Brahma Finds A Perfect Place To Hide

Statue of Indian god Brahma. Rishikesh. Uttaranchal. India.

I’ve heard many many stories, but not this one! The mythology here seems to be verily an inexhaustible source. Here is the story, with minimal editing:

An Old Hindu legend

There was once a time when all human beings were gods, but they so abused their divinity that Brahma, the four-headed creator, decided to take it away from them and hide it where it could never be found.

Where to hide their divinity was the question. So Brahma called a council of the gods to help him decide.

“Let’s bury it deep in the earth,” said the gods.

But Brahma answered, “No, that will not do because humans will dig into the earth and find it.”

Then the gods said, “Let’s sink it in the deepest ocean.”

Brahma said, “No, not there, for they will learn to dive into the ocean and will find it.”

Then the gods said, “Let’s take it to the top of the highest mountain and hide it there.”

But once again Brahma replied, “No, that will not do either, because they will eventually climb every mountain and once again take up their divinity.”

Then the gods gave up and said, “We do not know where to hide it, because it seems that there is no place on earth or in the sea that human beings will not eventually reach.”

Brahma thought for a long time and came up with a thought:

“Here is what we will do. We will hide their divinity deep in the center offor humans will never think to look for it there.”

All the gods agreed that this was the perfect hiding place, and the deed was done. And since that time humans have been going up and down the earth, digging, diving, climbing, and exploring–searching for something already within themselves, deep in the center of their own being, .

End
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Credits: short-funny-stories.com and superstock.com

It’s The Princess’s Wish

Part 5

Thaathi Ma woke the Princess up from some dream, not altogether unpleasant, it appeared from her visage.

‘Get up, Princess, there is so much to do before the sunrise. I have readied the bath for you, and got the kitchen opened up.’

She did not inquire if the Princess was ready with her wish – something they had not concluded the previous night and she felt a tad guilty about having left the Princess alone to grapple with it.

The Princess’s demeanor, however, intriguingly indicated she was on top it. Reassuringly for Thaathi Ma there was no sign of any self-doubts or indecision as she went for her bath.

The Princess emerged from her bath, went up to where the plantain leaf was laid out facing east and the thin end to the left. She took out hands full of rice and spread it out on the leaf. She said her prayers and then proceeded to write her wish. There was no hesitation in her movements.

Just when she was ready to collect the rice, a lizard dropped from the roof onto the leaf and scampered away in a moment disturbing the writing only by a little. Thaathi Ma assured her it was a good omen. There were no other incidents while rice was cooked in the kitchen and taken to the stables where balls of rice were fed to the cows.

It was dawn when the Princess returned to her living quarters. Dressing herself fit for special occasions she made it to the temple inside the palace for the viswaroopa darshanam (waking up of the Gods). On her way back she came upon her father who was pacing the courtyard completely lost in worrying how the day would go. Under the circumstances the King was startled to find his daughter in good cheer.

Before he could greet her and make inquiries, two royal messengers came running. There were more surprises coming – they informed him the Queen Saudamini was observed to be on her way to the King’s palace. This was totally unexpected. Perhaps she was coming in to help the King handle Ugrasena as and when he landed at the palace to make good his threat. He instructed them to bring her to him as soon as she arrived.

The Princess went her way quietly leaving the distracted King waiting for the Queen’s arrival.

When a nervous and apprehensive court assembled later in the morning expeccting the worst, everyone was surprised to find the Queen Saudamini also present among them. What followed left them speechless for a few moments before they broke into approbation. The King announced his plans to marry the Queen!

Even the Princess had not expected matters to proceed this far! In the night before, her mind for some reason swirling around her talk with Kammu latched onto the latter’s comment: ‘The relationship fixed all our problems’; it had triggered a certain line of thought. Marshalling all her wits, she finally came up wishing as much as ‘Pakkatthu veetinar ennai thammavar pol kollga’ (May the neighbors (the royalty of Keezhnadu for her) take me like one of them). It involved the family inclusive of Ugrasena as the subject; further, it was gender-neutral to be granted as a wish to Ugrasena and finally it did not call for him to change himself – only changed the circumstances around him. All in all, an intelligent wish that would get her out of her predicament. But going as far as to make Ugrasena as her half-brother? Perhaps the Amman was generous in supporting her cause?

