This is the story of two boyhood friends – Krishna and Sudhama. The play focuses on an important event in their lives that extols the greatness of friendship. We begin with a glimpse into their childhood at guru Sandipani’s ashram.
Guru: Today I am going to speak to you about the importance of friendship. This virtue you must learn to carry all through life. In this gurukula we have children hailing from rich families as well from poor ones, studying together. Take for example Krishna he is a Yadava prince and Sudhama here comes from a modest home, yet they share the same food and sleep on the same floor without any differentiation. They are a shining example of good friendship which all of you must emulate. I dearly wish that their friendship lasts forever.
So children will all of you promise to be good friends?
Children: Yes gurudev, we promise that we will always be good friends.
G: Very well, now children you can go for your lunch – guru ma has prepared something very nice for all of you.
Children (together standing up) pranam gurudev.
Guru mata: Krishna and Sudhama come here,.
K&S: yes mother
GM: My dear children after you finish lunch, I want you to go to the forest and bring me some firewood. I don’t have much left. I know you are responsible children, so, I am asking you to do this for me.
K&S: Yes mother.
GM: (giving them a bundle) Here is some puffed rice to eat in case you come back late.
K&S: pranam mata.
Narrator: When the children were in the forest, there was a storm it became very dark and there was water everywhere- Krishna and Sudhama climbed up different trees to take shelter for the night. As Sudhama felt very hungry he ate up the puffed rice which was with him without saving anything for Krishna. At sunrise, Guru Sandipani came to know about this, he rushed to the forest and seeing them, said:
San: Sons, you have borne a lot of suffering for me. Everyone wants to protect himself, but without caring for yourselves, you have served me. I am very pleased with you. May all your desires and ambitions be fulfilled!
Narrator: Years passed the children grew up- Krishna went to Dwaraka to become king. Sudhama married Sushila, a pious lady. They had 27 children and it became increasingly difficult to feed the family with his meager income. One day…
Sudhama: Sushila, I am very tired. Can you give me something to eat?
Sushila: Swami, Please drink this rice gruel.
Sudhama: Is this all? Is there nothing else to eat?
Sushila: Swami, the grain we have will not last much longer…. But swami, If you will listen to me I have a suggestion.
Sudhama: (Sits down. ) What is it? Sushila.
Sushila: I have always heard you speak of your childhood friend, Krishna. Is he not now the king? Can we not approach him for some help? Would he deny us help if you asked him?
Sudhama: (Smiles) Krishna!! My friend Krishna! But how can I ask him for help. It will not be right.
Sushila: But look at the way we are living now. If not for me at least for our children’s sake you must change your mind.
Sudhama( thinks) moves a few steps) What will my friend think of me?
Sushila: Ok, lets do it like this. It’s been a long time since you have seen him. So why don’t you just pay him a visit.
Sudhama: Alright. I will call on him. I also miss him very much. I will leave right away.
Sushila: Wait, Swami. I will pack something for your friend. (She ties up some puffed rice in his upper cloth)
Narrator: Sushila knew that the lord would understand Sudhama’s plight and bestow upon him favours without being asked specifically for them. Thus set out Sudhama to meet his dearest friend the king. Sudhama wondered whether his friend would remember him, whether he would recognize him now with his haggard appearance and tattered clothes.
After a few days journey he reached Krishna’s palace.
At Krishna’s palace-the guards stopped him.
Guard: Who are you? What brings you here.
S: I want to meet the king.
G: The king! (Looking at him up and down) What possible business can you have with him?
S: He is my boyhood friend; I thought I would pay my respects to him.
(Noticing the commotion Krishna comes running.)
Krishna: Sudhama, Sudhama!! Is that really you? After all these years you have chosen to remember me? (hugs him)
Narrator: The mere touch of Krishna's body was a transcendental experience for Sudama. He was rendered further speechless by all the attention that Krishna showered on him.
Krishna: Come inside Sudhama. You are an honoured guest. (Rukmini Enters) Krishna: Rukmini come! Look who is here, this is Sudhama my friend.
Ruknini: Dear sir, welcome. I have heard my lord speak so much about you. (Signals to get a pitcher and a plate and flowers) (Together K & R wash his feet)
Rukmini: Let me go and make all arrangements for his comfort.
Narrator: He is bathed with sweet smelling perfumed oils, is given rich clothes and after a feast, the two friends sit down to talk. The ever playful lord knew the purpose of Sudhama’s visit yet chose to play upon him.
Krishna: What is in that upper cloth you are hiding?
Sudhama: Nothing, Krishna, it is really nothing.
Krishna: Come on, "I know my sister-in-law, Suseela, would not have sent you empty-handed. Give it to me at once!"
Narrator: Sudhama was too ashamed to give the Lord the small, tattered bundle of puffed rice! The mind reader that the Lord was - is He not the Antharyaami, the Self within every soul - he divined Sudhama's thoughts and the sense of shame and the simple, guileless devotion that went with it. He knew that it was this humility, deep-rooted in the soul of Sudhama that was preventing him from offering Him the bundle.
Krishna: "So, Sudhama, you do remember that I like sweet puffed rice the most. You must have told this to my sister-in-law. That is why she has sent 'so much' of it! Sudhama, do you remember the puffed rice incident during our gurukula days?"
Narrator: When Krishna eats the first mouthful, Sudhama’s hut is transformed into a palace. After the second mouthful the palace is filled with riches and the clothes and adornments of his wife and children are changed. When he is about to take the third mouthful ….
Rukmini: (Holding his wrist) that is enough my Lord. Should I also not have a share of what your friend has brought for us?
Narrator: Rukmini prevented him from taking the third mouthful as she is Lakshmi Devi herself and by this act of Krishna she would have been forced to leave him and stay in Sudhama’s palace. (pause)
After a few days of ecstatic stay with his friend, Sudhama left with a heavy heart to rejoin his family. In his journey back home he smiled a lot to himself recalling the several incidents that had occurred in the palace. But as he neared his home he remembered that he had not fulfilled the actual purpose of his visit. He was pondering over the possible excuses he could give his wife. He is pleasantly surprised to see his hut transformed into a grand castle.
Susheela: (decked in jewellery and finery) Swami, Look at the magic, your friend has accomplished. He has showered upon us untold benevolence.
Sudama: Oh, now I understand the significance of what transpired in Krishna’s palace and the ways of the lord, my friend.
Narrator: Despite all the wealth bestowed upon him, Sudhama chose to lead an austere life for the rest of his days.