Friday, 22 August 2014

Krishna and Sudama (A short story)

'There's a time for everything.'

These were the words of a retired Hindu doctor when he invited me into his house to tell me a story about Krishna and his best friend Sudama.

The story starts here.

Lord Krishna and Sudama were best friends in school. Very close, they were. But, as is very common among school friends, once school was over they went their separate ways. 

Lord Krishna went back to his kingdom, whereas Sudama, being a commoner, became a very popular Brahman. He fed his wife and four children by visiting people at their homes, who were more than happy to give him the little food they had left over.

Considering his poor quality of life, Sudama was still devoted to his best friend, Lord Krishna.

As time past, he became poorer and poorer. The food he was being given just couldn't keep up with the needs of his family's (we all know how the appetites of growing children can feed an army!).

Sudama knew his family were getting desperate. He could see it in their faces, especially when they looked at him as he walked through the door and laid out the scraps of food on the table. His wife was beginning to get scared for their health.

"Sudama, my dear, I know you do a good job at being a Brahman, but please consider going to see your friend, Lord Krishna, and asking him for help."

But he wouldn't. He was content on living on very little. 

Krishna's wife, Rukmani, said to her husband, "Why don't you go and help your friend? Look at what they're going through."

Of course, Krishna already knew what was going on in Sudama's life. He knew everything. He sat and listened to his wife as she pleaded with him over and over again. 

"My dear, I can't help him," said Krishna.

"But you must - you must!" said Rukmani. Her pestering was as persistent as waves against solid cliffs.

"OK," said Krishna, "I will attempt to help him. Watch and see what happens."

Not long after that, Sudama was making his daily errands, when a family, who normally gave him poor quality scraps (that he was content with, remember), gave him a food hamper full of delicious sweet meats, bread and milk! 

Can you believe it! I can assure you that Sudama couldn't.

After he had pinched himself a dozen times (and not a pinch less), he expressed his gratitude and off home he went, his knees weakening under the enormous amount of food on his back.

Oh, how happy he was! 

He couldn't wait to get it all home so he could feed his thinning family.

Now, the reason I mentioned that his knees were weakening was because of what happened next.

As he got to the summit of a large hill, he paused and looked proudly over the distance he had covered. He bent down and washed a tatty facecloth in a murky puddle and went on to wipe his face and his neck. The cold (yet dirty) cloth felt so good against his dry, sun-burnt skin. This is a little reward for climbing the hill, he thought to himself. Even the fittest person alive would've found such a task challenging! He took a deep breath and was just about to put one foot in front of the other, when, BANG!

Somebody, and God knows who, ran into him, knocking him to his knees. 

Poor Sudama!

Whoever it was must've been running with their eyes shut, because anybody who's anybody would've seen the man on the hill with the large amount of food on his back! The rushing runner didn't even have the time to stop and apologise! Such is the attitude of those who think they have no time; they insist on doing things to prove just that.

Sudama picked himself up and what he then saw created a lump in his throat. The delicious food was now sat in the muddy puddle. Wasted. 

Ah! But what's that, just on the outside of the perimeter of the puddle?It was bits of food that hadn't been soiled! Not all was lost! 

"This will do," he said to himself. "This will definitely do. My family are used to eating scraps of food. They don't have to know about the food that has gone to waste."

And it's quite difficult to even guess what happened next to our friend Sudama. As he was picking up the last crumbs of dry food, a huge dog came and ate it all before he had a chance to do anything! 

Now he really did feel low.

Krishna and his wife, Rukmani, watched the whole episode. 

"You see, I told you," said Krishna, "due to his past deeds, his time hasn't come yet."

Rukmani remained quiet, but she knew he was right. After all, she had just witnessed the law of karma in action.

Now, Sudama's wife was really starting to worry. As Sudama was out of the house most of the time, it was she that could see her children losing weight - not to mention her own increasingly emaciated appearance. With more constant pleas (and she had every right to be nagging him!) he agreed to go and see Krishna.

"But we are so poor," he said, "that we don't have anything to give to him. And we have to give him something."

"OK, my love... give him these. They will suffice." She handed him a few grains of rice that she had cooked the previous evening. She folded them into a little cloth and fastened it to his waste.

"It's not much, but it's something."

"Thank you," said Sudama.

They embraced each other and he set off on the long journey to Krishna's kingdom. 

The all-knowing Krishna knew he was coming and met him at the door with a warm welcome. He sat Sudama down on the sofa and washed his feet - this is how close they were as friends!

As Krishna rubbed his feet, he asked Sudama what gift he had brought. 

Sudama shrank in the sofa, becoming quiet and shy.

"Lord Krishna," he said, his voice a painful whisper, "my family are poor. Really poor. Poorer than we have ever been. I have four children and my wife to feed..."

"What are trying to tell me, friend?" said Krishna, even though he knew.

"I'm afraid the only thing I've brought you are a few grains of rice that we could spare." 

Krishna smiled and gladly accepted the gift. He placed them on his tongue and began to think about his friend's living conditions and the love he had for his family. 

To Sudama's surprise, Krishna thought they were  the most sumptuous grains of rice he had ever tasted!

After a few days, Sudama headed home. He thought about how great a friend Krishna had been since they first met in school, all those years ago. "Such a wonderful friend!" he said to himself. "Such a wonderful... friend."

And then, as he turned the last corner, he saw something that forced him to freeze right there on the spot.

His house had disappeared! 

But not only had it vanished, it had been replaced with a palace, with solid gold pillars and balcony's that overlooked the village. 

You should've seen his face!

He opened the huge front door (mainly to inquire what had happened to his starving family) and he was greeted by the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. "My Sudama!" she shouted, wrapping her arms around him. "You look at me as if I am a stranger. It is I, your wife."

"You look radiant, love!" he said. "I can't believe it."

"My love, you should see your children!"

She called for them and all four came running down the giant staircase and circled their father.

Sudama had tears of joy. He had been away for quite sometime, he was so happy to see they were safe and well.

"A miracle happened when you were gone, father!" his eldest son said.

"A true miracle!" said his youngest daughter.

And it is here where the story ends.

We sat in silence for a moment. My mind slowly putting together the pieces of the story.

'You understand?' said the retired Hindu doctor.

Before I had the chance to answer, he added with excitement, 'There's a time for everything! Everything happens when it is supposed to happen! Not sooner. Not later. Individually and collectively, it's all happening perfectly.'

And it is here where this blog posts ends.

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