“Amma ... why doesn’t little Ahana smile" asked Madhav while he had one more mouthful of the rice and dal mix which his mother gave.
Janaki was without any answer to little Madhav's question like always. She looked up to the sky as if asking God, "how can I answer such questions" and she looked at the shining eyes of Madhav still waiting for an answer from her as he chewed away the last gulp of food. Janaki wiped the forehead with the back of her hand carefully without smearing the few traces food on her hand while feeding her son.
"Why don’t we ask her tomorrow, or ask Krichbhagwan" Janaki smiled and replied.
Krichbhagwan was the name Madhav liked to call Lord Krishna, whom he liked more than anyone. But for Janaki Madhav was Krichbhagwan himself, the curly hair which swayed like feathers of peacock, the smooth skin which was as soft as butter, the smile which was so pure and the way he walked with little steps.... Janaki at times kept looking at the tiny foot marks on the floor Madhav would leave on the floor while he walked with wet feet after a wash. Janaki and Madhav had a world of their own and their playfulness and love could never be seen elsewhere.
The sweet kisses on the little feet Janaki loved to give, the tiny hands which rested on Janaki's face while Madhav slept... even Janardhan, Janaki's husband, would call them inseparables... with a smile on his face, which spoke volumes about the pride he had for his treasures Janaki and Madhav.
Janaki and Madhav spent the night in the dream world till the morning sun shines on the world for the next day. As the usual practice Janaki woke up before sunrise and carefully took the little hand holding her and placed it on a pillow and got up to quickly finish the chores before Madhav woke up. While she was busy Madhav woke up with the same question in mind, about Ahanas smiles. Madhav sneak out of the house towards the Krichbhagwan temple, to ask him. Hardly did anyone see him sneak into the temple as everyone were in their own world.
Madhav approached the Krichbhagwan idol and asked him "Krichbhagwan Krichbhavan ... why doesn’t Ahana smile?" from behind the idol Madhav heard the tinkling of anklets, a dark complexioned sweet smiling kid was hiding behind the idol. His smile was captive and magical.
"You want to see Ahana smile ... I know what to do" said the attractive curly haired boy wearing yellow silk dhoti.
Madhav was excited
"What should I do...? What should I do ..." Madhav asked eagerly.
"Hmmm... so you don’t know how difficult it is... still you want to know" asked the boy
"I want to see her smile ... she would look so beautiful with a smile on" replied Madhav.
"Well then... here is the way... if you cross the river of anger, go through the forest of fear and climb the hill of pain and you will reach a valley of happiness, bring a flower from the garden of Santhoshmai, and Ahana will smile again"
Madhav smiled his best and thanked the little boy and was about to leave when the boy stopped him.
"Here take my flute and this peacock feather and they will help you in your journey... and this small pack of butter for you to eat on the way" the boy handed them over.
With just the desire to see smiles on the smile less lips of Ahana Madhav set out on his adventure. Meanwhile Janaki burst into tears not able to find her son at home. Janardhan had started looking for him and within no time the whole village was searching for Madhav. They did not know what to do or where to search for the tiny one. Janaki never stopped crying and rushed to the temple crying to pray for her son’s safety. While she was praying the little boy from behind the idol came and touched her and the whole village froze. Everything stopped. People turned to still figurines, trees stopped swaying, and birds froze mid air and remained as if they were paused.
Madhav started happily running towards the hill the little boy had pointed and reached the river of anger. The raging river was furious and was lashing its anger on the rocks on the bed. The mighty river was turning rocks to sand with its strength. Madhav was standing on the bank of the river when a little fish jumped out of water. Madhav saw the fish gasping for air without water and gently picked it with his soft hands and put it back into a calm portion of the river on its side. The fish looked out from the surface of the water and smiled.
"Thank you little one... I am Ekabudhi, a fish who lives in the river of anger, thanks for saving my life. May I help you" asked the fish
"I want to go to the valley of happiness and need to cross the river of anger" said Madhav with the worry on his face
The fish looked at the peacock feather he had kept safely in his hand
"Oh you are Krishna's friend... I know that’s his... just place the feather on the water and you will have a way to cross the river" said Ekabudhi with excitement in its voice.