The surprised Princess laughed to herself in relief at the sudden turn of events. It was then she remembered how, in the morning, the lizard had dropped down on the leaf and had obliterated the word ‘pol’ in her writing. Without the ‘pol’, ‘ennai thammavar pol kollga’ (take me like one of them) became ‘ennai thammavar kollga’ (take me one of them). Now it all made sense – after all the Amman had honored her wish to exactness, making her one of them in a totally unforeseen way as only she could! From where she stood, the Princess silently bowed in gratitude.

The Priest looked at the Amman and smiled to himself when the news reached him. The words of caution he had added preempted any ill-wishing – they were his and not Amman’s, but as good!

End

It’s The Princess’s Wish

Part 4

Overcome with the relief that they had a solution, however tricky, on hand, they did not speak about it until they had returned to the palace in the evening.

‘Princess, I’ve been thinking about it. Now we cannot wish for him to be blinded by a lightning…’

‘Or for a cobra to impress its fangs on him, Thaathi Ma, without me too suffering the fate.’

‘Princess. There must be a way out and you would know – that’s what the Priest had indicated.’

‘Perhaps he is crediting me for more than what I am.’

‘Hey, suppose, instead of wishing for a mishap, you simply say ‘I don’t want to marry Ugrasena’?’

‘Thaathi Ma, the Prince can’t be wishing ‘I don’t want to marry Ugrasena?’ So it is not a valid wish – you understand?

‘You mean, when the wish is granted to the Prince verbatim, it is not compensated even for the change in gender?’

‘Yes, that’s what the Priest gave us to understand. A simple and straight-forward ‘I don’t want to marry’ is also not valid as it does not have him as the subject/object.’

‘Perish the thought, Princess, of not marrying.’

Thaathi Ma was stymied, but not for long.

‘This one would fix the Prince for sure. What if you say ‘I want to marry a stranger’? He is not a stranger to you. And it’s quite alright for the Prince to wish as much. We would then have him exactly where we wanted him. Oh…Oh, again, it does not include him as the subject.’

‘You got it, Thaathi Ma.’

‘Ok, How about ‘We, Mandakini and Ugrasena, do not want to marry.’ That’s valid for him to wish though he wouldn’t and he is a subject?’

‘I cannot be one of the subjects. Also I cannot wish for two of us.’

‘We’ve to think of him as the sole subject/object. Can’t think bad of him as it would apply to you too. He wouldn’t change his stripes for the better. This is getting tricky. But not to worry, we’re almost there, Princess. We’ll crack it in a short while.’

The ‘short while’ was not so short. They could not come up with anything satisfactory as they considered statement after statement and rejected them all as not fulfilling the priest’s conditions.

There was only one interruption in the evening when a maid brought in dinner and informed Kammu had peeped in earlier in the day. Not finding the Princess, she had left for the day – her brother and babhi (sister-in-law) were visiting.

For some reason, her mind kept going back to her exchange with Kammu on the feud with the latter’s troublesome uncle and the sheepish apology that followed. It was also the last thought on the Princess’s mind when she fell asleep exhausted but still clueless.

Thaathi Ma didn’t have a heart to keep her awake. She fervently hoped the Princess would somehow figure it out – the Priest had said so.

When the Princess woke up hours later after a fitful sleep, this was the Day…

(To be contd.)

It’s The Princess’s Wish

Part 3

The temple was a squat structure set in a clearing on a boulder-strewn flat that stretched from Ven Parai to the banks of Shailaja. The side-walls were made of tightly packed bamboo sticks with a thatched roof that could push back a good tropical storm. The moorti (icon) in stone of the Amman stood about three feet from the ground close to the back-wall. The temple and its moorti looked austere devoid of the usual adornments save the garlands of wild-flowers on the Amman.

The sound of gurgling waters of the river impeded in their flow by the boulders floated through as a gentle rumble.

The old Priest – he was as old as the Thaathi Ma – was about to retire to his cot in the corner after the ucchi kaala (noon) pooja, when Thaathi Ma and the Princess walked in.

Upon a cue, an attendant appeared, laid out the fruit baskets without any fuss and withdrew with all the humility befitting the occasion. After the introductions and apologies for the inconvenience, Thaathi Ma brought the Priest up-to-date on the bleak outlook for the Princess:

‘…Sir, that’s the story. We have nowhere to turn for help. And here we are hoping you would, by magic or miracle. I wish the earth opens up and swallows him, the rivers swell up that he cannot cross over or a case of severe pox brings him down.’

‘Strong views, Thaaye (mother).’

