Revelation of Reality

“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.


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


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


“Mom! Watch out for--” Aimee started to say.


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


“Mom! Now, 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 wood, you can always get another one from a tree outside!”


“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, come out for lunch now.” and walked out of the room, picking up Aimee’s fake Maurader’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?


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 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 a special invite for Aimee.


Hey Aimee,
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 really love it if you could come, and maybe you can bring your books!
J.K

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 lunch.

Was it too good to be true?

The next afternoon, Aimee 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 get her books signed first. When she reached the lake, she looked around, bewildered. Where were all the people? Where were her fans? Where was J.K. Rowling herself? The email had been from her….right?


Aimee walked on, crossing the bridge that led to the lighthouse. She didn’t find anyone there, either. She set her soggy backpack down, climbing up the stairs to see if people were there. She knew that it wasn’t possible for people to be there, but it didn’t hurt to check. No one there.


She went back down the stairs to leave and picked up her backpack, but she pushed against the door, it wouldn’t budge. She tried harder, but still no result, just that the door wouldn’t move.


“Come--on--door.” she strained as she put one hand on the handle and the other pushing against the wood. Come to think of it, she didn’t remember closing the door at all. But she didn’t hear a thud or a slam of a door closing when she was upstairs either. Starting to get worried, she pounded on the door, until her hands started hurting and were splintered.


“Ow,” she moaned, glaring at her swollen hands.

She threw herself against the wall, but still, the door wouldn’t budge. Aimee was sure she had cracked her rib cage. Tears welled up in her eyes, and one mischievous tear slipped down her cheek.


“HELP!” she cried. “SOMEONE HELP! I’M STUCK IN THIS LIGHTHOUSE!”
But no one was outside, because of the rain. She thought she heard heavy footsteps near the lighthouse, so she yelled again.


“HAGRID! IT’S ME, AIMEE! HAGRID!” she cried, remembering how a half-giant named Hagrid had come for Harry Potter in the first book.


Another idea struck her head, and she ran upstairs, to the large flashlight above. She clicked it on, and it began to spin. Hopefully, this would signal to people that there was someone stuck inside. But wait…no one was outside either, and the rain was falling fast now, and it clouded everything outside.


Desperate, she ran to the windows and pounded, screaming. When nothing happened, she ran back down, and with one last shred of hope, pointed her finger at the handle and whispered, “Alohomora.”


That was the spell to open anything that was locked, and Aimee thought it might work. If it worked for Harry Potter, Ron, and Hermione, why wouldn’t it for her?
Still, nothing happened. She turned her back to the door and slid to the ground. Her stomach rumbled from hunger, but she couldn’t do anything. She had planned to get her book signed, linger for a while, and then return home for lunch. Worst of all, she hadn’t told her mother where she was going, because she was afraid that her mother might not let her go. Even if her family looked for her, they wouldn’t find her in the lighthouse. She was going to starve to death. And no one would even know.


Aimee sobbed uncontrollably, wondering why Rowling had sent her that email but never decided to show up. Was it possible that it was all a hoax? But it couldn’t be. She wouldn’t do that to her fans.

Several hours passed, and night was falling now, but the rain still thrashed as hard as it had before. Still, no one had come. A clap of thunder rang, and Aimee jerked awake. She had cried herself to sleep, hoping that maybe an owl would notice her and send help, or maybe someone would send a Patronus. None of those had happened.


Aimee started to question herself and, she had never imagined that it would come to this point, Harry Potter. She had read the books so much that she believed it was real. Even at home, she would think that she was a witch and would try to curse her annoying little brother. But now, she realized, none of that was real. Harry Potter was a different person in a different world, but it was not the real world. There was no such thing as magic, no such thing as giants, no such thing as three-headed dogs, and no evil sorcerer named Voldemort who wanted power for himself.


As this dawned upon her, Aimee realized with disappointment that she needed to find her way out, the Muggle way. No, not Muggle. The real, human way.


At that moment, the door clicked open, and Aimee quickly stood up, and before she could hide, the man who came in spotted her.

“Hey, you lass! What are you doing here?” he shouted.


“I-I got stuck in here,” she stammered, and she pushed past the man and out into the open. She kept running, running, running.


“You forgot your bag!” she heard the man cry.


She stopped in her tracks and turned around. She considered going back, but she turned around again and continued running. Those books weren’t that important that she would risk her life again. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t real, because it really wasn’t, and that’s what fiction is all about. It felt as if a veil had been pulled off her head, and that was why she had finally come into the real world. Her mother had been right. She was wasting time on it. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t real.

She was glad to be back, in her real home, with her real family.

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 Magical 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.”