Gowramma lovingly checked the flowers before plucking them. Everything had to be perfect for her Krishna, isn’t it? Her flower basket full of flowers, she moved slowly to her house and then to the deity room. Sat down slowly taking support of the walls and began making a garland.
At 82 years of age, Gowramma was quite active. Mornings were devoted to tending her little patch of land which had some flower bushes and some vegetables. Cleaning the house and then the altar room. Looking after her Krishna, making garlands for Him, some simple food for Him and looking after Surabhi. Surabhi, her cow and her companion for many years. She looked after Surabhi and Surabhi looked after her.
‘Mayi..Mayi…’, it was Harish, her neighbor.
‘Harish, I am in the altar room’, she called out.
‘Mayi, I am dirty, cannot come in, can you please come out’, he said
Gowramma slowly got up, again taking the support of the walls.
‘What happened Harish, you fell down somewhere, why are your clothes so dirty?’
‘Mayi, it is because of the urchin Madan, he was stealing some milk from the kitchen when I found him and chased him away.But the scoundrel was too fast for me’.
‘He must be hungry Harish’, said Gowramma
‘ He can ask, Mayi, why steal?. Anyways here are some roses from my garden, use it for your Krishna, so saying he waved a bye and left.
Gowramma stood there for some time. ‘It was good that Harish failed his 10th. See he is such an enterprising farmer. And look at my son he was good at studies no doubt but then he became a software engineer, left to USA and sold our acres of land to Harish. Yes, yes he had taken me with him but I could not adjust there. Is it a place worth staying where even if I offer aarti to my Krishna, the fire alarms ring. Nah, US is not for me’.
Surabhi heard her patiently mooing her yes and no at the appropriate places.
It was in the evening when she was going to the grocer’s that she saw a boy hiding behind a cart near her house.
‘Are you Madan?, she asked.
‘Speak in a low tone or Harish will listen’, he said
‘Come to me and he will not beat you’, she said
But he refused to budge. after a lot of persuasion and a bribe of milk payasam he agreed to come out.
From then on, Gowramma nurtured him. Madan was an orphan. No one knew from where he came, but he always loitered around Harish’s farm, more precisely the erstwhile land of Gowramma. Harish always saw to it that he was given food and clothes and yet Madan loved to steal from Harish’s kitchen.
But everything changed after Gowramma started taking care of him. She even started teaching him. He would help her in all the chores but never in the altar room. He would look at her fondly when she cleaned the room, made garlands or made prasadam but never took part.
‘Madana, why don’t you join me. The Lord will be happy if you help me’, she would say.
‘Nahh, that is your job’, he would say with a mischievous smile.
Gowramma would back off. Bhakti and Seva are qualities that should not be forced on anyone.
Gowramma was tired. She could not string the flowers. She knew her end was near and she was worried. A tear flowed down from her eyes.
‘What happened? Why are you crying?’, it was Madan.
‘I am going to leave you soon, my dear’, she said
‘So why are you crying? You will be freed of this body’, said he.
‘I am worried for my Krisna and Surabhi’, said she.
‘Harish will look after Surabhi and your Krisna, he can look after himself , don’t worry’.
She looked at him then, taken aback by the sharp tone of his voice and then she smiled.
Harish came running. He was tilling his land when Surabhi’s mooing reached his ears. It meant that something was not right. He found tears running down Surabhi’s eyes, he rushed inside to find Gowramma bowing down at the altar. He touched her to find that her life breathe had gone away.
The idol of Krisna was missing.
Neither did he see Madan ever again.