‘I’m sorry, Sir. It is just that cannot bear to see our Princess in any grief. Kindly do something to stave off this anartham.’

‘Is that how you too feel, Princess?’

‘Sir, I don’t want to be married to him.’

‘You’re wise for your age, Princess.’

The Princess nodded in assent with a wan smile.

What the Priest saw as significant in the exchange did not register with the loving Thaathi Ma.

‘As you know all these experiences are nothing but a projection of the accumulated karmic burden. Our scriptures clearly state that even the Gods respect the Law of Karma. At best they provide a little relief to the deserving or point them in right directions or at least give them the strength to face it. Let’s see what Amman has in mind for you. Come here, Princess. Sit here in front. Close your eyes and say in silence whatever prayers you have learnt. Meanwhile I’ll plead with the Amman for you.’

The Priest and the Princess sat in appropriate postures in front of the Amman, their eyes closed, the Princess mumbling some prayers and the Priest reciting manthra’s in a cant obviously frayed by age. The recitation soon gave way to the Priest slipping into a silent trance.

When he returned to the world of the living and called out to the Princess, it seemed he had received some directions from the Amman.

‘Princess, your good Karma has brought you the Grace of the Amman. Tomorrow morning, before the sunrise, complete your ablutions, still wet from the bath lay out a plantain leaf and spread some rice on it. Now write your single wish on the rice with the index finger on the right hand. No rewriting or erasures. Obviously his kingdom, family or he should be the sole subject/object of your wish and nothing else. Say the prayers you know. Collect all of the rice carefully, cook and feed the balls to the cows in your palace stables. Your wish will come true by the Order of the Amman.

A delighted Thaathi Ma profusely thanked the Priest – got the Princess and herself to prostrate in Panchanga Namaskar: ‘I’m glad we came. Didn’t I tell you, Princess? Now let us see how that arrogant Prince takes one step to the north.’

The Priest cut her euphoria short: ‘Caution, Princess. Whatever you wish for yourself would be granted to the Prince also verbatim, to be fair to him. If it does not apply to him, you would lose the wish. Also, don’t wish for his character to undergo an overnight change – even the Gods cannot manage it. But his circumstances can change.’

The Priest was not done yet: ’You’re not to discuss these with anyone outside of you two. No mention of it to anyone at all.’

Thaathi Ma sobered up: Well it isn’t exactly what I thought it was initially. I’m not even sure if I understood all of it. Never mind, we’ll figure it out, Sir, as long as you, Princess, have taken it in.’

The old man had a twinkle in his eyes as he looked at the Princess: ‘Yes, I’m sure our little Princess will figure it out.’

And the session ended.

(To be contd.)

It’s The Princess’s Wish

Part 2

The saki’s (friends) engaged the Princess in hours of ‘Aadum Puliyum’ (Sheep and Tiger’, a game of checkers), hop-scotch, Dhayam (a game of dice) and Pallaankuzhi (played with small cowries). While at play, they freely discussed matters at home adding spice to the proceedings. The young Princess was an eager participant forgetting all about her own predicament. Presently she was curious on a point.

‘Kammu, you’re chirpy these days?’

‘Yes, Manda (they addressed the Princess by her name when they were alone), things are quiet at home finally.’

‘What happened? I remember you telling me some distant uncle of yours creating unending trouble demanding a share in your dad’s inheritance. And you did not want me to do anything about it.’

‘You know what? Events took a different turn altogether. The uncle’s wife negotiated her daughter’s marriage with my brother. The relationship fixed all our problems.’

The Princess’s face fell.

‘Oh, Manda, I’m sorry. It was stupid of me to have brought it up.’

‘No, Kammu, you didn’t. I asked.’

Little did the Princess know in a couple of days she would be profusely thankful to the tactless Kammu for bringing it up! But presently the conversation quickly dried up with the Princess lapsing into silence of rumination. By that time, darkness too had set in. One by one, all the girls took leave to go home.’

The Princess, left alone, stepped out into the upavan (garden) near her chamber for a stroll, looking absolutely forlorn. The days ahead appeared as bleak as the moonless sky above. There seemed no other way but to acquiesce. The Princess, rooted in rajas but leaning to a satvic disposition, as only to be expected, did not take to Ugrasena, again rooted in rajas strongly leaning to tamasic.

