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Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she'll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?
One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru's doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don't believe her claim that the museum's Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.
But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it's up to Aru to save them.
The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?
1. As the novel opens, Aru tells readers, “The problem with growing up around highly dangerous things is that after a while you just get used to them.” Do you agree? How does this statement set the stage for the adventures to come?
2. In what ways does growing up in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture make Aru’s childhood unique? If you had an opportunity to be raised in a favorite museum or attraction, which one would it be? What do you see as the benefits to such an opportunity? Are there any drawbacks?
3. While discussing the diya and inquiring with her mother about why it can’t be lit, Dr. Shah tells Aru, “Sometimes light illuminates’ things that are better left in the dark.” In what ways is Aru’s mother correct? Can you think of any circumstances that might be an exception?
4. While reflecting upon her life lived and spent in the museum, Aru talks about waiting for “magic.” Given what transpires upon her lighting the diya, do you believe Aru regrets wishing for something extraordinary?
5. What can be gleaned about Aru’s need to impress her classmates? Have you ever felt tempted to behave similarly? In your opinion, is telling tales always wrong?
6. Aru hears a booming voice ask, “WHO HAS DARED TO WAKE THE SLEEPER FROM HIS SLUMBER?” Upon actually meeting Aru, Boo states, “Only one of the five Pandava brothers could light the lamp.” Why is his reaction to learning that Aru is a twelve-year-old girl so seemingly negative?
7. Upon meeting Mini, Aru thinks to herself that meeting her was “better than a middle school dance,” but she still feels cheated. Why is that? In what ways does this change for her as time goes on? Consider Mini’s reaction to meeting Aru—is it similar? How do their initial impressions evolve over time?
8. Mini tells Aru, “My mother always says that knowledge is power,” to which Aru retorts, “And my mother says that ignorance is bliss.” Consider both of these statements. Which do you agree with more? Can you make a case for the other? Are there any ways in which these statements reflect how these Pandavas approach their quest?
9. In what ways are the physical differences between Aru and Mini reflective of the vastness and diversity of India?
10. What was your impression of the Seasons upon Aru and Mini’s experience with them at the Court of the Seasons? Had you ever considered seasons in such a way?
11. Mini tells Aru, “My mom used to tell me that death is like a parking lot. . . . You stay there for just a bit and then go somewhere else.” How does the idea of being reincarnated help make Aru feel a bit better?
12. In what ways does their time at the Palace of Illusions change Aru and Mini? Do you think a place that once was your home holds power? Why or why not?
13. Boo often seems frustrated at his role as guardian and teacher of the Pandavas; do you believe he has the right to feel this way? In what ways does he change throughout the course of the book?
14. Aru Shah and the End of Time features a number of characters that exhibit a variety of strengths. Who most impresses you with their strength? Explain your choice.
15. While surrounded by wilderness, having escaped from the Sleeper, Aru hopes that the gods will offer some assistance, until Boo states, “I told you, they will not meddle in human affairs.” Why do you believe the gods generally choose not to help their own children? Do you believe them right not to do so? Explain your position.
16. What does Shukra hope to gain by capturing Aru’s and Mini’s memories? Would you be willing to give up yours to save yourself?
17. Throughout Aru Shah and the End of Time, Aru and Mini consider the role karma plays in their lives. What makes this idea so important?
18. Aru’s mother states, “I believe that our destinies aren’t chains around our necks, but wings that give us flight.” Do you agree with her assessment?
19. How does learning the identity of the Sleeper impact Aru’s decision making? Do you think you’d have a similar struggle? Why or why not?
20. The Sleeper tells Aru, “Mercy makes fools of us.” What does he mean by this statement? Why does he blame Aru and her mother for who he is and the state of his future?
21. After learning that her “home” dad hadn’t left them at all— he had just been locked away in a lamp by her mom —Aru thinks, This is so messed up. Do you agree with Aru’s reaction? Can you make a case for her mother’s actions?
Roshani Chokshi is the award-winning author of the New York Times bestselling series The Star-Touched Queen, The Gilded Wolves and Aru Shah and The End of Time, which Time Magazine named one of the Top 100 Fantasy Books of All Time. Chokshi’s adult debut, The Last Tale of The Flower Bride, was a #1 Sunday Times bestseller. Her novels have been translated into more than two dozen languages and often draw upon world mythology and folklore. Chokshi is a member of the National Leadership Board for the Michael C. Carlos Museum and lives in Georgia with her husband and their cat whose diabolical plans must regularly be thwarted.