Category Archives: Young Voices

The Legend of Vraz


By Vidya and Naren Pradhan

The rich Hindu mythic pantheon of rajas, rakshasas, and apsaras lends itself well to quest-style video games, so it is a bit surprising that no one has seriously attempted one till now. Kids weaned on Amar Chitra Kathas will be interested in “The Legend of Vraz,” a computer game that is inspired by the panoply of heroic characters that Indian mythology provides.

The story of the game, very reminiscent of Indian fairy tales, revolves around prince Vraz who wishes to marry his beloved princess Avi and win her hand in marriage. He has to perform 5 tasks set by her father. This takes Vraz on an epic quest where he must make his way through 15 exotic locations, avoid the tribal warlord Mani and battle with the evil lovelorn Vizier and his shrewd accomplices. He will also have to collect gold and keys, skillfully navigate dangerous traps, operate objects and find his way out of near impossible terrain.

Abhi_14-1Says developer Abhinav Chokavatia, “The game’s look and style is derived from Indian Miniature paintings. I had always been fascinated by miniature paintings ever since I was young. While visiting the temple of Nathdwara I came across detailed miniature paintings and thought it would be a great idea if we can somehow take this art form forward. That’s how the game style and game idea was born.”

The game is targeted at the teen male audience, though the developers believe adults play it too. “We’ve had players tell us that it reminds them of the earlier Mario games,” says Abhinav. “You might say that Prince of Persia + Mario * India – Violence = Legend of Vraz!”

The game launches in India via retail in a month or so and is already available for online purchase. Buyers can try out the demo on the website of Zatun Games, the developers of “Legend.”

I had Naren, who, at 14, falls bang in the middle of the target segment, try out the game. Here is his review –

So far, there have been many good ideas for video games based on mythologies from around the world that have ended up as excellent gaming experiences. Players can hack their way through monsters from Greek mythology, carve a path through hell, or use magic and martial arts to fight hordes of Chinese soldiers. However, so far, nobody has thought about a game based on Indian mythology. Well, the wait is over, thanks to a pay-to-download game called The Legend of Vraz.

The Legend of Vraz is a side-scrolling platformer based on Hindu mythology, especially The Ramayana. Indians around the world would be excited at such a thing. One would say, “Finally, game developers are taking notice of the lore of India!” Of course, I immediately took notice of it, being an avid gamer myself. So I downloaded the game demo, and this is what I found.

The story has no audible dialogue, and is presented through comic panels and missions. It involves prince Vraz, who resembles an Indian hero, doing five difficult tasks in order to win the hand of the lovely Princess Avi. The game play takes many of its elements from classic platforms such as The Prince of Persia, Super Mario Bros, and Sonic the Hedgehog. In each level, you are given a certain mission, either to get an amount of gold, defeat a number of enemies, or simply get to the end. On the way you can jump, fight enemies, collect gold, and discover secret areas, all vital to the overall platform game experience.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the game is the bow and arrow. Just like Rama, Vraz’s signature weapon is the famed projectile weapon of the ancient times. There are five types of arrows you can shoot including normal, particle and fire arrows. However, the enemies move quite fast, and the limited directions you can shoot in make the bow hard to use. Also, there is little variety in the types of enemies. There are bugs, fish, more bugs, more fish, a boar here and there, soldiers, and annoying little cheeky monkeys that make you lose health after you destroy them, which is annoying since you have to destroy them in certain levels.

Overall I didn’t really enjoy this game. However, I can tell it was meant for small children, who will enjoy it when they get the hang of it. The difficulty will provide a good challenge for them and the platform action a thrilling experience. I would call this game average. But if Indian mythology is your thing and quest-style games are fun for you, then do give The Legend of Vraz a try.

End review.

To seasoned gamers like Naren, who has played real time strategy games like Starcraft and Warcraft 3, the game may seem a little retro and inadequate but kids newer to the world of online gaming may enjoy the game. Also, parents can be reassured that there is nothing bloody or gory in this game. According to Abhinav, the initial response has been tremendous.

Here is a video teaser of the game –

Naren’s blog is here.

Home Street Home

10-year old Nikita Shetty of San Jose wrote the following short poem on a visit to India. A small reminder of the forgotten people of Mumbai.

Home … to you and me, a home means a house, and that’s all it could
A dusty old road, thats all it would be
Well we’re wrong
A dusty old road , is a home, to so many
A dusty old road, is all they ever seen,
And for some..
Its Home Street Home.

NIkita lives with her parents in San Jose, California. She attends fifth grade at Simonds Elementary School.Nikita enjoys writing, sketching, and playing soccer.
When Nikita grows up she wants to become a Sketch Artist and an Author.

