it couldn’t have been left there accidentally. Beautifully golden with what looked like a king’s crown as its base, it looked just like the goblet from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Before the other boy could say anything, Aimee cut in. “Oh, my father passes through this station everyday. He’s the station inspector, you see. He recently won that goblet in an auction, and he carries it around like his own pet. He must have dropped it.” Aimee held her breath. I probably pushed my luck there, she thought. She had told a series of lies, just to get that goblet. She hoped it would pass.

The guard stroked his chin thoughtfully, still clinging to the goblet. “Sir did mention a daughter.” He looked at Aimee closely, like she was a museum exhibit. “And you match his description, I guess. All right, miss, here you go.” He handed her the goblet.

The boy’s scowl was even darker than before. His twisted face surprised Aimee for a moment, but then she ran off, back home to solve the next puzzle.

He must be another competitor, Aimee thought, and giggled at how quickly she had fooled the guard.

When she opened the door to her home, her parents bombarded her with questions.

“Where were you?

“You’re not supposed to go out alone!”

“You could have been kidnapped!”

Unfazed by their concerns, Aimee stepped past them and walked to her room without a word. They were probably going to stop her from finding the Horcrux, but she didn’t want that to happen. She didn’t want anyone to interfere with her work when she had gone through so much to retrieve everything in the first place. They didn’t approve of Harry Potter, but no one was forcing them to read it. Her mother would definitely snatch her “toys”, as she called it, away.

Ignoring her parents’ calls, Aimee shut the door to her room and plopped on the bed, studying the goblet. She ran a finger across the smooth surface, occasionally feeling bumps and carvings in the cup, and turned the goblet upside down. Nothing came out, no message fluttered on her bed, nothing. There was nothing special about the goblet, except for the fact that it was a stunning goblet from the fourth book of the series. As she ran her finger across the top of the cup, she noticed an odd engraving. It read:

Erus aert testa erg snamsi erus aem dnoye btiw

Huh? Aimee thought. That doesn’t make any sense!

It didn’t look like a substitution cipher, but it could be. After all, there were two words that were the same, erus. She copied the clue onto a piece of paper and held it up to a mirror. The message remained garbled, and now it made even less sense. Maybe it was another language?

Sitting in front of her computer, she typed the same words into the search box, but nothing came up. So it wasn’t even a language? Not French, Latin, Spanish, or any other language that used the same script as English?

Aimee read the message out loud slowly, word by word, hoping that it was an audio clue. When that didn’t work, she tried to read it quickly, squishing the words together, but she stumbled on each time and her tongue twisted weirdly. Tired of trying to guess and failing, Aimee read the message forward and backward, and her eyes swung like a pendulum. She pronounced the message back and forth, and oddly enough, something started to make sense. 

Aimee copied the message again, but this time she wrote it starting from the end of the sentence. This is what she ended up with:

witbeyondmeasureismansgreatesttreasure

Aimee gleefully slapped her desk and read the message aloud. “Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure. Where have I heard that before?”

She repeated the message over and over again and checked her books for any sort of clue that might tell her what the sentence meant.

“Who is witty in the books? Dumbledore, Hermione, definitely not Ron, Harry is brave…brave…that’s it!” Aimee slapped her desk again as the pieces came together. “Wit is a quality, just like bravery. And the people who are witty are…” Aimee paused for dramatic effect, like she was hosting a show, and slapped her thighs like a drum roll. “From Ravenclaw!”

Aimee jumped up and down in excitement, then stopped. The message had been written on Ravenclaw’s diadem. Where was she supposed to find a diadem? She wouldn’t be allowed in the castle near the queen, just because she was looking for something part of the game. Security would kick her out right away. Unless…she went in disguise. She could pose as one of the princes or princesses. She had a tiara and an elaborate pink silk dress with frills that was definitely fit for a princess. She was beautiful enough, anyway. Aimee threw back her blond hair dramatically, giggling at the thought. All she needed to do was gather her costume. She picked out the dress she needed, still not believing that going in disguise would work, but it was worth a shot, and then looked for her tiara, but it wasn’t in its usual spot, on her desk. She never kept it anywhere else, so it was odd that it wasn’t there. Where had she kept it?