Before long she found herself jolted out of her despondency by the sudden arrival on the scene of Thaathi Ma, a kind old lady bent with age and her maid for the night; more than a maid, she was like a mother to the Princess – the latter had lost her natural mother when she was very young and the King had not remarried.

‘What, Thaathi Ma? You’re panting. Something wrong?’

‘No, child, I’m alright. There’s something else. ‘

‘What is it?’

‘Listen to this: Years ago, once a horde of barbarians armed to their teeth threatened to overrun this land, sweeping in from the north. Your great-grand-father performed the ‘Shatrunjaya Homam’ and averted an-almost-certain disaster through some kind of divine intervention. I had heard about all this from my grand-mother – remembered it only now.’

‘So, what are you suggesting? Should my father be performing that Homam?

‘No, Princess (the old lady would not call her by name). Those learned siddha-purusha Brihaspathi’s may not even be around anymore – I’ve no idea.’

‘So what’s the point?’

‘The point I’m making is we also need to pull off something similar.’

‘If there was anything to do, our venerable Raj Purohit would have already taken care of it.’

‘I mean no disrespect to him. But I learnt something today that you should hear about.’

‘I’m all ears, Thaathi Ma,’ her face, however, not showing excitement matching her words.

‘There is` an Amman Koil (temple to a goddess) on the near side of Shailaja (a river) close to Ven Parai (a large whitish rocky outcrop). The Priest is an old man deeply devoted to the Amman – I’m told Amman even speaks to him. People go to him with their problems. And he takes no favors in return. Let us go there and seek his help. Nothing to lose even if it doesn’t work out. What do you say?’

‘Yes, there’s nothing to lose,’ she muttered mechanically.

‘Well, then it is settled. Let me arrange for the royal carriage for tomorrow afternoon. You kindly inform your father.’

On the day before…

(To be contd.)

To Find Or Not To Find?

Part 1: A Finder…

He stood in the queue for quite some time. How long was not known since there were no clocks or watches. When his turn came up, Chitragupta had already seen his records and was ready to conduct the assessment.

‘I’ll call you Subbu as you were known down there.’

‘That’ll be perfect, Sir.’

‘Subbu, I’ve seen all that you’ve done with your life as a broker – some good things and also some not-so-good things. Fortunately for you, the positive deeds just balance out all the negative deeds (*). There is only one left which would decide if you are going to the Heavens or to the Pits.’

‘My Lord, I’m sure you will find it in my favor.’

‘Not so fast, Subbu. Do you remember the day you found a 100-rupee note lying on the footpath near the Ramavakkam rail-station, just outside Bharat Pharmacy? What did you do with it?’

‘Yes, Sir, very clearly. It was a Saturday morning. I checked to see if someone had lost it and was looking for it.’

‘And, then?’

‘I could not find anyone. So I took it to the Mariamman Temple and dropped it in the hundi. Kindly note, I did not keep it for myself though I didn’t have a steady income to fend for my family. That should count as a positive deed?’

‘Do you know what anartham ensued? This is what I see in the records: The money was being taken by a girl to the pharmacy to buy medicines for her ailing mother. When the girl returned home without the money or the medicines, her father scolded her. The ailing mother passed over. The girl thought she was responsible for her mother’s death; she consumed some kind of poison. She was then taken to a hospital. The doctor in the hospital was alleged to have not attended to her promptly. Her relatives beat up the doctor and took her away to another hospital where she survived. The doctors in the first hospital went on strike. Two patients died on the day due to lack of care….’

‘Please…, Sir. I’m beginning to feel responsible for the oil-spill in Gulf of Mexico.’

‘Frivolity is out-of-place here, Subbu.’

‘I apologize…didn’t know my simple act triggered a chain of events. I’m so sorry about it. You’ll appreciate I wasn’t directly responsible for any of these. What could I’ve done?’

‘You could have gone to the police station and deposited the money for them to return it to the legitimate owner. You took the easy way out. And, see what happened thereafter.’

‘Which world are you in, Sir? Oops…I’m sorry again. There was no way the girl would have got her money back. Some guy at the police station would have simply pocketed it. I know it, Sir.’

’You’re casting aspersions on your law-enforcing authority. At this rate, very soon, you’ll be charging Chitragupta with…’

‘Sir, that’s the way it goes in our place. It must be in your records.’

‘It doesn’t matter what happens out there. You should know rules here are absolute. Large-scale violations, if any, are unfortunate and remain verily punishable. Dharma is not voted in by numbers.’