My MIT experience

By Rahul Joshi

There I was, sitting in the front row of the MIT Theatre waiting for my name to be called.  We were at MIT for the National Vocabulary contest sponsored by North South Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises funds for underprivileged children in India ( MIT is in Boston, Massachusetts, and is a very famous and prestigious institute of technology.  When I saw how big it was, I thought to myself, “Wow, this is HUGE!”

The verbal round began. “Rahul, please come on stage,” called out the announcer.  I got really nervous.  My legs started staking more and more.  “The word is ‘insulate’,” the judge said.  The noise of my teeth chattering echoed on the microphone.  I heard some people laughing.  I accidentally bit my lower lip.  I thought I screamed but the there was no sound.  Everybody was just starting at me like I had just said the president was a chimpanzee.  There were so many people there that I started to sweat!

I thought the meaning of ‘insulate’ was ‘insult’.  My toes were wiggling a lot.  I was about to say ‘insult’ but then I thought some more.  Then, it popped right into my mind.  The meaning wasn’t ‘insult’, it was ‘segregate’!  “The meaning is ‘segregate’”. I said a little too loud.  “Sorry,” I squeaked.  I don’t think anyone heard me though.  I prayed that I would get the answer right.  “That answer is right,” the pronouncer said.

I felt so proud of myself.  “Whew,” I said right into the microphone.  “Whoa,” I thought to myself, “didn’t see that coming!”

Some people want to experience this kind of excitement and some don’t. I have experienced this kind of energy and excitement and I think all the stress was worth it!

Rahul Joshi, 8 years old, is a 4th grader at Pioneer Elementary, Union City, CA. He is a prodigy of Genius Kids where he started reading at the young age of 2 years 4 months old. He was promoted and skipped 2nd grade, heading right into 3rd grade. He was won and ranked in several local and national competitions, the most recent being 2nd Place in the North South Vocabulary Regional Competition. He is also an avid singer and dancer and recently competed in the Northern California Sony Television Asia Boogie Woogie finals.

Rahul did not place in the competition but this is his second time making it to the Nationals.

Across the Border – An immersion trip to Guaymas, Mexico

By Arvind Srinivasan

What would you do if you saw 11 teenage Mexicans in your neighborhood at midnight? Chances are, it’s not what Mexicans do when they see 11 American boys in their neighborhood at midnight. I traveled to Guaymas, in the mainland of Mexico near San Carlos, on an immersion trip from my high school this February, and if I were asked the same question before and after the trip, I would surely have two different answers. It was truly a life changing trip.

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Is America ready for a minority President?

By Joy He, Second Place Winner (Grades 9th to 12th)

America is long overdue for a minority leader. For being a well-developed world power, we are notoriously single-minded when it comes to electing our presidents – no women, no minorities, no Jews, and no Muslims (indeed, even JKF’s Roman Catholicism kept the public talking for years). It is no question that America is quickly approaching a time for minority leaders. However, the conflict surrounding that issue comes from two sides. Not only is the question one of the American people’s willingness to elect a minority president, but it is also one of finding the right minority candidate to lead America.

The philosophy of the American people – the “American Dream” – is one that emphasizes equal opportunity for all individuals in all aspects of life. When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence demanding freedom, justice, and the rights outlined in the first ten amendments to the constitution, he defined the United States to be a nation of choice – of free-will and independence. However, today, with the public’s increasing aversion to immigration and a pronounced distrust of those from the Middle East after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the American Dream is becoming just that – an American dream. When 5th or 6th generation “Americans” (whose families were incidentally immigrants themselves) begin persecuting other, newer, immigrants for pursuing the same dreams and ideals – the same freedoms – as their own families did once upon a time, then there is something inherently wrong with our Dream. The first obstacle America as a nation must overcome before entertaining hopes of electing a minority president is thus preserving the American Dream not only as a relic of the past, but also as a model for the future.

Conversely, it is also up to the candidates themselves to prove themselves worthy of leading our nation. Not only must America do its part to ensure that all candidates are given an equal opportunity to success, but the candidates must do their part to ensure that America will be led by the best people possible. Overcoming prejudice is one thing, but America shouldn’t feel pressured to elect a minority leader “just because.” Ability must come first and foremost. Whether or not the candidate is a minority should be almost an after thought – although, admittedly, their ethnic background would undeniably play a large role in areas of the presidency such as foreign policy. Indeed, we can’t simply say “minority president” and expect one to show up on our doorsteps.

Each president of the past was elected primarily on ability, and any presidential candidate, regardless of their racial status, must show that they have the ability to lead our nation.Ultimately, the election of a minority president will depend on both America’s willingness and the candidates’ competency . It is not only a question of whether the American public is ready to elect a minority president, but also if minority candidates are ready to step up to the plate. America is not yet quite ready for a minority president – the American Dream must be preserved in its entirety before we can truly be deemed ready – but conversely, we have yet to have a minority candidate who has really shown outstanding competency. In the future, America may be ready for a minority president, but will a suitable minority candidate be ready to lead America?