It wasn’t until a few minutes later that Aimee remembered that her mother had broken it two days ago. Aimee’s eyes flashed with anger again as she retrieved the broken pieces from the trash can. What was the use now? No princess would go into a castle with a plastic tiara, let alone a broken one. She gazed at it sadly, noticing its pretty features as if for the first time. The shiny blue sapphire in the center of the tiara, braided plastic with vines stretching out like tree branches, letters entwined through the twists…letters?

Aimee peered closely at the broken tiara, with the object an inch from her nose. Yes, there were definitely letters in between the branches. But what did they spell out? They were jumbled all over the place and when Aimee tried to read them left to right, they made no sense. Not again, she groaned. 

She even tried reading right to left, but that didn’t make sense either. What about top to bottom? The letters spelled something out now. It looked like a good day for a scavenger.

Where Harry must die

“AIMEE! What are you doing?!”

Aimee looked up in surprise and dropped the tiara. She saw her mother standing at her door, staring wildly at her. What had she done now? Her mother waved her hand up and down, and Aimee blushed to the color of a tomato. She hadn’t realized that she had put on the dress, but had forgotten to change back. 

“Oh, whoops,” Aimee mumbled. “Sorry, just –”

“Too busy sticking your nose in stupid Harry Potter fandom?!” her mother shrieked. “It’s gotten so bad that you pretend to be a princess or whatever it is in those Harry Potter books?! Honestly!”

“Mum, I wasn’t pretending, I was –” Aimee started to tell her mother about the hunt for the Horcrux, but stopped, thinking that would enrage her even more. She wanted to apologize, but instead she said, “What does it matter anyway to you, huh? It’s not like you love to read anything! I wish you would just leave me alone and stop pestering me with your stupid lectures about focusing on something other than Harry Potter! Georgie’s mum is better, at least she doesn’t pull him away from what he likes to do!”

Instantly realizing how badly she had insulted her mother, she put her hand over her mouth, and she calmed down. “Mum, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to –”

Her mother’s face was white as a ghost, but she held up her hand, her voice quivering. “No, I get what you mean, Aimee. I’m sorry I ever tried to teach you anything.” With that, she slammed the door, leaving Aimee in an uncomfortable silence that tortured her brain. 

Tears welled up in her eyes, and she dropped to the floor, crying. What had she done? She was so captivated by Harry Potter that she had insulted her own mother? She didn’t have the courage to go talk to her, and she didn’t want to continue with the game anymore. Sobbing miserably, Aimee got back to her feet and changed out of her dress. She wiped her nose on her white t-shirt, remembering how she and her mother used to go shopping in the malls on the weekends. She missed her mother’s warmth and how she used to cradle her when she was upset.

The door opened again, and for one fleeting moment Aimee hoped it was her mother. Instead, it was her father, staring wildly at Aimee’s curled form. “What did you say to her?” he asked.

Aimee turned her back to him. “I don’t want to talk about it right now,” she sobbed.

She heard her father sigh and mutter, “Girls.”

When her tears had dried out, Aimee could barely see what was in front of her. A part of her wanted to run to her mother and apologize, but the majority of her, and Aimee hated herself for feeling that way, wanted to continue the game. After debating fiercely in her mind, she decided that maybe if she won the game, if she retrieved the missing Horcrux, then maybe, just maybe, she could show her mother that the Harry Potter series was not a waste of time, and that she actually did something with all the information she had kept from the books. She picked up the crown again and tried to read the letters, but her vision was blurred by more tears threatening to fall. She wiped her eyes and willed herself not to cry, and concentrated again.

She read the letters from the top down, and remembered what the clue had said.

“Where H-Harry must d-die,” she whispered, her voice cracking a little, forcing the lump in her throat to recede.

It wasn’t in Hogwarts, his school, but there had been a ferocious fight between Hogwarts and Death Eaters, or Voldemort’s supporters. Harry knew he must die, after he watched Snape’s memories in the Pensieve, Aimee recalled. Harry went to Voldemort to die. They confronted each other in Hogwarts, but that was when Voldemort died.  Am I forgetting something?

Aimee couldn’t keep her eyes open after crying so much, and all she wanted to do was sleep. She would after she figured out the clue. It felt like she hadn’t slept well in days, which she hadn’t, really. Aimee had been too busy pondering over the clues and wondering what she would find next to sleep. Not that this was the first time this had happened. Back when Aimee had been introduced to Harry Potter by none other than her mother, she would spend hours on Pottermore reading articles about Harry Potter characters, and playing their games, often late into the night, when her mother would have to carry Aimee into her bed.

