Amarnath Ravva

Excerpt from American Canyon


The previous winter, amamma came from India to help my mother. She was sick and her doctors weren’t sure of the cause—complications from Giardia from Lake Tahoe years ago was a possibility, while another was that her immune system was inflaming her colon because of a bacteria or virus. Amamma didn’t think that was why her daughter was sick. It was a symptom of the spirit, not the body. She decided to consult her seer, who she called Sharma.

He helped them. The seer. But his name, Sharma, is really another name for someone like the pujari sitting before me next to folded silk cloth. Each piece has a use in the naga prathista that is never arbitrary but is an expression of balance and order. When the doctors look at an x-ray or Sharma in meditation gazes at the idea of my mother, they see an expression of another magnitude, an image of uncontrolled energy or a dark mass, a reddening or flash of useless heat.

That summer they both returned to India, where my mother’s health recovered. In Benicia, we speculated on reasons why. She felt lonely, now that her children had left. My sister and father pointed their fingers at the heart. I pointed to nature. Exxon, half a mile away, burned orange over the hills.