Yanti was terrified. Her heart was beating so loudly in her chest that she could physically feel it. She could feel the panic of those around her. Her own panic escalated. She listened to the noise and turmoil around her. The waters were rising.
Huge amounts of water came gushing down from the Gandhi Tal to the Mandakini river at about 8:30 PM the evening before, washing away everything in its path. The rains were unprecedented and unlike anything they had ever seen. People were afraid to leave at night, but a few did. Taking the only ponies available. By 6:40 AM the next day, not only were the waters cascading from the Gandhi Tal, but also the Swaraswati River at great speeds. Bringing with it huge amounts of silt, rocks, and boulders. “What will we do?” she cried to her parents.
“Run,” yelled her father. He grabbed Yanti and her mother by their hands. Running towards the mountain range. “We need to get on higher land,” he shouted over the roar of the water. Who would think that water could cause such a roar?
Yanti and her parents scrambled up the mountain. Trying to get a hold on anything they could. There is no road going directly to the temple. The only access to the temple is a 14-mile uphill trek from Gaurikund. Travelers would either sojourn on foot or by the pony and manchan services offered by the local people. But now the ponies were gone. The remaining people were running for their lives.
Yanti lived in Uttarakhand, India. It was summertime, and her parents would always work with the visitors. For their state of Uttarakhand held the Kedarnath Temple, one of the four
ancient pilgrimage sites known as Char Dham Yatra. The temple, which is one of the twelve Jyotrilingas, is the holiest of all the shrines of Shiva. It is very old, built in the 8th century. It is found on the Garhwal Himalayan Mountain range along the banks of the Mandakini river. People would come from miles around to pay obeisance to the Hindu God, Lord Shiva.
Yanti remembered how just yesterday she had walked along the Pradakshina path outside the shrine. She could still feel the smooth coolness of the stone beneath her feet. When she reached the sanctuary doorway, she had slowly and reverently walked clockwise through the spiral until she reached the inner sanctum. She had done this three times. She did this to show devotion to her God. She also knew that that it represented the different levels in life that each person goes through to reach enlightenment. Mostly, she liked the ritual for the peace and calm it gave her.
She now watched as the worshippers ran for refuge inside the Shrine, praying that Shiva would protect them. Their panic was palpable. But Yanti and her parents were out on the mountain range trying to help those that chose to try to evacuate. Was it only 24 hours ago, when the holy place was so full of tranquility?
They looked down, as a huge boulder came rolling directly towards the temple.
“Oh no,” screamed Yanti’s mother. Her mother looked with concentration to the great boulder stampeding down the mountain, bringing all the silt and rocks with it. She prayed and called to Shiva to make the boulder stop. She saw the massive rock slowing in her mind. She saw the temple standing tall and erect. As she concentrated, she stretched her arms out before her. No one would ever know why, but the mighty boulder came to within a short distance of the temple. It appeared to have gotten stuck.
The waters were diverted, along with all the debris they carried. They gushed on both sides of the temple, destroying everything in their path. But the temple remained intact. The mighty
waters swept away hundreds of pilgrims and locals. Yanti looked down as shops and stables were lifted from their foundations and swept away. People were screaming everywhere. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she took in the devastation.
Then out of nowhere, came the helicopters. They were from the Indian Army. They were here to rescue and airlift people away to safer places. Hope arose in them. They jumped up and down. Yanti and her parents waved desperately as the helicopters made rescue attempts to those trapped in the temple. But it was growing dark again, and the rescuers did not see them stranded on the mountainside. The waters continued to rise. Yanti’s hope dropped.
Her mom tried to get Yanti and her father to concentrate on stopping the Great Flood. For this is what the women of her family had done for many generations. It was said they were descended from the mighty Shiva and Parvati themselves.
Parvati is able with mental intention and magic to bring about all that she desires. As a young girl, she fell in love with Shiva. But Shiva was still grieving over the death of another woman that he loved. He isolated himself in a dark cave by himself and forgot his people. But Parvati was very determined. She would visit his cave every day. She would bring fresh fruit and flowers, sweeping the cave floor clean. Shiva would just snarl his nose at her. But Parvati would not give up.