Aimee stared at the diadem as if it would start talking and give her the answer. To Aimee’s surprise, it did! It didn’t talk, but Aimee now noted that the letters were entwined within the branches of a tree. She had seen that before, but she thought the tree was just part of the decoration. Now she realized that —

“It’s a hint!” she exclaimed. “The tree means that I have to go to a forest. The Forbidden Forest! That’s where Harry was supposed to die!”

Aimee twirled around her room, momentarily forgetting that ten minutes ago, she was on the floor crying miserably after fighting with her mother. She already knew which forest she had to go to. That part was obvious. Being a mega Harry Potter fan, she had participated in all of the events that JK Rowling had hosted relating to Harry Potter activities, and one of them had been in Heartwood Forest, where Rowling had given a tour of what the Forbidden Forest looked like in her stories. It only made sense to make that the location of the Forbidden Forest again, and Aimee was sure of it.

Aimee pulled on her coat and looked back one last time at her father, who was watching her go. She stared at him for confirmation, and when he nodded, she opened the door and stepped out into the wind howling.

Aimee knew that she had to go to the forest today itself, for two reasons. One, the Horcrux might be gone by tomorrow, and two, she wanted to fix the relationship between her and her mother as soon as possible. To most people, it sounded absurd that Aimee might be able to convince someone who hated Harry Potter by winning a hunt related to Harry Potter, but Aimee knew that her mother didn’t exactly hate it. It was worth a try, at least.

It also wasn’t odd for Aimee to go anywhere alone. As an only child, she had freedom to roam around London as long as she didn’t go too far, which really meant wherever. Her parents weren’t interested in anything related to Harry Potter, so they chose to let Aimee go alone.

She turned a corner on the street and continued walking until she saw a sign that pointed her in the direction of the trail that led to the forest. Aimee followed the street until it merged with the trail, and stopped. Heartwood Forest was mostly an open field, with trees surrounding it, and pretty purple flowers lining the trail and popping up between the trees. The Horcrux could be anywhere in this vast area, and Aimee was running out of time. She wasn’t so keen on going into a forest in the night, but she had no choice. Deep breath

On and on and on for minutes, which turned into an hour, and still no luck. She looked on the branches of the trees, near the roots, she parted the flowers, and dug through the ground, but the Horcrux was nowhere to be found. 

Crunch.

Aimee gasped. The sound of a person’s footsteps on fallen leaves. “Hello?” she squeaked.

Crunch.

She looked around wildly, and she was sure she hadn’t stepped on a twig. 

It was getting dark. Fast. The sun was slowly dipping past the horizon, and she needed to get out of there before anyone saw her. She still hadn’t found that last Horcrux.

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Aimee let out another gasp and ducked behind a tree, peeling her eyes to see who, or what was coming. Someone was looking for her. She couldn’t shake off the feeling that she was being watched.

 She shifted her weight from one foot to the other. Her vision was partially blocked by the trees spanning across the area, and the footsteps had stopped too. She couldn’t move ahead with her mission until she was certain that she was alone. Suddenly, she smelled a strong stench of rancid cheese, but she couldn’t tell where it was coming from. Aimee covered her nose with her hands, but she could still smell it. It was all she could do to keep from throwing up.

“Where is that smell coming from?” she whispered, her eyes tearing up.

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

The person was on the move again. 

Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch. 

The footsteps were getting faster and faster.

Crunch, crunch, CRUNCH, CRUNCH, CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH…

The footsteps were getting louder and faster, and still Aimee couldn’t see who it was. The smell was stronger now, like it was right behind her. 

Right behind her.

Aimee froze. She could hear herself breath. Slowly, with her back still to whatever was behind her, she stiffly stood up, careful not to stumble backward.

There was a sudden gust of wind, and it carried a whisper.

Aimeeeeee.

Creepy.

Aimeeee.

She took a step forward, away from the person or thing behind her.

I’m right heeere.

She wasn’t going to linger around now.

Aimee broke into a run, pushing herself to speed up, out of the trees and into the fields. The whisper sounded like a call, pulling her somewhere, but it was still creepy. She stopped, panting, and looked over her shoulder. There was a dark shadow among the trees, and it looked like a boy as tall as Aimee, and there were spikes erupting from his head. He looked familiar, but there was no time to stop and check. He wasn’t running, but he was watching Aimee as she ran.