‘Our Brihaspati (Guru) always said, with regard to practices, ‘Desho va Kaalo va’ (translates to ‘according to place and time’). You’ll agree, Sir, Dharma in Thretha Yuga was not the same as that in Dwapara Yuga. Like-wise Dharma in Dwapara Yuga is not the same as that in Kali Yuga .’

‘While what your Brihaspati said may be true in general, some basics don’t change even in Kali Yuga. Recently we received here an cabbie who had returned, through the authorities, a bag of ornaments to a careless passenger. Do you wish me to call him here?’

‘No need, Sir. If you say so, it must be so. But those are rare occurrences. Perhaps his wife beat him to death? Sorry, don’t mind it, Sir. Let me try this a bit differently. You agree, Gods are the ultimate authorities?’

‘What a question to ask!’

‘Super-ordinate to the police and the law of the land I came from?’

‘I don’t know where you’re headed…I was referring to your polemics.’

‘Bear with me for just a while, Sir. I offered the money to Mariamman? So I have deposited the money with the highest authority? Now it is for the deity to return it to its owner!’

‘Trying to be smart?’

‘No, Sir. I’m dead serious…I mean…I really mean it.’

‘You should know Gods don’t intervene in your lives. Your life is partly Karma of the past and partly of free-will, Karma of the future.’

‘Sir, you mean, all those prayers and pooja’s we do back there go unheeded?’

‘Those mitigate the heat of the Karma by…but we’re digressing.’

‘I can only say this much – under the circumstances, I don’t think I committed any sin.’

‘We’ve already seen how serious were the events that followed because of your action – rather, inaction. It was an act of omission. Don’t you know, in your own world and country, ignorance of law or rules or procedures is not admissible as defense? Having said that, I must also add it is well within the rules to take a view that those affected by your act of omission suffered because of their Karma. Hence it should not be held against you.’

‘There you are, Sir. So, you agree with me?’

‘All I meant is there are certain mitigating circumstances to condone you. That’s all.’

‘OK, have it your way. So, I’m condoned?’

‘It’s not ‘my’ way as you put it. It’s your way to the Heavens or Hell we’re talking about. I’m not yet sure about the part of condoning you.’

‘That’s a nice play on words, Sir – I would’ve never thought of it. I’ve a request to make, if you’ll kindly permit.’

‘What is it?’

‘Let us go to Ramavakkam and wait for the first guy who returns lost property to the police and see what happens. You may then take your call on this matter. I’ll gladly accept your verdict. ‘

‘You seem to think you’ve a choice?’

‘No, sir, that’s not what I meant.’

‘Though it is quite irregular, I accept your request. However I must caution you, odds are stacked high as the Heavens against you. If the goods are returned to the rightful owner, the rule stands validated. If not, I’ve already said non-compliance on a large-scale still does not invalidate the rule. Either way you’re hooked.’

‘I understand, Sir. Nevertheless I would like you to see this one instance. I thank you for acceding to my request.’

‘Let us go.’

Part 2: A Keeper…

Ravi Café was set a little back from the edge of the Station Road. The open space in front, walled on both sides, accommodated a scooter/cycle stand, and a paan stall backing on the side-walls with a shady tree in the middle and near the entrance. Chandru emerged out of the restaurant with the taste of bitter coffee still lingering in his mouth and his hand smelling of sambhar in which the idli’s were dunked. This indulgence was permissible on the pay-day. Surprisingly the crowd was thin for a Saturday evening in the first week of the month. All the same, he had to be careful with the wad of notes in his wallet. He was a little troubled that he was paid in 500-rupee notes – not easy to change in those parts.

Waiting near the cycle stand for his friend Rajan to join, he was idly looking around. That’s when he sighted close to the wall behind the near-empty stand what looked like a currency note. He went up to the wall and picked it up. It was a 500-rupee note. It was a few moments before the find hit him. His first reaction was to pull out his wallet and check if he was short of 500 rupees. He wasn’t. The note was folded and in one quick move tucked away in his trouser pocket. Only then he looked around furtively. To his shock, the window of the police station on the far side of the road opened out directly in his line of sight and he saw some movement inside. Had someone spotted him picking up the currency note? He couldn’t be sure. In any case a 500-rupee note was too big and too hot for him to handle. He decided to go over to the police station and report the find. Meanwhile Rajan arrived and was promptly brought up to speed. After a short exchange they agreed Chandru’s plan was the best thing to do; and, they marched up to the police station.