She went to the forest, where she had nothing to eat and no clothes to protect her tender body from the weather. She learned to master her needs. Her powers grew until she matched Shiva’s. She meditated all day long, to Brahma, the supreme deity. Finally, Brahma took pity on her and asked what it was that she wanted. She asked that her dark skin be turned golden.
When Shiva saw how powerful that she had become, he fell in love, and they were married. Shiva once again became concerned with his meditations. He began channeling his spiritual
energy for the good of all mankind. Parvati is an affirmation that there are no limits to what a woman can do when she uses her spiritual energy to achieve her goal.
Yanti’s mother now called for her family to concentrate and focus to stop the mighty waters, as the mighty boulder had stopped. It seemed that the waters were slowing, but the Dark One looked on. He did not want her to succeed, for he reveled in fear and destruction. He raised his arms and the skies blackened. The wind whipped and the thunder roared. The waters began to rise once more. He called for her to choose. Only one could live.
They both made fatal mistakes. He, in thinking that that the mortal would choose herself. For that is what he would have done himself. And truthfully, most others. But she chose her daughter, for she knew that the youth were the hope of the world. Her mistake was believing that she had to make a choice and not believing in her own power.
Panic overtook all her thinking. The water had already covered their ankles and was quickly rising to the calves of their legs. She pulled the backpack off her shoulders. She yelled for her husband to help her unravel their most prized possession. The magic carpet.
The carpet had been in their family for generations. She knew in this wind; it would only hold one of them. She did not know if Yanti could handle it, but she had no choice. “Take the carpet. Travel to a safe land that touches your soul.”
“No, mama!” Yanti screamed. “I cannot go without you.”
“Yes, you can,” her mother said back. “Remember that Yanti is another name for Parvati. You have her strength. Go my daughter and grow even stronger. Breathe in blessing and breathe out fear. See it in your mind. Tell the carpet to take you where your heart is. Much awaits you. I am counting on you. Be brave and whatever you do, don’t look back.” And with that she pushed her daughter off into the wind.
The magic carpet shot off. Rocking side to side. Unable to help herself, Yanti looked back. She saw the rushing waters sweeping over her parents. She wished that she had not looked. It was a memory that she would never forget. Her mother and father holding on tightly to one another, watching Yanti as she flew off in the ferocious storm.
The Dark One smiled, until he saw Yanti escaping. “Your time will come,” he called out. “Your time will come. And then you will have to decide. We will see if you make the right choice.”
For 3 months, Yanti traveled. Looking for the home of her heart. She ate French fries and bread in the French Riviera and Chicken Kiev in Russia. Risotto in Rome, burritos in Mexico, and hotdogs in Dodger Stadium. But no matter how good the food, she missed the Za’atar, her mother used in their meals. A minty herb. It is very difficult to find. For those who cannot find it, they can mix thyme, oregano, sumac, and sesame seeds. She remembered her mother drying the herbs out in the sun. Then using it to bake flatbread and tahini dip. This other food was awesome, but it was not the food of her home.
She hiked the Redwood Forest. With no one to talk to, she talked to the trees. “Oh, Mr. Sequoia, what is the secret to your strength?” she asked.
“My strength is in my roots.” he answered.
“How so?” she asked.
“Because they intertwine with the other redwoods to create an underground network. One with powerful connections,” the redwood replied. “The magic of the redwoods is building up others in their network to grow.”
“I can see where that would be helpful,” she said. “But you can only grow where you are planted.”
“True enough,” he said. “Just be careful in your travels, that you only keep company with those who lift you up, who help you to be the best you can be.”
She swam the Great Barrier reef. “What is your strength?” Yanti asked the coral as she dove.
“New life,” it replied. “Nothing makes people happier than new life. And coral spawning is the world’s most magnificent example. Come out tonight and see.”
And so, she did. She looked in amazement as millions of tiny sacs released in a mass spawning and floated to the ocean surface. It was magical. The water looked like glass and the moonlight shone down. She had never seen anything like it.
“That is beautiful,” she said. “But you only get to see it once a year.”
“That is true. That is why you must appreciate life always and never take it for granted. Be careful in your travels of those who want to suck away your joy. Happiness is a choice!”