She continued running through the fields when her foot got caught in something and she stumbled and fell.

“Ow,” she moaned, and lifted herself on her elbow. She crawled through the grass, finally finding what had tripped her. A small, rectangular package wrapped neatly in brown paper sat innocently in the grass, waiting to be opened. Aimee didn’t want to wait until she got home. She couldn’t hide it from her parents. It was too big to fit in her pockets, but it was as small as a diary.

Was it a diary?

Aimee’s curiosity took over, and she ripped open the packaging. It was a two sided photo frame, with a photo inserted in each side. The border was made of dark-chocolate brown, polished wood, and the word FAMILY written in cursive on top. On one side of the frame was an illustration of  Lily, James, and Harry Potter when he was a baby, all happily smiling back at Aimee. On the other side was a black-and-white photo of a little girl in a plaid dress laughing, with two young, happy parents smiling down at her. 

When Aimee shook the paper to see if anything else was in there, a small piece of paper fluttered out.

To the person holding this note:

On one side of the photo is a photo of Harry Potter when his parents were still alive, and on the other side is a picture of my family, when I was a little girl. Both of these are my closest family. This Horcrux is not what it’s supposed to be. I’ve put my soul into this Horcrux, but out of love for both my families. I hope you make many Horcruxes like this and cherish them forever.

Joanne Rowling

Aimee grinned at the message. She knew what she had to do. Clutching the message and the photo frame tightly in her hand, she jumped up and ran home. She needed to make a Horcrux.

She swung open the door to find her parents standing in the living room, talking, but without waiting any further, she ran to her mother and hugged her tightly.

“What?” her mother exclaimed out of surprise.

Aimee kept her hands firmly around her mother’s waist and gazed into her soft, brown eyes. She looked just like her mother, with her almond-shaped brown eyes and the straight, white-blond hair. She wanted her mother. She wanted her father. She wanted Harry Potter. She wanted all of them.

“I’m sorry, mum. I really am,” Aimee whispered. She really meant it. “I love you.”

Aimee buried her face in her mother’s shoulder. Her mother wasn’t shocked anymore.

There was a long moment of silence, and then Aimee felt a warm hand stroking her hair.

“I love you too.”

What is Ganesh Chaturthi?

Shri Ganesh

Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most popular festivals celebrated in India. Ganesha is the god of wisdom and prosperity, and Hindus joyfully and hopefully worship this god for an easy life ahead. Ganesh Chaturthi falls in the month of Bhadrapada, on Shukla Chaturthi. Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated to commemorate Shri Ganesha’s birth and arrival to Earth.

A popular story behind the reason for this festival starts when Goddess Parvati goes to take a bath and makes a clay idol of a boy. She brings it to life and tells the boy to make sure no one comes in while she is bathing. Shiva, the destroyer, had tried to go through, but Ganesha would not allow him. In the heat of the moment, Shiva cut off the boy’s head. To make up for this sin, Shiva replaced it with an elephant’s head, representing animals, and granted Ganesha the power to create obstacles for the harmful deeds of the demons and remove obstacles for good deeds, hence his name Vighnaharta. Hindus celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi in order to gain wisdom and succeed in whatever auspicious task they choose to complete.

The worship of the god himself has been recorded since the fourth century CE, but it was freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak who publicized this festival, around 1893. Because Ganesha represents all people, Tilak used this as a way to connect people and unite them as true Indians against the British, lighting a determinate fire in their souls. He used this as an opportunity to make plans with other leaders to overthrow the British government. Since the British could not deny the Indians of their religion, they had no choice but to let the Indians proceed. In this way, Ganesh Chaturthi became a public festival.

Ganesh Chaturthi is special mainly because he represents the union between nature, animals, and humans, and by worshipping the god, people symbolize the harmonious lifestyle between nature and humans, which help each other thrive by removing obstacles through their own work, and also helps remove their past sins.

In India, each area has its own way of celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi. In Gujarat, Ganesha resides in their homes for 10 days. A Ganesh idol is placed on a bed of rice and welcomed with showers of milk and water. Ganesh idol is decorated with chandlo which is made with kumkum and sandal paste and aarti is performed after lighting incense and saying many prayers.

