And this is also the story of his brother- Gopal.
It was Shyam's first day at school. He woke up early, brushed his teeth and got ready. After a minute of prayer to Lord Krishna, he went to his mother to collect his lunch.
"Oh, Shyam, you're looking so nice my boy!" exclaimed his mother Jyothi. Indeed, the boy was looking fine in his bright school uniform. His mother had specially stitched for him.
"Mother, it is my first day at school. Will the other children like me?" asked Shyam hesitantly.
"Of course, they will, dear." answered Jyothi encouragingly. "Be a good boy and don't bother anybody. I've made fresh pooris (fried flour flat Breads) for your lunch. See you in the evening! God bless you!"
"Bye!" waved Shyam and walked towards his school.
Their house was located close to a forest. The new school was beyond the forests and it would take him an hour to get there. Shyam did not want to be late. So he walked faster.
The sweet melody of the birds filled the woods. Peace dwelled everywhere. Cool winds were blowing through the leaves of the trees that looked green and majestic in the skies. Shyam walked along a narrow, white road in the middle of the dense forests. He had no trouble with the bushes.
Soon the school building came to his view.
The students were assembled in the schoolyard, just getting ready for the morning's prayer. As Shyam entered the school compound, everybody looked at him. "Oh, look, it's Shyam! Widow Jyothi's son!" the children whispered to each other.
"Quiet! Quiet!" The headmaster hushed them. He called Shyam and introduced his classmates to him.
Shyam knew many of his classmates, as they all lived in the same village. But as he lived in a hut near the forests, he was not very close to the town children. Till now, he was only taught by his mother in the evenings. But now, he was going to study with children his own age. Shyam was happy to know that he was amidst them. Shyam's classmates had some inhibition in mingling with him at first. But they soon felt attracted by his friendly nature. And when Shyam shared his mother's delicious pooris with all his classmates, he soon became a good friend to them.
As the day progressed, Shyam made a good impression in the teacher's mind. As Jyothi had taught him well in basic maths and science, Shyam had no trouble in answering his questions. The teacher praised him for his sincerity and good manners.
Soon the day ended. His first day at school was over. Though the boy had some worries and felt a bit nervous in the morning, the close of the day found Shyam more confident and jubilant. He had created a good opinion about himself and had won friends at the very first day of his school life. Shyam waved goodbye to his friends and left the school. He entered the same forests he had crossed in the morning to come to school. He felt very happy that his first day at school was a success.
Darkness fell swiftly as he walked through the forests. The little boy became aware that it was eerily silent. Sunlight had stopped playing peek-a-boo with the trees. Instead, the pale light of the moon was falling hesitantly on the ground. The road looked twisted and lonely in the night. The birds had also stopped their chirping and the frogs had taken over the job. The forest did not seem peaceful or friendly any more. There was an uncanny silence everywhere.
Kwak! Kwank! Kwannkkk!
Suddenly, something hooted over his head. Shyam looked up
a tree and saw a great owl rolling its eyes at him. Frightened, Shyam tried to run fast. But he tripped over something. He fell down and turned his head in terror to see what it was! It was only a large root but Shyam's fear made it look like a huge snake to him. He screamed in terror and started to run madly. The frogs seemed to enjoy his plight and they started to scream loudly. Shyam closed his ears and ran all the way home.
"Mother! Mother!" he cried as he neared his hut. He ran into his house and closed the door, panting with fear.
"What happened, Shyam?" asked Jyothi. She became alarmed at the sight of Shyam's pale face.
"Mother, I won't walk again through the forest, I won't go to school tomorrow! There are a big snake and an owl that stares at me and the frogs shouting at me..," the scared child babbled in nameless fear.
Shyam's mother now understood that her little son had become frightened of the dark forests. She tried to pacify him but her boy remained adamant. Nothing could make him pass the forests again to go to school.
Jyothi was worried. When the town council built a new school for the village children, Jyothi was firm on sending Shyam. She had lost her husband and all her attention centered round his only child. She had great ambitions with her only son and wanted him to become a scholar. She stitched clothes and thus made a living for herself and her son. No matter how hard she had to work, she didn't mind working extra hard to provide for his education.
But now her efforts seemed to go waste. Shyam sounded too scared to go to school. Jyothi could not find any way to make Shyam see reason and besides, he was too small to see any.
Suddenly she got an idea. "Shyam, you should go to school tomorrow," she said to her son.
"But I can't walk alone in the forests, mother! I won't! I won't ," cried Shyam.
"Why would you walk alone, Shyam, when you have your brother Gopal to walk with you?" asked Jyothi brightly.
"My brother? But I don't have a brother!" replied Shyam in confusion.
"Yes, you do. His name is Gopal. He lives in the forests. Whenever you feel afraid just call his name" said Jyothi.
By thinking of his new "brother", she hoped her son would overcome his fear. Shyam never doubted his mother's words. He went to sleep happily. All his fears vanished as he dreamt about his new brother.
The next day Shyam went to his school with his old enthusiasm. And once again he found himself on the lonely road in the evening. As he walked on, Shyam grew afraid.
"Gopal, please come and walk with me!" he shouted into the darkness and waited for his brother.
Suddenly he heard a melodious tune. An older boy appeared before him, playing a flute.
Shyam looked at him in wonder. The newcomer was the most beautiful person he had ever seen in his life. His skin was dark as the sky and his eyes were kind and mischievous at the same time. A garland adorned his neck and he had a peacock feather on his crown.
"Hi Shyam," he addressed Shyam in a sweet voice. "I have come to take you home safely. Let's go!" Shyam was overjoyed. He caught hold of his brother Gopal's soft hand and walked with him till he could see his hut.
"Here's your home, Shyam," whispered Gopal and went back into the forests, Everyday, his brother Gopal walked with him till he came to the end of the forests.
One day, Shyam's schoolteacher invited his students for a feast at his home. The children started to buy gifts to give their teacher. On returning home, Shyam told his mother about the feast and asked her to give him a gift for his teacher.
Jyothi felt helpless. Without a husband, she struggled day and night to earn for their living. She considered herself fortunate in having Shyam with her, who was a loving son and helped her in all her chores. So when he asked for something, she was not able to refuse him.
As before, Jyothi used the same trick on Shyam. "Why don't you ask your brother, Shyam?"
He decided to take up her advice. That day, as he was walking in the forests with his brother, Shyam asked Gopal about a suitable gift for his teacher.
Brother Gopal thought for a moment.
"I have a bowl of curd with me, " he said. " You can give it to your teacher".
Shyam accepted his brother's offering and took it with him. On the day of the feast, he offered it to his teacher with love and affection.
The teacher knew Shyam was poor, so he tasted a big helping of curd to appreciate his gift.