Judge's comments: Excellent point about older immigrants persecuting newer immigrants. Well structured and well thought out essay. Good postulation about whether the country would be able to throw up a minority candidate ready to lead. Good use of word limit. 

Joy He is a 10th grade student at Parkway Central High School in Chesterfield, Mo. Essay published as submitted.

Prizes sponsored by Desi Knowledge, a great place to get books, CDs and DVDs pertaining to Indian culture. Products ship from within the Bay Area, California

Is America ready for a minority President?

By Colette Jaycox, First Place Winner (Grades 9th to 12th)

Asking whether or not the county is "ready" gives undue credence to racist perspectives. By posing the question as a two-sided quandary, we tactically accept the answer "no"- and doing so has consequences. If we decide that the country is not ready for a minority president, we condone discrimination against political candidates based on their ethnicity. After all, if the country is not ready for a minority president, why bother supporting a minority candidate, regardless of his or her skill sets? This legitimizes bigotry in the political sphere. Because we deem a minority candidate unelectable, it becomes socially acceptable to discriminate against such candidates. This, then, makes it even more difficult for a minority candidate to be elected president. We spiral downward and it becomes even more difficult for us to overcome our racist past.

Instead of focusing on the ethnicity of presidential candidates, we should examine their opinions on the issues at hand. Media coverage of the elections directed in such a way would send a message to the population that deciding who to vote for based on skin color is socially unacceptable- and societal pressure can be a powerful thing. Only by moving beyond our insecurity as to the readiness of our country to elect a minority president can we actually have a chance at getting a minority candidate in that position. The color of one's skin does not hamper one's political abilities; the country of one's ancestors does not limit one's capacity as a presidential hopeful. Once we stop making race an issue, we will have only the abilities of the candidates to look to- and this is in no way constrained by color.

Skeptics remain as to America's ability to reason in such a manner. However, we have empirical evidence to the contrary. The frontrunner in the Democratic primaries, leading in both states and delegates, is the minority candidate Barack Obama. The unprecedented success of his campaign, even against well-connected Clinton machine, flies in the faces of the political pundits who dismissed him at the beginning of the race. The thousands upon thousands of Americans who flocked to the caucuses to support Obama must think the country is ready for a man like him. The fact that he is African-American does not seem to discourage Americans in any way from voting for him. And as a serious contender for the Democratic nomination, that party must surely believe the country would vote for him. America's readiness is determined by the people, and as of yet, American citizens are looking favorably on Obama, a minority candidate.

They think that America is ready, so it is. America is its people, and its people have spoken. We are indeed created equal.

Judge's comments: By questioning the very premise of the topic, Colette elevates the discussion to a higher plane. Even though the essay is short, it argues its point well. A discussion of the realities of race in America would have improved it further. 

Colette Jaycox is a 10th grade student at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont, California. Essay published as submitted.

Prizes sponsored by Desi Knowledge, a great place to get books, CDs and DVDs pertaining to Indian culture. Products ship from within the Bay Area, California

Madam President

By Sanjana Prasad, Third Place Winner ( Grades 5th to 8th)

“My fellow Americans, you know how much I love this country. You know what I will sacrifice for America, the land of opportunity, which is why I stand here now,” I start my inauguration address smoothly. As I continue discussing my policies with certainty, everyone lets out a sigh of relief, realizing they have elected a great president. Continue reading

If I were the President…

By Shreya Malik, Joint First Place Winner ( Grades 5th to 8th)

Signing bills to make them laws. Directing billions of dollars of budget. Representing the entire country in the world. Commanding the United States army. Bossing over employees who address you as “sir”.
-Whose job does this sound like to you?
This is the not-so-glamorous, yet most powerful position in the world–the President of the USA. Tiresome perhaps, but there is never a dull moment in the job of the President. Continue reading

If I were President….

By Nicole Dalal, Joint First Place Winner ( Grades 5th to 8th)

The swarm of news reporters stormed into the Oval Office, eager to extract any piece of information they possibly could.
The magnificence of the room brought a special sense of national pride to one of the reporters. His eyes beamed as he perceived the stability and peace in the world that had been achieved under the reign of the new president. The eagle had truly spread its wings under this new administration and had taken flight, soaring into new and unexplored heights.
"Excuse me," he spoke, politely introducing himself to the kind secretary in the corner. "I would like to have a word with Ms. President."
"One moment please," the soft-spoken secretary announced as she walked over to the miraculously carved desk. She tapped the large leather chair and murmured, "Ms. President. We have some reporters who would like to talk to you."

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