In Andhra Pradesh, people perform a Ganesh puja and read mantras and stories about Ganesha. They throw rice mixed with turmeric onto the idol of Ganesha and offer prasad, which is tamarind rice and sweet Pongal.

In Rajasthan, people celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi publicly. People cover a large image of Ganesha with kumkum, then put a garland of red flowers around an idol of him. Motichoor laddoos are also made, as they believe it to be the god’s favorite food. A common tradition in India is to not look at the moon during Ganesh Chaturthi.

My family is from Maharashtra, where Ganesha Chaturthi is the most popular. We clean and decorate the house to welcome Ganesh for 10 days, though in different parts of Maharashtra, the day Ganapati goes back home depends on when his mother Parvati arrives, on Bhadrapada Shukla Saptami. We dress up in bright new clothes on this day. My mother makes twenty-one modaks, which is believed to be Ganesha’s favorite dessert, and are offered as “naivadyam”. We also offer durvaa-grass to Ganesha. My dad sets up the pooja. When everything is set up, we perform an aarti. Ganesha Chaturthi is my favorite festival of the year. There is always a happy environment in the home. Modaks are also my favorite food, and Ganesha is my favorite god. Most importantly, I continue to learn Indian culture even though I live in the US.

The Volcanic Eruption

A short story by Nandini Dharwadkar

VolcanoThere were many volcanoes near our village. For a long time they were dormant, but I knew that they were active volcanoes and would erupt sooner or later. I asked my father about this, but he always laughed it away and said that we will always be safe and nothing will happen to us. But I think, he too knew that the volcanoes would erupt soon and destroy our homes. He kept it from me so I wouldn’t be scared and worry too much. My sister Tallulah, was scared too and asked me, “Tehya, will we be safe?”
 
One day, there was a rumbling noise and earth shook violently. Suddenly, I realized that this is what I had feared the most. My father shouted, “Everyone! Get your most important belongings and let’s all hurry to a far place before the volcano destroys our village!” We all obeyed knowing he was right. We all ran to a far distance. When we stopped, we saw the lava bubbling down the mountain to where we first lived, destroying and burning everything in its path. We were all very distraught and heart-broken. I was extremely sad as that was the only place I knew as home.
 
We all recovered very quickly because we knew that if we stood there mourning about what had already happened, we would not get anything done and solve our problem. So my father gathered us all and we made a plan. We would first collect enough wood, enough to build 5 house (there were 50 people in our tribe). Then we would make weapons out of some of the extra wood to hunt animals for food and clothing and to protect ourselves. Tallulah and I were in charge of getting the wood for the houses. It was hard work, but we completed the task. After we were finished, some men started constructing the houses. It took our tribe a whole day to form a new village, but when we were done, we were all satisfied with our work.
 
At night, after everyone was asleep, I secretly went to our old, burnt village. I missed it very much! I thought of the good memories we had in the village. I thought of when Tallulah was born. That was the best memory. There was a lot of commotion around our house because everyone had come to see the baby. Suddenly, a hand on my shoulder interrupted my thoughts. It was my father. He said, “Those were some good memories, eh?” We both laughed and started back for our new home.

Ayurveda: The Ancient Indian Science

The diversity of spices and herbs used in Ayurveda cooking…simple, yet deeply rooted in science.

Ayurveda is the oldest known practice of medicine in India, about 5,000 years old. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word, and it translates to “Science of Life”. As etymology goes, ayur means “life”, and veda means “science” or “knowledge”. What is the history behind this knowledge? What concepts lie in this science deeply rooted in Indian culture? Why is Ayurveda important and what are its benefits?

 History of Ayurveda

Ayurveda has been around since c. 3300 BCE, from ancient Vedic culture. It is said to be an eternal science that started from Brahma, the creator and the universal consciousness, who then passed it down to Dhanvantari, who accepted the knowledge through meditation. In this way, Ayurveda has been taught orally and through example for years until it was written down in the well-known texts known as the Vedas and Ayurvedic texts were available in the 8th-century BCE. Some of these texts include Charak Samhita, Sushurta Samhita, and Ashtanga Hridaya. They discuss ayurvedic methods of healing and how Ayurveda evolved.