At the station, there was a cap-less inspector barely contained in a chair sagging under his weight, leafing through a tattered register laid out on a large wooden table; and a constable, no less substantial, stood outside of the single room that was built with more windows on all four sides than bricks, making no attempts to look busy.

Chandru and Rajan appeared at the open doors of the station and were favored with a quizzical look from the inspector who seemed to welcome the interruption. It was a first experience for the duo. Like a bashful bride, nervously they stepped in and up to the inspector. Left standing, Chandru slowly unspooled his account of the unusual proceedings of the immediate past, ending it with a display of the currency note from his trouser pocket. He was asked to repeat himself which he did with reasonable accuracy.

The inspector took the note in his hands, scrutinized it with crinkled eyes, held it against the naked filament light dropping from the ceiling and blew out a sigh like the bellows at a smithy’s.

Chandru: ’Is it a counterfeit?’

Inspector: ‘No, it appears to be genuine.’

In the silence that followed one could almost hear the wheels in the inspector’s head mesh and whir in thought.

Inspector finally broke the spell, assuming a somber aspect: ‘In fact, a person had reported a loss of money only yesterday. I’m calling him to the station right away. If it is his, it gets settled. He might even reward you in appreciation. Now, you wait outside.’

As they trooped out, the Inspector waited for their exit and phoned up a number from his memory – it was impressive that he could easily recall a complainant’s phone number. Though, it was a little odd that the return of the currency note was not recorded anywhere nor a receipt issued.

In a short while a well-groomed man in mid-forties rushed in from somewhere near-by. Scraping of the chair-legs against the linoleum floor meant the visitor was seated. Almost immediately they were called in.

Inspector: ‘Pandyan, today may be your lucky day. This young man here picked up a 500-rupee note outside of Ravi Café a while ago and brought it here quite dutifully. I called you in post-haste to check if it was yours.’

Pandyan: ‘Inspector, I appreciate your alacrity in this regard. Yes, I did go to Ravi Café yesterday to savor their Friday Special – thavalai adai (a lentil preparation like dosa, but lot spicier). Later, I stopped at the paan stall. That’s when I must have dropped the money.’

Inspector: ‘Then, it must be yours. Here it is. Recovering lost money does not happen as often and as quickly. If you wish, you could give him a small token reward as a gesture of appreciation.’

Pandyan, pocketing the note: ‘Certainly, Inspector. As you say it is not often that one loses money and gets it back so soon.’

As before, the transaction went unrecorded.

Pandyan continued: ‘But, Inspector, where is the rest of the money?’

Inspector: ‘How do you mean?’

Pandyan: ‘If you recall, Inspector, I had lost 4 notes of 500 rupees. If one of them was found, other notes are also sure to be found with it.’

Inspector: ‘Oh, yes. That’s right,’ slowly turning to Chandru: ‘Where are the other notes?’

Chandru: ‘I don’t know what you are talking about. I had found just this.’

Pandyan: ’How could that be? They were folded together as a bunch.’

Inspector’s voice took a menacing aspect: ‘Young man, I don’t know what’s your game-plan…could be that returning a 500-rupee note gets you a lot of publicity while you keep the other notes to yourself – two stones and a mango and all that? Here’s your chance – return the other notes and you can go home right now without any trouble. Otherwise it can get quite ugly – don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.’

Chandru and Rajan stood speechless, not knowing if this was real.

Pandyan, on his way out: ‘Inspector, please call me at any time of the day once you retrieve the other notes too from them. And to get it right, the special talent you were alluding to is one of felling two mangoes at once with one throw of a stone.’

Inspector, squarely ignoring the elucidation offered on the mangoes and the stone, called out to the constable: ‘Mutthu, come here. Check this young man if he has more 500-rupee notes on his person and encourage him to produce the missing notes.’

Chandru involuntarily felt for his wallet.

Part 3: And, The Judgement

Chitragupta, back in his seat, wiped the sweat off his forehead. And, got down to writing an amendment to the rule-book.

End

(*) The erudite hold the view that good deeds do not offset the bad. One experiences the fruits of both kinds in full.

Happenings on Paarai Medu

This is the third and the last (for now) Krishna story for children, purely fictional.

Part 1: One day, in Gokul…

The sun had taken leave for the day and darkness had not set in yet. Krishna and his Saka’s were returning from the fields, the cattle following them contently. Even the jingle of the bells around their necks was muted.