Madhav went to the river and placed the peacock feather on the water. It was a magical sight when the river calmed down with the touch of the feather and split into two giving way to Madhav to walk on the soft sandy river bed to go across. Madhav reached the other side, picked the feather from the water, waved at Ekabudhi and continued on his trail.
Madhav kept running towards the hill which was in sight and soon saw the light around him go dark in the forest where the trees shaded the sunlight. The forest of fear tried to scare Madhav with its darkness, the fear of the unknown. But the only thought in Madhav's mind still was Ahana's smiles. But soon he started feeling hungry and sat down under a tree. He was about to open the butter package the little boy had given him when a whole band of gorillas surrounded Madhav.
Madhav smiled and asked "Are you hungry" and extended the pack of butter towards them.
The tough heart of the apes melt like butter with the smiles of Madhav. And the leader said "I am Kapeendra, the leader of the Gorillas...What are you doing in this forest of fears my little one"
Madhav narrated the whole story while having the butter from the pack which he shared with the gorillas too.
Kapeendra picked Madhav up "Don’t fear, we will help you get to the hill of pain, but not beyond that"
Madhav slept hugging the gorilla in his hairy chest and when he opened his eyes, they were at the foothills of the hill of pain. Kapeendra gently put him down and waved Madhav goodbye with a smile.
It was noon and the hill of pain was too steep. Madhav knew not how to climb the hill and playfully tapped one of the rocks with the flute the little boy had given him. The rock transformed to a huge black swan Mahabaka.
"Oh little one... what brings you to the hill of pain and why did you wake me from my years of cursed sleep... who are you" asked Mahabaka.
Madhav smiled and told the swan the whole story.
"Climb on... I would take you to the valley of happiness" said Mahabaka.
Madhav happily climbed the swan and it swooshed to the skies above the hill and flew down to the valley of happiness. As Madhav climbed down Mahabaka looked towards him and said "The flute you have is a magical one... keep it safe. I am sure it belongs to Krishna"
Madhav was anxious and eager to rush to Santhoshmai's house in the valley of happiness, so just smiled as he tucked the flute in his waistband. He waved Mahabaka sweet byes and ran towards the house in a distance where he could see a garden full of smiling violet flowers.
"Santhoshmai... Santhoshmai...."Madhav called out
Old Santhoshmai came with a bright sweet toothless smile. "Is it you Krishna..." asked Santhoshmai.
"No I am Madhav... and I want Ahana to smile" he said in a confident tone.
The old woman hugged Madhav and took him to the nearby bush and plucked a bunch of flowers and handed it over to him.
"Give it to Ahana and she will smile again my blessed one" said the old lady.
Madhav's happiness knew no bounds...He was sure that Ahana would smile again.
"It's going to be dusk and I don’t want you to go through the forest again" said Santhoshmai. She went inside her hut and brought a cup of warm milk.
"Drink this and you will be back to your village again"
Madhav happily took the cup of milk and drank it while holding firmly to the bunch of flowers which Santhoshmai had given him. The last drop from the cup was finished and in a flash Madhav was in his bed, as if he had just woken up. Madhav felt it was all a dream. He looked out of the window to see everything normal. Ahana was standing in front of her house still without the smiles. Madhav looked at his hand to see the bunch of violet flowers whose stalks were firmly clenched in his fist. He ran out and gave Ahana the flowers to see a beautiful smile bloom in her lips.
"Madhav..." he heard his mother call him. The smile was very precious and made Madhav smile too. Without saying anything he ran to his mother.
Janakai lifted him up and kissed him gently on his cheeks and asked "Where were you... I have been calling you for so long"
Madhav smiled at Ahana as he was carried home and the secret of the smiles remained with Madhav and Ahana. Madhav knew it was his Krichbhagwan who helped him cross the river of anger, cross the forest of fears and fly over the hill of pain to reach the valley of happiness to fetch the smiling flowers for Ahana.
"Amma... Krichbhagwan makes everyone happy" he said with all the excitement
"Yes my darling he does" said Janaki. The memories of Madhav missing had been erased from all the villagers’ minds by the little boy Krishna with a touch. Madhav knew how to overcome fear, pain and anger to bring smiles to his loved ones.
"Thank you Krichbhagwan" said Madhav with an everlasting smile.