It was dusk and Sudhama was walking with heavy steps towards his hut. He could hear the cries of anguish from within. He had not succeeded in getting even a single morsel of food today and as a result did not want to show his face to his wife.
Sudhama was mired in poverty and in spite of his profound erudition could not make something out of himself in the ways of the world. He was a patient man and took all this as a play of fate. His wife also had resigned to the ways of fate. But, today Sudhama’s wife couldn't take it anymore. The sight of her starving children was like a knife going through her heart .
As night came, Sudhama's wife somehow succeeded in putting the children to bed. It was quite a task for her to console these empty bellies and cajoling them to sleep. Sudhama closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
Sudhama and his wife lay together on the floor; each waiting for the other to start a conversation. Sudhama's wife’s mind was weighed by the events of the bygone day and she broke the silence with a cry of anguish ; "God, I cannot bear the sight of my starving children anymore. I prefer death".
Sudhama was an epitome of patience. He consoled her and said " May be it is the will of Lord Narayana, that we have to see these hard days. But, I am sure that there are better days ahead."
Sudhama’s wife had heard these words before and was amazed at her husband's patience.She was indeed a pillar to him. Without her he would have totally broken down. But the magnitude of today's events were too much for her. She cried out ; " Is it the will of Narayana that my children starve in front of me".
"It is not wise to blame the Lord for our mis-fortunes" Sudhama said.
As night fell, both of them tried to sleep, but in vain. Sudhama's wife broke the silence and said " Why don't you go to your friend Krishna, who is the king of the city of Dwaraka for help. I am sure that he will help you as he was your best friend during your school days....."
Sudhama cut her short :" How can you expect Krishna the king of Dwaraka, who is the incarnation of Lord Narayana Himself, to remember a poor worthless brahmin like me."
"But you said that he was your best friend during your school days together. What good is a friend if he is not of help ?".
"Yes He was my best friend and we had a great time together. Now things have changed. He is the king of Dwaraka and it is not becoming of a king to be friends with an indigent brahmin.....Anyway, I value His friendship too much and I do not think it is proper to attach any purpose out of friendship. I prefer to starve instead......".
"But what about our children?. Why should they starve?. Why can't you do this for the sake of our little ones?".
This was a bulls-eye from her and Sudhama had no reply for this. "OK OK....I will go....but I am not sure and don't expect any miracles out of my visit to Dwaraka. I will leave at day -break tomorrow" .
THE JOURNEY TO DWARAKA
Sudhama and his wife were up at the stroke of dawn and after a bath at the river he was ready to leave. As he neared the door, his wife stopped him.
"Don't go empty handed. I have borrowed from our neighbours some sweetened crushed rice for your friend. I remember of you saying to me that avil (sweetened crushed rice) was one of his favorites" said his wife as she handed a packet made of a torn and old piece of cloth to Sudhama.
"I am going to be embarrassed in giving this packet to the king of Dwaraka who is used to the best of the best foods." said Sudhama.
After a short argument, Sudhama was somehow convinced by his wife to take the packet.
It was a long way to Dwaaraka and it would take days as Sudhama was travelling by foot. As he walked through sun and rain and rested under trees in the night, he remembered his boy-hood days at the Gurukula(school) when he and Krishna were constantly together. In fact they were in-seperable friends. Sudhama was overwhelmed with nostalgia as he remembered the light hearted pranks of his dark friend. In time he had realized that Krishna was no ordinary mortal and his friendship turned into total devotion. He remembered the day they had parted, when they graduated out of the Gurukula. They had parted with heavy hearts and Krishna had promised him His help whenever Sudhama needed it. In time, fate had played its game. Krishna had become the king of Dwaraka and Sudhama caught in the quagmire of poverty.
Not a single day had Sudhama failed to think of his friend after they had parted. It was just friendship as high and sublime as it could ever be. Still Sudhama's mind was plagued with doubt “Will Krishna recognize me?....What if I become an embarrassment for Krishna?”.....
After a long and torrid journey, Sudhama reached Dwaraka. His body was considerably weak now. He could not walk any further. With great difficulty he managed to stretch it out to the gates of Krishna's magnificent palace.