  The earliest known practice of Ayurveda comes from the Aryans, the people who formed the center of civilizations in the Ganges Basin. They had begun to practice positive spirituality taught in the Vedas, and were cultivating the rice, mung beans, urad dal, ginger, and turmeric that were included in the Ayurvedic diet. 

However, its practice was not confined to India. As invasions by Genghis Khan and Mughals in the 13th and 16th centuries CE, respectively, made their way into conquering India, Ayurveda became the preferred way of medicine for many foreigners, and was able to rise to a higher standard throughout the world. Even as the British took control and tried to force a new way of life onto Indians, Ayurveda inspired the founding of the Indian Medical Institute in 1763, where botanists tried to understand the science behind Ayurvedic plants and methods. Even though the popularity of Ayurveda soon receded into the traditional outskirts of society, as India regained independence, its practices and beliefs were acknowledged and revived by the new government, and has continued to spread throughout the world. 

Ayurvedic Beliefs

The goal of Ayurvedic tradition is to maintain and balance health through the balance of the mind, body, and spirit, all of which are connected to the universe. This can be achieved by the right thought process, a healthy diet, and nutrient-rich herbs. When either the mind, body, or spirit is imbalanced by stress in a person’s consciousness, diseases are caused and the connection between the mind, body, spirit, and universe is disrupted. 

What exactly could be defined as health? A person is made up of a unique pattern of energy of physical, emotional, and mental characteristics. This energy causes the nutrients to distribute within the body, keeps a high metabolism, and acts as a lubricant for keeping cell structures together.  The five basic elements of nature, space, earth, air, water, and fire form the three basic types of energy, called doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha. They control body functions, bring in positive energy, and are used to define people of their strengths and weaknesses. Usually, one of these doshas is dominant in each person, another is secondary, and one of them is least prominent. Depending on which one is dominant, a person develops positive characteristics that pertain to that dosha. However, when one of these energies is imbalanced (due to stress on consciousness), the cells do not function properly; good health is ruined. 

Vata Dosha

The Vata dosha controls the basic body functions and movements, such as cell division, breathing, blood circulation, heart functions, blinking, and defecation. This energy is the strongest of all three, and it is composed of the elements space and air. When in balance, the Vata dosha promotes creativity and flexibility. This positivity is disrupted by over-frequent eating, fear, grief, and staying up too late; this develops into anxiety, asthma, heart disease, skin problems, and rheumatoid arthritis. People who have a dominating vata dosha have a tendency to let go of things as easily as they can grasp them, such as having high energy but easily exhaustible, or earning money quickly but spending it almost immediately. Vata people are also less confident, weak planners, and susceptible to diseases. They are attracted to raw vegetables, but have to eat warm, cooked food and juicy fruits to keep their diet stable. 

Pitta Dosha

The Pitta dosha controls the body’s metabolic system, the absorption of nutrition, and body temperature. It is made up of fire and water, and when these are balanced, pitta promotes intelligence and understanding. This can be disrupted by eating extremely sour or spicy foods or spending too much time in the sun; this imbalance causes anger, hatred, and jealousy. People with a primary Pitta dosha externally have medium height and build, and have many moles and freckles on their face. Internally, they have sharp intelligence and penetrating ideas, strong metabolism and appetites, and have ideal leadership qualities. Pitta people like to exhibit their material prosperity and are easily agitated and aggressive toward hate. As for the diet, Pitta are attracted to hot spices and like cold drinks, but salads, dairy products, and sweet foods are best for them. In order to balance this dosha, people should avoid excessive heat, exercise during the cooler part of the day, and eat cooling, non-spicy foods. 

Kapha Dosha

The Kapha dosha controls muscle growth, weight, body strength and stability, and the immune system, and it holds bones, muscles, and cells together. Since it has formed from Earth and water, it also supplies water for all parts and systems in the body. When in balance, the Kapha dosha expresses love, calmness, and forgiveness. However, by sleeping during the day, eating too many sweet foods or foods with too much salt and water, Kapha will provoke attachment, greed, and envy. With a dominant Kapha dosha, people have excellent strength, endurance, and stamina, yet they gain weight easily and have a slow metabolism, as they do not like exercise. These type of people are also calm, tolerant, and forgiving, and have a reliable long-term memory, but are vulnerable to flu, sinus congestion, and other diseases involving mucus. As for their diet, Kapha people are attracted to sweet, oily, and salty foods, but are balanced by bitter, astringent, and pungent foods. They also avoid sweet and sour fruits, and beans, raw honey, garlic, and ginger are best for Kapha people. To balance this dosha, people need to get plenty of exercise and avoid heavy foods. 

