I was a student of standard VIII then and my age was 13. Being the monitor of the class, it was my responsibility to maintain peace and order in the class, in the absence of teachers.
I had a classmate Ajay, who was very noughty, and because of his mischiefs, I often had to report his name to my teachers. I could never appreciate his acts of intimidation or coercion.
On the eve of Janmashtami, he came from outside shouting, “Tomorrow is a holiday, guys, enjoy, tomorrow is Sri Krishna’s birthday.” I didn’t look at him and mischievously whispered, “It’s a declared holiday. What’s so new? Or is it your death-day?” He looked at me angrily, but I quickly realised that I had spoken something utterly wrong. I shouldn’t have said so.
For observing fast for Janmashtami the next day, we took sargai (pre-fast or pre-dawn meal) after the middle of the night, but after a few hours, we woke up suddenly with screams.
My father had passed away. It was unbelievable. I was speechless. I had no idea what happened and why. Many things were beyond comprehension at that age.
Like other family members, I was also crying, standing in a corner in front of my father, who was lying motionless. Only a few days back, he had taken me and my siblings to see the Sawan Mela (a seasonal fair in the month of Shravan).
My childlike mind was connecting my father’s demise with Ajay’s incident. I thought it was a punishment for my wrong-doing, but the punishment would be so big and so fast, I had no inkling. It also occured to me that if someone was to be punished, it was me, not my father.
The day of Janmashtami carries me back to those days recalling every minute detail of that Sawan Mela and the subsequent demise of my father. I never went to that fair again and as per our traditions, our family doesn’t observe fast or celebrate Janmashtami even now.
The last rituals were done by me. When I went back to school, my attitude towards Ajay had completely changed. I started respecting him and he reciprocated my gesture. Eventually we became fast friends and started visiting each other’s house.
I had learnt a lesson that I could never forget in my life, “If you can’t appreciate someone, don’t condemn at least. If you can’t benefit someone, don’t harm at least.”
Even today, several decades later, I remember that incident literally, and it’s a pleasant surprise that I’m in touch with Ajay after a long gap in between. The story of reunion with Ajay is very interesting. I’ll take up that story in a separate post.
Wishing you all a very happy Janmashtami 🎉💐🙏