It was early in the morning and there was a big crowd of people in front of the palace. From a passerby he came to know that the crowd was waiting to get a glimpse of their king. In fact, this was a ritual every morning as scores of people thronged to the gates of the palace to see their king, who in turn did not disappoint them.
Sudhama, somehow worked his way through the crowd and reached the gate. When he reached the gate he called out to a guard and said ; " Could you please tell your king that his friend Sudhama wants to see him?".
"Ha Ha ha", the guard sneered.," Our king has no time for beggars ...... So get moving.....Ha ha ha" saying he pushed Sudhama with the handle of his spear. The crowd also joined in the laughter. Sudhama felt humiliated , however, he stood his ground near the gate.
Suddenly a voice was heard shouting..."The king is coming out to give the customary morning darshan for his subjects..."
The crowd pushed on Sudhama. However he held on to the gate and his eyes strained to get a glimpse of his friend.
The moment had come and Krishna came out accompanied by His queen Rukmini (incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi) in all royal splendour. Sudhama was lost and hoped that Krishna looked in his direction.
Suddenly Krishna's eyes caught Sudhama at the gate and for a moment it seemed to Sudhama that time had stopped!!!.
"Sudhama...Sudhama....My dear friend...Oh..Sudhama.....Guards let my friend in......" shouted Krishna at the top of His voice as He came running down the steps of His palace all the way to the gate.
The gates opened and Krishna embraced the shy and overwhelmed Sudhama and walked hand in hand towards the palace in front of a stunned crowd.
"How are you my friend...What brings you here?......" said Krishna.. Sudhama was too overwhelmed to reply.
Krishna introduced him to His queen and ordered His servants to bring some water. After seating Sudhama, Krishna washed Sudhama's feet with the water and took him in. He ordered His servants to provide Sudhama with the best of foods and dress him up in the best of attires.
After a royal meal during which both of them delved into the remembrances of their school days both Sudhama and Krishna sat down to rest. Krishna started to massage the tired legs of Sudhama " Now tell me friend, what brings you here ?" He asked Sudhama.
"Oh...I just came to see you. It's been a long while since I had seen you. I am happy that you are doing fine".
Krishna : " How are your wife and children?"
Sudhama : " Oh...they are fine."
Krishna : " I am glad to hear that....What are youu hiding in your hands?"
Sudhama : " Oh.... It’s nothing.........."
Krishna : " Don't you lie.... It's something you have brought for me"
Saying he snatched the packet from Sudhama's hand... Sudhama was embrassed but was shocked when his friend opened the packet and eat it with great relish...."Sweetened avil....My favorite.......Ah...what a taste!... Your wife has made it great.... You know that I love it..."
Sudhama stayed at Dwaraka for 10 days and the time came again when he had to bid good-bye to his friend Krishna. With a heavy heart he took leave.
As Sudhama walked home he thought of the time that he had just spent with his friend, a time which he spent in great comfort and in which he had the best of the best. As he walked he suddenly remembered that he did not fulfill, the very thing which he had come for, to get help from his friend. "I am a fool that I completely forgot my purpose. What face shall I show my wife and children?! ", he told himself. On second thoughts, he reconciled that he did the right thing in not attaching any purpose to his friendship with Krishna which he considered to be too above all worldly matters. "Even if I spend the rest of my life in abject poverty, I will always cherish the time that I spent with you...Krishna., those golden moments spent in the company of the lord cannot compare to any treasure in this world" thought he.....as he walked almost in a trance, his mind only on Krishna.
Finally, Sudhama was home and the journey seemed very short for him. As he neared his hut, he found that it was no longer there. Instead, there was a magnificent palace in its place.
Thought Sudhama ;"Oh...I have lost my way.....I have to get my mind back on the Lord....Oh Krishna......lost in your thoughts, I've lost my way".
Suddenly, the doors of the mansion opened and out came his wife and children to welcome him, attired in the best of robes and looking in the best of health.
Seeing this Sudhama immediately realized Lord Krishna's glory. He fell on the ground in joy. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he cried out : "Oh Krishna....I see Your power...You are indeed the saviour of Your devotees".
Sudhama and his family spent the rest of their lives in comfort and gave lot of their wealth in charity and were in constant thought of Lord Krishna.