Treatment

Ayurvedic treatment helps regain balance and harmony with life, by increasing resistance, reducing stress, and removing impurities within the body, cleansing it to prevent disease. Ayurvedic treatment falls under 8 categories, as it depends on where the imbalance has occurred: 

  • Kaayachikitsa – Internal Medicine
  • Baalachikitsa – Pediatrics
  • Bhuta Vidya – Psychiatry
  • Shalakya Tantra – Ear, Nose and Throat Treatment
  • Shalya Tantra – Surgery (not practiced in the United States today)
  • Vishagara Vairodh Tantra – Toxicology
  • Jarachikitsa/Rasayana – Geriatrics and Rejuvenation
  • Vajikarana — Aphrodisiac Therapy, Fertility, and Conception

Usually, herbs, common spices, and oils are used in treatments, and these ingredients can be cooked into foods that possess specific healing properties. A common Ayurvedic food is Kitchari. The cooling spices used in it, cilantro, cinnamon, coriander, mint, and fennel help reduce inflammation in the body. 

Ayurveda is a science containing deep knowledge about the human body, but it is definitely not magic. It simply states that keeping stability in life the only way, and really the simplest way, to maintain excellent health.

I’m here for you – By Nandini Dharwadkar

Be kind to all

A brand new day. A brand new life. Only ten cars were zooming on the streets, which was the only noise left in the city of Fremont. At least, outside. Inside of hospitals and clinics, the only sound that could be heard was the moaning and groaning of suffering patients, and the soothing voices of the nurses and doctors that worked hard to cure the sick. Everyone noticed this change. Everyone knew. But not everyone cared. The rich were just taking this as a chance to relax.

Coronavirus was taking over people’s lives. And taking them away. And no one could be more affected by this than 15-year old Lily. She wanted some way to help the underprivileged people who couldn’t provide for themselves, the ones without a job because of the lockdown, because they are the ones who need help the most. Lily watched out of her window as she observed a man stuffing his trunk to its maximum capacity with cans of food. Corona Virus

Food, she thought, there will never be enough. For the the higher class with a lavishly decorated home, and the ones with a plain blanket and hard, cement bed. I need to make it enough, especially now.

And watching the man with his cans, Lily knew exactly how to help…

An hour later, Lily had persuaded her sister and had gathered a few friends with her to help other people during this time of distress and were walking around the streets carrying large trash bags. Filled with food and supplies in it that they had pooled out of their own homes. It wasn’t much, but it was worth it. And everyone around the world knew that.

They walked down Thornton Avenue, where they saw an old lady sitting at the edge of a gas station, who was watching them nervously. Her eyes said it all. But as they approached, the woman’s gaze fell to the sidewalk, but Lily knew what the lady’s heart wanted.

Lily kneeled in front of her, and tried to ignore the deadly smell circling the woman. Trying not to scrunch her nose and be rude, Lily said benignly, “How are you doing, Ms….?”

The old woman seemed to trust the teenagers who were silently watching, and said in a croaky voice, “Gibson. Ms. Gibson. What are you doing here? And why are you outside?”

Lily pulled out six large cans of beans, tomatoes, vegetables, and chicken that her mom had saved up. She lined them up in front of the woman. “For you,” she said, and took the old woman’s hand and squeezed it. “We’ll get through this. Coronavirus will be kicked away by vaccines that our doctors will discover. Stay strong. You’re not alone. We’re here for you. I’m here for you.”

Ms. Gibson was speechless. “You’re here for me,” she repeated. “You’re here for me.”

For two hours Lily and the other teenagers walked around Fremont passing out food to homeless and needy people. Other residents noticed the group with large bags as they passed out food. Soon, almost everyone in Lily’s community had joined in the heroic act, and were chanting, “We’re here for you. I’m here for you” to everyone they provided supplies.

Lily looked back at the size of her group and grinned. It took one small act of kindness to prove that the coronavirus could not kill off the kindness people felt for each other, despite the lockdown. All people had to do to prove that was to say four simple words: “I’m here for you.”