Yesterday was Janamashtami. I went to Alipurduar town to buy a small garland for the baby Krishna in our puja.
We have to drive a long way through the Rajabhatkawa forest to reach the town. It's a very large forest, and there are so many trees that you could never finish counting them. Last year, when my mother Maiji saw this forest for the first time, she said it reminded her of a story from one of the text books she read at school. Maiji told me the story, and here it is.
A little boy lived at the edge of the forest with his mother. His father was dead. His mother was very poor and she had to work very hard to feed herself and her son.
It was time for the little boy to begin schooling. The only school was on the other side of the forest. He would have to walk there and back all by himself every day. It was a very thick forest, and he was frightened.
On the first day, he came back home crying. He had been so scared! How could he go into the forest all alone like that everyday? His mother heard everything he had to say. She put her arms around him and told him he was not alone in the forest.
Surely he knew his elder brother lived there?
His elder brother! The boy's face lit up. 'I have an elder brother? Who is he? What is his name? Why doesn't he live with us? Why does he live in the forest?'
'His name is Gopala, son. He is a cowherd. He can't leave the cows alone in the forest. That's why he has to live there too.'
The little boy could hardly wait to meet his big brother.
'But will he know who I am?' he asked. His mother replied that he only had to call out to Gopala. He would come, and he would stay by his brother's side, and he would walk with him through the forest.
The following day, and every day after that, the boy came back home very happy. He couldn't stop talking about his brother Gopala.
The teacher at school heard him talking one day. Now the teacher knew that the boy had no brother. He scolded him for telling lies.
But the boy said, 'No, I am telling the truth.'
'Well', said the teacher, 'if that is so, I will walk back with you through the forest and I will meet your brother too.'
They entered the forest together, and the boy called out to Gopala as he always did.
Gopala did not appear.
He called him again and again, but no one came.
The teacher turned upon the boy and said he would have to punish him now.
All of a sudden, there was a voice that filled all the forest.
'I am here. But only those who really believe in me can see me.'
The teacher stood there stunned. He now understood who Gopala was, and why only the little boy could see him in the forest everyday.
Isn't it a beautiful story? All the stories about Krishna are. He was the friend of the poor and the friendless.
Maiji told me that 'Aval' or ‘Chiwra’ was something that he loved. But that is another story, and I'm sure you will tell it much better than I can, won't you?