No Janmshtami is complete without a story on friendship. Krishna’s friendship with Sudama is a favourite story for young children. Our story, Nandu’s Friend, is about a little boy who calls on Krishna with complete faith and naturally, Krishna obliges. Nandu, Krishna comes to Nandu’s aide once more when the adults disbelieve him.
Nandu stood on the doorsteps and stared at the moving cart. The kids in that cart were chatting away in excitement. It was the first day of school, and they were showing off their bright new uniforms and school bags. Nandu longed to be on his way to that school.
Nandu was seven years old. He had lost his father when he was a baby and lived with his mother. She did odd jobs in people’s homes and earned some money. There was never enough food at home. It would be impossible for her to send Nandu to school with the others. Nandu understood that his mother tried her best. And so he kept quiet.
Nandu’s mother knew how much he wanted to go to school. She decided to take him to the small school in the neighbouring village.
A few days later, Nandu held his mother’s hand and walked over to the school. The path wound through a thick forest. Nandu felt eyes looking at him through the leaves and heard the hiss of breath. What was that cry? What beasts lurked here? Was it just his imagination, or was something behind those big leaves?
It was a one-room school with just one teacher. Nandu’s face showed his yearning, and the old man understood that both woman and boy wanted that education. He wanted to make sure that this boy would come every day. The mother must understand that she must not send him to do odd jobs on some days because of their poverty. “Yes, you can start school. But I have two conditions. You must come to school every day, and you must do your best. I will not accept any excuses -that you had to do some work for your mother or anything like that. Otherwise, I will ask you to stop coming to school.” Nandu didn’t need any other reminders. He nodded his head eagerly, smiling from ear to ear.
But when they reached home, Nandu’s mother saw his drawn face. “You were so happy a little while ago. What happened? Why do you look so worried?” she asked him.
“Amma, I do want to go to school and study. But I have to cross the forest every day to get to that village. It is so dark! What if a wild animal attacks me? What will I do? I will be all alone!” his face crumpled, thinking that he might not be able to go to school after all.
“Oh, Nandu! Is that all? I know what you can do. As soon as you enter the forest on your way to school and back, call out to Krishna! He will give you company and take away all your fears.”
Nandu felt the weight lift from his shoulders. For the longest time, he imagined what school would be like. The next morning, Nandu woke up feeling fresh and cheerful. He got ready quickly, grabbed his school bag and lunch, and left for the school.
Sure enough, when Nandu entered the forest, he called out Krishna, Krishna. He did not doubt that Krishna would heed his cries.
“What do you want, Nandu? Why did you call my name?” asked a pleasant voice. Nandu looked all around him and gasped. There, a few steps ahead, was a young boy, about as tall as him. The boy came towards Nandu, the peacock feather in his hair bouncing slightly.
“Krishna, you have come,” Nandu whispered. The boy nodded with a smile.
“Krishna, I want to study well and take care of Amma when I’m older. But if I don’t go to school every day, I will be in trouble. So you have to be with me when I cross the forest to go to school and when I go back home. Promise me that you will accompany me!” Nandhu pleaded.
“You don’t have to worry at all. I am your friend. I will be with you the entire time you are in the forest. Does that sound better?” asked Krishna.
It wasn’t just Nandu who was pleased with Krishna’s answer. A peacock flew down from the tree and spread its tail open to dance. A herd of deer leaped in the air, and hundreds of birds chirped and sang to show their joy.
And so Nandu and Krishna walked together on the path every day. Nandu got to school on time, and he was a good student. They laughed at him when he told the other kids that Krishna walked with him in the forest. “Listen to the fool.” They mocked. His mother thought that maybe the cowherds who bring their cows to graze in the forest were watching over Nandu.
Sometime later, there was a wedding at the teacher’s house. In those days, people used to give whatever they could afford to help the family with wedding expenses. Nandu’s classmates came back to school and shared the list of things their parents were bringing to the wedding. Nandu was both worried and embarrassed. “Oh, Krishna! What’ll I do? I can’t ask Amma for anything. She works so hard, but we don’t even have enough to eat. If I don’t ask her, I will be the only student who doesn’t bring anything for the wedding.
“Nandu, I am here to help you, aren’t I? Tell your teacher that you will give the curd needed for the wedding.” Krishna reassured him.
The following day, Nandu’s teacher wrote down that Nandu would bring enough curd for the wedding.
School was almost over. The wedding day arrived, and Krishna Held out something small. “Here, Nandu. This is for the wedding.” It was an earthen pot filled with thick curd. Nandu was overjoyed. He didn’t wonder at the size of the pot or whether it would be enough for all the guests at the wedding.
When he reached the teacher’s home, Nandu walked over to where people were cooking the wedding feast. His teacher was there checking that the cooks had everything they needed. When he saw the pot that Nandu carried, his eyes popped out in shock.
“Nandu! Don’t tell me that THAT is the curd you’ve brought for the wedding.” He looked disbelievingly.
The boy nodded, unable to understand why his teacher looked so alarmed. “Oh, What am I going to do now??? I haven’t even ordered curd from anyone else because I trusted you when you said you’d bring the curd for everyone..” he wailed.
“Please…I didn’t know…” Nandu stammered and put the pot in his teacher’s hands. The older man scowled and threw it towards the other pots and pans.
Strangely, the pot of curd didn’t break or fall. It tilted a little bit, and the curd began to flow from it. The cooks brought steel pails to catch the overflowing curd. One pail, two pails…, it kept coming. The news spread, and everyone crowded around and watched the curd overflow.
“The teacher turned towards the young boy. “Where did you get this pot of curd?” the man asked.
Nandu told him everything—how he had been afraid of the forest and his mother told him to call for Krishna. “I told Krishna that I didn’t have anything to give you for the wedding. He gave me the pot of curd.”
The crowd listened to the story and looked at the little boy in awe. “Can you take us to the forest?” his teacher asked him. Nandu led the way as the entire wedding party followed him to the forest. He stopped a few minutes after he entered the forest and called out to Krishna. But no one came.
And then a voice spoke, “Nandu, I come whenever believes in me with full faith and asks for my help. And that’s what you did, my friend. That is why you alone can see me. From now on, do not fear to walk the forest because I will always be there with you.”
The others looked at Nandu with respect. They went back to the wedding, amazed at the little boy’s faith.
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