The Donkey Would Surely Learn…
September 6, 2010 6 Comments
A merchant kept a watch-dog to guard his house and a couple of donkeys, one young and another old. Every day in the morning before it got warm, he loaded up the wares on the backs of his donkeys and took them to the village market. And in the evening he returned with the unsold goods to be taken back to the market on the following day. On weekends, however, he went to his suppliers in the nearby town and bought up stock to sell during the week.
A little more, on the merchant’s work-force. The dog was lazy – he enjoyed lolling in the hay day and night, straining himself only at meal times, notwithstanding the merchant’s periodic application of the stick. The elder donkey had years of experience and knew his duties by rote. He could read the merchant’s mind unerringly at every turn – a task made a bit easier by the absence of any turns at all – making him the merchant’s favorite. The youngster was really the ‘X’ of algebra. He was entirely unpredictable as his master saw (did he?). Innocently naive one moment, too smart by half at other times. Some days he would conscientiously pull the load of two adults and on other days he would do a ‘Houdini’ outwitting the merchant in his efforts to round him up. However, to his credit, true to the age-old tradition, the youngster was always deferential towards the elder. Whenever there was an incident and later things had cooled down – the elder had short counseling sessions with the youngster, out of their master’s earshot. And during these sessions the pupil was all ears and hung onto everything that was said. Though, it was a little early to say if these had in any way helped the youngster sort out things in his head – so far, there were no signs of it. But then Taj wasn’t built in a day – the elders always had to keep chipping away in the hope…
Now you get the picture, eh? Cutting to the chase, as they say…here we go… and stick with me for a little while even if it reads like you have read it all before- you’ll not be disappointed.
On one of those days, the merchant loaded them with bags of salt and set off for a neighboring village. On the way they had to cross a stream somewhat swollen with waters, reaching halfway up to their knees. They had to take every step carefully over the uneven bed. Of course it helped that the merchant led the way for them to follow. When they had taken a few steps into the waters, the elder cautioned the youngster to be careful not to get the salt wet in the splashing waters. They had almost made it safely to other side when the youngster stumbled and fell into the waters. A good part of the load was lost in the waters. There upon the youngster fortuitously discovered that a dip in the waters considerably lightened the load of salt for the rest of the march to the market – a secret the elder had not shared. From that day, the youngster often played the trick – feigning a false-step and a stumble. It was done with a convincing finesse that even the elder got taken in by the act. But not the merchant – he was not a merchant for nothing. It was his business to be shrewd. Next time when the youngster took a dip, suddenly he felt the load on his back go up manifold like a ton of bricks, the heaviest he had carried so far. It was inexplicable. He panted and puffed as the merchant drove them to the market at a fast clip – it was a sheer ordeal.
When they were resting in the evening and the youngster was licking his sores, the elder let out that the clever merchant had, in the load of salt, hidden bundles of dry rags that soaked up water to weigh heavier than lead. From that day, no more tricks – as the youngster could never make out whether the load of salt on his back was really of salt or was dry rags.
The moral, the elder gently pointed out, was: ‘Do your job conscientiously without shirking.’
This is not where it ends. Now get ready for a ride beyond.
One night a thief entered the merchant’s house, scaling the rear wall. The drop, however gentle, woke up the youngster who was sleeping lightly. Spotting the thief, he got the dog to wake up. The dog took stock of the situation and refused point-blank to rise to the occasion – he had been fed stale gruel during lunch. The dumb dog did not know he would, in the morning, get the thick end of the stick for not doing his job, the youngster thought. And there was no time to lose as the thief progressed stealthily towards the main house. Something had to be done quickly. Thinking on his feet, the youngster brayed loud in a full-throated performance. The startled thief ran off melting away into the darkness at the far end. The merchant woke up to find it was still dark. Unaware of the intrusion, he was annoyed by the untimely call; he marched up to the youngster and administered a couple of resounding slaps to make him see his folly.
When the merchant went back to his house, the elder clicked his tongue audibly in sympathy for the youngster. The moral, the elder gently pointed out, was: ‘Don’t try to do someone else’s job.’
Once again it was all quiet. It would be sometime before they would get back to their sleep. The youngster, to his shock, saw the thief re-appear from behind a bush heading straight for him – he had not taken himself entirely off the premises. Before the youngster could make up his mind whether an encore was demanded by the occasion, the vengeful thief, thwarted in his earlier efforts, registered his volley of slaps on the party-pooper and slipped away for good – all within a few winks.
The moral, the elder pointed out gently to the dazed youngster, was: ‘Don’t stand in the way of others doing their job whatever.’
The donkey would surely learn and settle down for a long career with the merchant. And, of course, he would read every turn of the merchant’s mind.
This is really the End. The pieces are not original, but the mash-up is.
PS: If you detect certain allegorical undertones, it is entirely to the credit of your creative mind.
Thanks, Sabitha for trigerring it.