During the conversation, Nachiketa casually asked his father "since you are giving away your possessions and belongings to these old Brahman priests, to whom will you give me?"
Surprisingly, he was bombarded with the most unexpected and cruel answer by his father "To death shall I give you".
Nachiketa does not seem to be an ordinary child. Instead of letting his emotions cloud his judgment and make him confused and angry, he starts to think rationally. First, surely his father does not want him to die, secondly, he knows from his knowledge of scriptures and personal experience that death is not some uncommon, unnatural or even avoidable phenomenon.
He says to himself:
बहूनामेमि प्रथमो, बहूनामेमि मध्यमः
किं स्विदयमस्य कर्तव्यं यन्मया अद्य करिष्यति
Bakhunamemi prathmo, bahunamemi madhyamah
Kim swid yamasya kartavyam yanmayaadya krishyati
"Of many, I may go first (before); of many I may go midst. (with or after them)
What is there for Yama to do, which he (Yama) can now do by me (or through me)?"
In other words, he knows that he may go before or after many others, yet, he is contemplating that there must be a reason for his father to say those words now; at this particular moment.
He wants to understand and obey his father’s wish, without questioning him. Surely, his loving father could not have any ill-wishes towards his son, so he is wondering "what is there, which will be accomplished by Yama though me, to whom I am being sent by my father."
Everyone is afraid of death. Most people do not feel comfortable even talking about it. But here is this young boy, who is thinking so wisely, and analyzing the situation in a very matured manner.
I remember, during the last few weeks of her life, my mother said to me that she knew her time is up and she wants to be prepared and ready for the next phase.
I asked her "why are you thinking and talking about all that stuff?
She said "do you remember your school days? Few days before the final exams, you always used to get so worried and scared, and I used to tell you that you don't need to be scared. All you have to do is study and prepare properly, and be ready for it. Now it's my turn. My end time is approaching soon and instead of being scared, I want to be ready, and I want you to help me prepare for it".
I was astonished by her wisdom and courage.
However, Nachiketa is thinking even a step further; in fact, at a different realm. There is no sense of fear at all in his mind. Rather there is a hint of positivity in his thoughts when he says "what is there, which will be accomplished by Yama though me, to whom I am being sent by my father."
(To Be Continued)