He was a visitor to Dwaraka. Draped in an ordinary looking cloth round his waist, a piece of cloth across his shoulders, and a bag hanging from his left shoulder, the stranger walked barefoot. His hair was combed and tied. He walked leisurely, neither too fast nor too slow, looking straight ahead, unmindful of stares that followed him.
The stranger headed straight to the palace. The guard outside the palace became alert. Tall, well built and with a thick moustache stretching from ear to ear and a huge helmet with two horns, he was a fearsome figure. Behind his back, people of Dwaraka called him Rakshasa, a demon, with enormous power, captured in a battle by Krishna, the Yadava hero. No doubt, he was devoted to his new Master, but the citizens of Dwaraka kept their distance.
Rakshasa frowned seeing the stranger approaching the palace. He was used to princes and kings arriving to meet his Master. He was glad to escort dignitaries to the courtyard of the palace. Never had he seen such a poor man approaching the palace. Intending to stop the unwelcome guest he stepped forward.
Just then, Sri Krishna came out of the palace. Seeing the stranger, he broke into a broad smile and ran to him, calling out, “Sudama, my friend, what a surprise!” Rakshasa froze as he saw Sri Krishna hugging the visitor! The visitor with tears of joy, hugged Sri Krishna calling him ‘Govinda.’
Hearing that a guest had arrived, Sri Krishna’s wife Rukmini came to the door. She brought water for the guest to wash his feet. Sri Krishna wiped his feet with the silken cloth he was wearing and made him sit on the swing. The two friends started talking about old times, as Rukmini sat close by fanning them gently.
Sri Krishna and Sudama were classmates in Guru Sandipani’s forest school. Patting his friend on the back, Sri Krishna said, “So you are married! Bhabhi must have sent something for me. Let me see what’s in your bag.”
Sri Krishna took Sudama’s bag and dug into it. He took out a small packet wrapped in cloth. Sudama smiled as Sri Krishna eagerly opened the bundle, watched by Rukmini.
Sudama smiled thinking of his wife he loved. Of late, he was thinking of his childhood mate, Govinda. He mentioned this to his wife. She urged him to go to Dwaraka and meet his friend. “You have been taking about your friend so long. You’d better go and meet him. He too will be happy to see you,” said his wife.
As he was about to leave, she gave him a packet bundled in a piece of cloth and said, “when you call on those you love and respect, you must give them something. Here is something I’ve put for your dear friend,” she said. Sudama thanked her and put it into his bag as he left for Dwaraka. He had no idea what his wife had given for Sri Krishna.
Now he would know, as Sri Krishna opened the bundle. It was poha, made from pounded rice!
Even the poorest of the poor manage to get some poha to fill their stomach. It is a poor man’s friend. What Sri Krishna saw in that poha was tremendous love his friend and his wife had for him. That made it divine. He eagerly stuffed his mouth with handful of poha as though he had not eaten for months! Sudama laughed with delight as Rukmini watched with a smile. Sri Krishna dipped into the packet and put into his mouth one more handful of poha with relish. As he munched poha rolling his eyes, Rukmini snatched the bag from Sri Krishna. “Spare something for me,” she said as Sudama burst out laughing.
Rukmini served a lavish lunch. Krishna himself served sweets to his friend. After lunch, Sudama wanted to leave. Both Sri Krishna and Rukmini urged him to spend a couple of days with him. “I want you to take us to your home. We want to meet Bhabhi,” said Krishna as Rukmini nodded her head in agreement.