I’ve been doing so much so fast over the past few days that I’ve often felt a bit lost. Maybe overwhelmed. Either way, freaked out.
And I am not even sure why I remembered this particular story my Grandma, and then my Mom would tell me rather often. Of course I enjoyed it, more for the narrator than the actual story. I probably remembered it because Krishna Janmashtami was last week and I was thinking of how we’d always celebrated it, and how, this year, we kept it rather low key since our own Krishna was away.
So, as I went to bed last night, it just sat in my head. I thought I’d let it out and perhaps you’ll enjoy it too. What is funny is, I realized that it is possible to tweak it to any circumstance you want.
A story of faith
Once there was a little boy, Kichcha. He was five years old. His parents were poor. They lived in a village where his father did odd jobs to make a living. The mother saved whatever she could. Like all parents, they wanted their son to go to school and get an education. Now, the nearest school was a little far off and Kichcha had to walk through a forest to reach it.
Kichcha loved the forest, the sound of the birds and the wind through the trees. He enjoyed the sight of bright flowers whose scent filled the air. But in parts of the forest where the foliage was dense, it was dark and Kichcha was afraid of the dark. Knowing this, his mother urged him to come home directly after school. Kichcha promised to do so and set off.
After school, as he made his way home, he was distracted by the cows peacefully grazing and the women working in the fields. He also met some friends and played with them. Finally, as he passed through the forest, he recalled tales of demons and become filled with fear, paralyzing him. Suddenly he heard someone calling out to him. It was his mother, worried and looking for him. He managed to run the rest of the way and rushed into his mother’s arms.
He told her how afraid he was and refused to go to school the next day. Chiding him for not returning home earlier, his mom told him that she would teach him a trick. As Kichcha eagerly listened, she told him that whenever she was afraid, she called out to Anna Gopala, who would instantly appear and walk a few steps behind her to make sure she was safe. There was only one condition, that she must never turn back and look. She must trust him.
She asked Kichcha, did he trust her? Of course he did.
So the next day, while walking through the dark parts of the forest, Kichcha chanted “Anna Gopala” and instantly heard footsteps behind him. Happy, he navigated the rest of the way. Kichcha got into the habit of talking to Anna Gopala, who responded to him. The days passed. Kichcha’s mother, who prayed to Lord Krishna everyday, was ever-grateful to him for looking after her little boy and making his fear vanish.
So you’d think that would be the end of this story, right? Wrong!
Then one day at school, Kichcha’s teacher said they were going to have a party where each child would have to bring a gift for the teacher. Little Kichcha, who knew his parents couldn’t afford it, returned home worried. When he told his mother about the party, she was sad, but told him she would find a way. That night, when they went to bed, she prayed to the Lord Krishna, beseeching him to help her little boy.
In the morning, as Kichcha left for school, she told him to talk to Anna Gopala and ask him for his help. Kichcha was happy to do so. Wasn’t he his friend after all? As usual, he called out to him in the forest, and told him his problem. Gopala appeared in front of him. Kichcha was dazzled by the appearance of this beautiful vision, with the peacock feather in his hair and the kind smile. He gave Kichcha a little bowl of curd that he could gift to his teacher. Kichcha was a little apprehensive, as his classmates would bring all sorts of fabulous gifts, but trusting his friend Gopala, he agreed.
When he arrived at school, the party was just starting and the teacher was surrounded by the other kids who were vying with each other to impress her. Kichcha approached her and handed over his bowl of curd. Amused, his teacher said she would share it with everyone. She then gave each student some. But no matter how much she took out from it, it remained full. Also, it was the most delicious curd they had ever tasted. They all praised Kichcha and he went home, happy.
He couldn’t wait to tell his mom about what had happened. When he narrated the day’s events, his mom, while pleased for him, didn’t quite believe him. She thought he was lying. No matter how she questioned him, he always had the same story and described Gopala in detail. She decided to accompany him the next day and Kichcha was thrilled.
But once in the forest, no matter how many times Kichcha called Gopala, he wouldn’t appear. Exasperated, his mom returned home. She had other things to do.
That evening while returning from school, he dejectedly called out to Gopala, who instantly appeared. When Kichcha asked him why he hadn’t shown up when his mom was there, Gopala smiled and hugged him and said only those who had faith could see him. Five-year old
Kichcha was happy.
Now, that story could go on and on. And did – my narrators were amazing raconteurs who could spin all sorts of stories and keep it going for months, tweaking it to the situation at hand. And you are probably wondering what the big deal is. The big deal for me, when I was little, was the following.
- I loved curd. The story had curd.
- I was five. Kichcha was five.
- I was poor. So was Kichcha.
- I was happy, as was Kichcha.
- I walked to school. Kichcha walked to school.
- I crossed the road in fear. Kichcha crossed the forest in fear
- I had an imaginary friend, so did Kichcha.
- I loved Krishna. Krishna, also known as Gopala, helped Kichcha
- I loved the people who told me the story.
The story helped me to..
- Get over the fear of crossing that busy road.
- Learn that faith is an important thing. Unless we believe, we cannot achieve anything. The details are immaterial.
- Understand that it wasn’t necessary to compare what I had to give with what others gave. Kichcha’s bowl of curd vs. the rich gifts his classmates brought. What each one of us has to offer is unique and important.
You know, I can keep on picking lessons from that story. I still do. I’ve told it to Vidur countless times, and have tweaked it according to the situation to help him get over something or encourage him.
I wonder what you think of the story? I know it has holes and some things probably don’t make sense. Those things don’t matter to me.
What do you think of this story?
Do you have a homemade childhood tale you treasure?