This is a folk tale but I know not from which part of India.
Once upon a time, in ancient India, there lived a merchant Ramu, who had a donkey named Bhola. Ramu was a very kind fellow who took good care of Bhola. He fed him well with green grass everyday (which many donkey owners did not do), gave enough rest and saw that Bhola’s stable was neat and clean and always had a supply of fresh water. The work was also not much. Bhola had to make just two or three trips to and from the market every day, carrying the goods to market, sometimes bringing something back, but mostly with very light load.
Though Ramu was such a kind master, Bhola was a lazy donkey. Most of the time he would pretend to struggle with the weight, though it was much less than what he could actually carry, and he would pretend so well that Ramu would feel pity for him and feed him with some carrots.
During a particular season, it happened that Ramu was trading in salt and was continuously carrying sacks of salt to the market on Bhola’s back. On the way to the market, there was a rivulet and they had to cross it every day. There was a bridge, however Ramu chose to walk through the rivulet everyday as it saved time for him and the distance was shorter under the bridge. Moreover the water was a little above ankle level and it was not difficult to walk through.
This particular day, as usual, Ramu loaded a sackful of salt on Bhola’s back and was proceeding to the market. Bhola, as usual, with a grumpy face came trudging along pretending that the sack was too heavy.
Just a little while after they entered the rivulet and crossing it, there was a small rock on the river bed that Bhola tripped and “PACHAK” he fell sack and all in the water. It was a rude shock to him and Ramu, and by the time they stabilised themselves and Bhola got up on his four legs, and Ramu retrieved the sack from the water, lot of the salt had dissolved and the sack was lighter. Bhola was pleasantly surprised, but still pretended to be under pressure.
The next day, there was again salt to be carried and today, while crossing the rivulet, Bhola intentionally pretended tripping and fell down. Today also the weight became lesser.
“Aha” thought Bhola, “At last I have learnt to be smart and carry much less load than I can!! Master is foolish, he believes I am really not well and tripping and falling down!!” He smiled to himself in glee. He started doing it again and again for few days in a row.
But Ramu started thinking otherwise. “How can a donkey fall every day in the same place?” He also noticed the eagerness of Bhola to reach the rivulet fast. Finally, he understood that Bhola was doing this on purpose. He also realised that Bhola needed some punishment to get him rid of his attitude.
The next day, as usual, a sack was loaded on Bhola’s back and it was lighter than usual. Bhola was even happier. “As it is, it is light,” he thought. “After I fall down, it will be even lighter”. Chuckling to himself, he eagerly started his journey. When the ‘falling spot’ came, he fell down as usual. The sack did not sink quickly, like other days and sank slowly. Ramu was also not in a hurry to retrieve the sack. This puzzled Bhola.
Then, Ramu retrieved the sack and with great difficulty put it on Bhola’s back. The sack was not containing salt, but had been stuffed with cotton and cotton had absorbed lot of water.
To his horror, Bhola found the sack ten times heavier. Further, Ramu’s face was red with anger, something Bhola had never witnessed before. And to add to his woes, Ramu took out a stick which he had hidden on his back inside the shirt.
“Come on you donkey” he shouted as he gave a sharp beating with the stick. Bhola brayed in pain. Ramu had always addressed him by name and never had he wielded a stick. “Hmm.. move fast and if you still want to pretend, here is what you will get!” Saying so, he gave another blow with the stick.
Bhola was aghast at this rapid change but he learnt his lesson that laziness does not pay and one cannot deceive others for long…..
I need not say how Bhola behaved from the next day. Yes, he was one of the best donkeys.
Ram Mohan Narasimhan
Nice story. Good to see the stories back again after a time gap