A close escape from death

Once our family was performing the Kali Puja, the festival of Mother Kali. At the time I was about seven years old. Many sacrifices were offered. The most important was the sacrifice of a live goat. Someone would hold the legs of the animal tightly, while the goat's head was placed at the end of the scaffold. For the sacrifice to be successful, the Brahmin priest had to perform it with one stroke of his sharp scimitar. If the priest failed on the first stroke, it was said that the devil's doings would befall the family that was performing the festival.

After the sacrifice of the goat, it was customary that fruits also be sacrificed to Mother Kali. In this case also, to make the sacrifice successful, the priest had to cut these fruits in half with only one stroke of the scimitar. Then he would fling the fruit out to the spectators, and the lucky ones would catch it.

When the time came for the sugar cane sacrifice, it was placed on the scaffold that earlier had held the goat and the fruits. The top portion of the sugar cane has a few leaves and is not edible, but the main body of the sugar cane plant is most delicious. I noticed that some of my friends, who had been standing near the top portion of the sugar cane, had quietly moved around the back of the audience to the other side, so that they could stand near the other end of the altar. They knew that the body of the sugar cane would be flung in that direction.

The priest had grasped the scimitar in both hands and swung it above his head, even extending his hands behind his head in order to get better leverage to perform the job successfully. Just as the priest was beginning to swing, I jumped over the scaffold. In the nick of time, he halted his swing.

A wave of panic swept those who were watching. I had escaped from a great calamity by just a hair's breadth. Had the priest not been able to stop his swing, I would have been in the other world. Fortunately, the divine in the priest had immediately endowed him with the needful life-saving skill.

My father, approaching me in a calm and quiet manner, embraced me with both arms. There was not a trace of worry or anxiety in his face — only tranquil joy streaming forth.

My father then took the priest aside and said, "You have saved my son's life. Whatever reward you want I shall immediately give you — money, property or anything else I have. I shall give it to you here and now."

The priest, still trembling from the experience, said to my father: "Reward! What reward? I have saved my mentor's dearest son! What greater joy can there be on earth than to save my deeply esteemed mentor's youngest son!"