‘Krishna, it’s the same thing every day – take the cattle to the hills in the morning, let them loose, play, rest for a while, play again, herd them together and return before dark.’ said a saka.

‘Subala, nothing, not even a rock, is the same from one moment to the next!’

‘Sometimes, you talk in riddles as if you know it all.’

Visala, another saka, spoke up: ‘I know what you are saying, Subala. We usually go to the hills on the east. Tomorrow, let us go to that paarai medu (a mound of rocks) to the west. Is that alright, Krishna? We’ve never been there even once.’

Krishna had an amused look on his face: ‘Why not, Visala? It’s time.’

Subala interjected: ‘There you go again. It’s time for what?’

Krishna deflected it with ‘Never mind, we’ll go there tomorrow.’

’Visala, I hope there’re no wild animals out there,’ inquired a nervous Subala.

Visala laughed out: ‘None that I’ve heard of, us excluded. No lurking demons there. No dangers. Lots of guava tress with delicious fruits. And, of course, stacks of big rocks. Full of places to play hide and seek behind those boulders, I guess. It’ll be fun.’

Subala thought he saw a twinkle in Krishna’s eyes when the latter concurred, ‘Yes, sure, it’s going to be fun!’

Part 2: The following day…

They had reached paarai medu. At the foot of the medu, there were a couple of huge banyan trees providing ample shade for the boys and the animals to rest and more. The boys had fun, shrieking and swinging from the dropping roots of the banyans. From the foot, the ground sloped up gently, covered with lush grass, interspersed with guava trees. The cattle lazed around feeding on the grass, occasionally breaking out to rub their backs against the tree trunks or to go down to the shade of the banyan tree or to the thin gurgling stream of water that flowed down out of nowhere to quench their thirst. The boys plucked ripe guavas with their long hook-ended sticks. There were other juicy wild-berries also to be had.

A couple of hours passed by before they were inevitably drawn to the outcrop of the big boulders, spread out – some precariously balanced – in the large middle of the mound. On a cloudy day, the rocks had not heated up under the sun. The nooks and niches and crannies and crevices provided excellent play-ground for hours of foxy hide and seek. When they had enough of it, there were narrow pathways between the boulders to explore deeper into the formation. Wild bushes filled up the intervening ground, sheltering furry squirrels. Occasionally a plump rabbit was sighted scurrying across from one patch to another.

All of a sudden a loud call-out rose up above the babble: ‘Come here, Come here. See this. It’s wonderful, beautiful!’ The boys stopped in their stride and looked around for the source of the ecstatic invitation. The enraptured voice continued to guide the eager boys through the interstices. When the boys reached the spot, they found themselves in an enchantingly beautiful garden of lotus ponds, blooming roses and fragrant jasmine. The tree branches bowed with the weight of fruits. Koels let out mellifluous musical notes. Peacocks flared out their iridescent plumage. An out-of-the-world sight!

As they stood spell-bound taking in what was laid out before them, a sudden tremor shook them out of their awe. Before they realized what hit them, the tremor had ceased as suddenly as it had occurred. It was like a shrug of some malevolent giant. As they gathered their wits about them, a boy at the back cried out: ’We’re trapped. The way-out is blocked.’ Only then they noticed that a boulder had slipped down blocking their only exit – the path that had served as their entry as well. The garden was hemmed in on all sides by huge boulders save the path of entry which too was barred now.

Visala reassured: ‘Nothing to worry. We’ll make one stand on another’s shoulders like we get to the handi’s back home and reach over the top.’

The ‘logical’ Mitra was quick to prick the balloon: ‘These are too big to to climb over. There are not enough of us to put together a gopuram formation.’

Not to be put down so easily, Visala came up with: ‘See those vines, they’re tough. We can use them like ropes and climb up.’

Subala: ‘Dear Visala, what would you tie the rope to, at the top? How would it hold up for us to climb?’

The idea-a-minute Visala was stymied.

‘I want to go home,’ cried a small boy.

Some tried pushing out the boulder only to retreat with: ‘We can’t even nudge these – they’re massive.’

Finally, they collected around Krishna and chorused: ‘Krishna, what will we do now? We’re boxed in here. Do something to get us out.’

Krishna: ‘If you can’t find a way, how can I? I’m smaller than most of you!’

‘You’ve always got us out of trouble. If anyone can do it, it is you, Krishna.’

