The birth of Lord Ganesh falls every year in the monsoon months of August or September. He is a very lovable God and worshipped before beginning any work or project. It is believed that Ganesh is the remover of all obstacles and so, one of his names is Vighaneshwar. A long time ago, in a village in India, the villagers were preparing for Ganesh’s birthday on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi. The houses were being cleaned and decorated with fresh flowers and garlands. The men were busy buying different things required for worship from the market so that the women could cook. The women were busy cooking sweets and Modak (a sweet Ganesh is fond of) for offering to Ganesh when they worshipped him. The children were also busy wearing new clothes and running around getting in everybody’s way in anticipation of the celebrations. The adults were indeed very very busy giving a festive air to their houses and the entire village. There was so much to do.
A young boy in rags and torn clothes walked into this busy village. He looked around him and was happy to see so much activity. He saw children running around in all their fine clothes. The village children had no time for him as he looked very poor.
The boy stopped a young girl and asked her:
“Excuse me, I am very hungry. I have a fistful of rice and about a spoon full of milk. I need somebody to cook it for me. Can you help me?”
The girl was taken aback and answered:
“Are you mad? Who can cook anything with so little rice and milk? Go away I have no time for you. Can’t you see we are all busy preparing for Lord Ganapati’s birthday celebration?”
The boy felt very sad and went to the first house on his left. He saw a lady dressed in a pretty silk saree at the door. She was cleaning the courtyard of her house. He went up to her and said very humbly:
“Excuse me Mausi (mother’s sister), I am very hungry. I have a fistful of rice and about a spoonful of milk. I need somebody to cook it for me. Can you please help me? I will be very grateful.”
The woman was shocked that this boy in rags had the audacity to ask her to do something for him. She got angry and yelled at him:
“How dare you talk to me? You dirty, filthy boy, you need a bath. We have puja in our house. Do not come in and touch anything as it will become impure. I have enough to do in my house to welcome Ganapati today. Go away and don’t come to my door again.”
The little boy went away looking even more depressed.
He went from one house to another showing his fistful of rice and about a spoon full of milk requesting whomsoever he saw:
“Kaka (uncle), Dada (grandfather), Dadi (grandmother), Bhaiya (brother), Chachi ( aunty), I have a fistful of rice and about a spoon full of milk. I need somebody to cook it for me. Can you please help me?”
He felt that maybe there was at least one kind person in the entire village that would help him. Everyone sent him away, some in anger and some in disgust.
As he walked, he saw a priest near the temple and thought to himself that finally there is a man who is in the service of God. He spends his time praying, teaching, and giving sermons to the people. He will surely feel compassion for me. I will approach him and ask for help.
The priest had had his morning bath, performed his prayers, and finished the morning rituals of the temple. He was happy as it was Ganesh Chaturthi and a lot of people would come to the temple to offer prayers, gifts, and money. He was thinking how much money would come in by the evening when he saw a small boy in dirty rags standing and watching him. The priest thought he was a Brahmin and the little boy looked from a lower caste. The boy had no right to be at the temple gate and he was about to drive him away when the boy spoke up:
“Panditji namaskar, I am a poor boy and have just come to this village. I am very hungry. I have a fistful of rice and about a spoon full of milk. I need somebody to cook it for me. Can you tell me if somebody in this village can cook it for me?”
The priest was now livid. He felt the boy had no right to address him. He started shouting in anger and told the little boy:
“Runaway. How dare you come to the temple and talk to me. There is no place for the likes of you. This is a temple. If you are looking for alms there is none for you here. Do not attempt to sully the Lord’s house.” So saying, the priest locked the temple and walked away.
The little boy was very dejected and thought to himself:
“What has happened to the people here? They are so busy preparing for Ganesh’s birthday that they cannot feed one hungry little boy. They are so rude and insensitive.”
He started walking out of the village and as he walked towards the forest he saw a dilapidated hut. In the hut was a sick frail woman who was sleeping. He decided to try his luck one more time. He woke her up and said:
“Amma (mother), I am very hungry. I have a fistful of rice and about a spoon full of milk. I need somebody to cook it for me. Can you help me?”
The woman blinked her eyes and shook off her sleep. She was very tired but on seeing the little boy and hearing his request she was amused. She said:
“Son, how can I cook just a fistful of rice and a spoon full of milk and turn it into kheer (pudding)? When I put it on the fire it will get burnt. Besides I do not have a pot to cook it in.” She was humoring him but the boy said:
“Amma, borrow a pot from somebody, and while you are doing so borrow a big one”
The woman was impressed by the boy so she decided to cook the rice and milk for him. She borrowed a big cooking pot; put it on fire with the ingredients in it. The boy said:
“Amma, I will go down to the river to have a bath till you finish cooking. We will both eat when I come back.”
So saying he went off to have a bath. The lady waiting for the fire to build so the cooking could start to lay down on the floor. As she was not well and week with fever she soon fell asleep.
Suddenly she woke up to the most appetizing smell of the cooking Kheer. She got up to see how just a fistful of rice and about a spoon full of milk could produce the aroma rising from the pot. She was stunned to see the pot was full to the brim with a sweet thick, creamy Kheer. Her mouth started watering and she wanted to eat but realized that she should wait for the little boy before eating. After all the kheer was before her because of him, so she waited. It was a long time in coming and she could not control herself. She served the kheer in a bowl and offered some to the Ganesh statue in her house. Then she sat down to eat. The kheer was delicious and the lady took a lot of helpings till her stomach was very full. The boy came back from his bath and sat down. The lady served him the kheer. The boy asked:
“Amma, where is your bowl? We were to eat together.”
She was embarrassed and said:
“I am sorry but could not control myself and ate without you. Now I am too full to give you company.”
The boy said: “Amma, even I am full, I cannot eat anymore’
The lady was getting very suspicious and asked:
“How is it that your stomach is full without eating? Who are you? The pot is full of kheer with only a fistful of rice and a spoon full of milk. I ate more than four bowls of the kheer as I was very hungry and still the pot is full to the brim.”
The little boy smiled and said:
“Amma, I am Ganesh” and transformed to his original form.
“Before eating you offered me the kheer, do you remember? I ate to my satisfaction then. The whole village is in preparation to welcome me and when I walked in nobody had time for me including the priest. In spite of being ill and poor, you welcomed me. Amma, ask me for a boon.”
The lady was very happy to have been of service to Ganesh and asked for health, wealth, and prosperity.
Ganesh granted her the wishes and disappeared. The whole village was shocked to learn that the poor lady living on the outskirts of the village in a shack was now overnight living in a big house and had everything the heart could desire.