When morning arose, she sat on the carpet. For she knew that even the Great Barrier Reef was a wonderful place to visit, it was not where her soul was leading her. “Take me to where my heart is,” she commanded. The carpet lifted slowly into the air. She traveled for many days and nights. When she landed, she realized she was in Spain.
She wandered into a restaurant. A lady in a long red dress with straps tied behind her neck and flaring at the bottom came up to her. “You are a little young to be here. How can I help you?” the beautiful lady asked.
“I am looking for work,” she said. “My name is Yanti.”
The lady looked at her, knowing she should not hire someone so young. But she knew what it was like to have to work. And had a tender heart for children. “My name is Alejandra. You can bus those tables. Take the dishes to the back and ask the chef to give you something to eat.”
Yanti took the tray a worker handed her and started loading dishes. There were five men, dressed in black shirts and pants sitting in chairs lining the wall. They picked up guitars and drums and began playing the liveliest music Yanti had never heard anything like it. The woman raised one hand above her head. She danced an energetic and lively dance.
“What is the magic of your dance?” Yanti asked the Flamenco dancer when she finally took a break. It was so sad and haunting and beautiful, she had to know.
“Our magic is in the ambiguity. Listen to the different directions the beat pulls you. Feel the crossing rhythms. The flamenco is unwritten. It is not choreographed. It is open-ended. You make of it with what feels right to you. It is spirited and lively. It is a gypsy dance.”
“It is beautiful. But is it hard to teach?” Yanti asked.
“No, child. Some say we got it from the Hindu’s, such as yourself. Think of the rhythms and foot-stamping of some of your Indian dances. But there are differences also. It is a fusion of many influences. When Ferdinand and Isabella forced the Moors, the Jews, and the gypsies to leave, they were forced to take refuge in the mountains. Now normally, these three groups would have had nothing to do with each other. But because they were forced to struggle for survival in the mountain caves and to rely on one another, they became a melting pot of cultures. This is how flamenco music and song began. Their bad luck was our good luck.”
“I know what it is like to be forced to flee,” said Yanti and told her story. “I have been wandering. One man called me a vagabond and bum.”
“Names can have many meanings. My name, Alejandra, it means defender of mankind. You are no vagabond. You’ve heard the term gypsies, tramps and thieves.” When Yanti nodded, Alejandra continued. She swirled the ice in her glass, the tinkling echoing in the room.
She slowly added, “They are not the same, even though people think they are. You are no vagabond or tramp. You might wander, but you make an honest living. As the gypsies do. The difference is that we seek no permanent home, you do. A hobo travels looking for work. A tramp travels but avoids work. And a bum doesn’t care to do either. Be careful of names, little one. Do not let them label you. And remember, it takes all of the people to make this Earth great.”
Knowing that this was a great place, but not her place, Yanti got on her carpet again the next morning. After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, she flew to London. She made faces at the guards at Buckingham Palace. She tried her best to get them to laugh. She stood in front of them. She made faces. She told jokes. She tickled a leaf in their ear. Without success. She asked them how they did it, but they would not answer. She learned that when someone is determined to not be set off course, then it is near impossible to do so.
If it could ever be said that the day started with the worst of luck and the best of luck, this was Yanti’s fortune the next day. She sat on her carpet, trying to decide where to go next. She had learned it was important to develop networks and to build up those around her. That it was important to choose your friends wisely. She had learned that happiness was a choice and to not let others suck your joy dry. She had learned the world is a melting pot. That our differences are what makes it vibrant. And that labels can be misleading and deceptive. And she had learned about determination. She had learned a lot, but she had not found the place of her heart.
Being brave was difficult to do. But she thought she had no choice. For in her mind, she had to keep going. Little did she know that many would have given up long ago. Her parents had sacrificed so much, she could not let them down.
Visualizing in her head of going the perfect direction, as her mother had told her to do. “Take me to my perfect home. Take me where I can finally belong,” she said. She was concentrating harder than ever when a great wind grabbed the carpet. She was lucky to grab the sides because the carpet went into a spin. She could not see which side was up and which was down. The sky was no longer blue, but a solid sheet of white. The wintery snow that pelted her face made it go numb. She no longer had control. The winds were too chaotic, as if they could not decide which path to take. Then like a rocket, she plummeted to the ground. Before things went dark, she heard a voice in the wind, “Be brave. Don’t look back.”