‘Mm…mm, let me think…OK, I got it. We all should…’

‘Tell us, Krishna, what would you like us to do?’

‘Well, let us pray…pray to the King of Mountains, the Himalaya, the abode of Gods. I’m sure he would help us get out of this jam.’

‘He would? He’s so far up north. He would hear our prayers? We know lots of stories about him.’

‘Surely, if we pray with our heart and soul. He’ll give us the strength. Now let us sit down here in this patch of grass, close our eyes, fold our hands and pray to him silently. You would know when to open your eyes.’

So, they all sat down and prayed.

Part 3: Centuries before Krishna was born…

The hunting party of King Bhoopal, chasing a deer herd in the deep forest, came upon the Sage Sowmithra’s ashram. The King dismounted and walked in with a swagger that was unbecoming in the precincts of an ashram. The hugely built Sage was sitting in a lotus posture under a tree in deep meditation unmindful of the King’s presence. The King inquired if those deer came from the Sage’s ashram. He should send some to the palace kitchen from time to time. When the Sage was silent, the arrogant King taunted him on what were the deer fed on that they were so plump. The Sage was still undisturbed. The irritated King poked at the Sage’s tuft of hair tied on the top of his head with the point of his sword and asked if the Sage also lived off the deer meat that he looked massive like a hill.

The disturbed Sage opened his eyes and saw the King teasing him with the sword in his hand. His calm eyes slowly turned bloodshot and emitted blistering heat that the sword fell from the King’s hand. The Sage looked at him and uttered a curse: ‘You fool, go away before you’re burnt into ashes. You provoked a rishi who had not offended you in any way, quite unlike a king and more like an asura. For that folly, you’ll turn into a hill to be trodden over and humbled under the hooves of grazing cattle and the feet of cowherds. And as a hill, your proclivity to hurt and harm others would be severely curtailed. ’

Only then the gravity of the situation struck the King. He fell at the feet of the Sage and pleaded for mercy. The Sage expressed his inability to revoke a curse already spelt out and his act deserved the punishment. Thereupon the King inquired how and when would he be redeemed from the curse. The Sage said: ‘Hey, King Bhoopal, you will have to wait patiently outside Gokul until Giridhara is born; you’ll receive your redemption at his feet. And try to be good to people if you can while you’re there. Now you may go and spend just this day with your people – you’ll be gone before the sunrise tomorrow.’

Part 4: Back at the paarai medu

Shilasura was mighty pleased with himself on accomplishing the difficult task for his friend Kamsa. It was a heaven-sent (hell-sent?) opportunity that had presented itself. All it needed was a little shrug that rolled a boulder into blocking the exit and trapping Krishna. No shouts or screams would carry to the outside. No one would ever know the whereabouts of the boys. They would simply perish inside the enchanted garden.

The asura’s brief spell of self-congratulation was interrupted by the sound of melodious notes played on a flute. When he looked in the direction of the sound, he was at once disturbed and nonplussed at what he saw – Krishna was on the free side, backing on the blocking boulder and relaxedly playing on his flute. How did this boy climb over from entrapment? There were no tell-tale signs explaining the same. But then there was no time to be wasted on investigation. It called for some quick thinking and quicker response.

So, in a wink, there was another tremor that shook the medu and everything standing on it. Among other things, the blocking boulder, shaken loose, began listing on top of Krishna to crush him. It was an amazing sight even for the Gods in their Heavens to see the little lad, in a display of Himalayan strength, arrest the fall of the boulder with the mere flute sticking out from his outstretched hands above the head. The partially listed boulder seemed to weigh on him like a bale of cotton. He then gingerly withdrew himself to safety from under the boulder allowing it to fall freely to the ground with a great thud. There upon he bent his leg back at the knee and administered a powerful kick, in the manner of a giant killer, to the boulder that lay like a mammoth elephant dead. Wondrously the boulder cracked up and crumbled as if it was pounded and pulverized by a giant hammer unseen, to a huge heap of fine gravel and was blown away by a sudden gust of wind. In its place now stood King Bhoopal redeemed from the curse of the Sage Sowmithra. He bowed before Krishna and prayed for his mercy and blessings before ascending to the Heavens.

All this commotion brought the boys out of their trance. They were delighted to see their exit cleared of impediments and a smiling Krishna calling them out. From down the slope the menacing boulders now looked benignly awe-inspiring. With enough excitement to fill many days, they did not wait until sunset to return home with their cattle.

End