Long ago there was a small little town called Devpur. In this town lived a washerman and his old, lean donkey called Bhola. Bhola helped the washerman with his work. Every morning Bhola carried a pile of dirty clothes to the ghats and got back washed clothes in the evening. At nights Bhola was allowed to roam around and do whatever he wanted.

One night during his usual nightly stroll he met a fox named Bijli. Bhola and Bijli soon became friends. They would meet regularly at nights and jointly look for something to eat.

One night while exploring they came across a cucumber farm. Bhola’s mouth started watering at the sight of the luscious, juicy cucumbers. They tiptoed to the field. While Bhola feasted on the cucumbers, Bijli devoured fowls from the adjacent poultry farm. And at the break of dawn they returned to their respective homes.

The Singing Donkey
The Singing Donkey [Illustrations by Amarjeet Malik]

The second night they visited the cucumber farm once again and had their fill. Soon this became an everyday affair. The thin and weak Bhola soon looked well-fed, thanks to the cucumbers.

One particular night Bhola, after having his usual dinner of juicy cucumbers, was in a cheerful mood. He told his new friend, “Look at the sky. The full moon looks so beautiful and there is a gentle breeze blowing. This is a perfect night and I’m in the mood for singing.”

Bijli smiled and said, “My friend, don’t start singing now lest we awaken the watchmen of the farm. We are stealing their cucumbers and we would be inviting trouble by singing”.

But Bhola was in no mood to listen. “What are you saying. The weather is fabulous and I’m very happy and contended. So isn’t that a good excuse to sing”, he asked.

The fox persisted, “no dear friend, no. It’s better to keep quiet. Moreover you don’t sing very well. And your voice is also quite harsh.”

Bhola could not take it anymore.

“You are plain jealous, Bhola thundered, “What do you know about raag and taal. What do you know about singing anyway.”

” Maybe you’re right” Bijli said, ” I do not know a thing about music. But once you start singing you will wake up the watchmen. One thing I know is that they will reward you appropriately for your song, a reward you will always remember. So listen to me and forget about your singing urges for the time being.”

“Ha, I always knew you were foolish” Bhola countered, “you have doubts about my singing talent. Well here is one for you.” Saying this Bhola raised his head towards the skies.

Stop, stop, cried Bijli.”If you want to go ahead, then at least let me get out of here. Once I’m out of the fields you can sing to your heart’s content. I’ll wait for you outside the farm.”

As soon as the fox left, the donkey started singing at the top of his voice.

The silence of the night was broken by Bhola’s loud braying sounds. The watchmen who were fast asleep were rudely woken by the braying sounds. Armed with their sticks, they ran towards the donkey.

Bhola lost in singing was completely taken aback when he felt the lashes on his back. The watchmen continued with their lashes till the donkey collapsed. They then proceeded to tie a huge boulder round Bhola’s neck and left him there.

Meanwhile Bijli kept waiting for Bhola outside the fields.

The Singing Donkey
The Singing Donkey [Illustrations by Amarjeet Malik]

After some time Bhola regained consciousness and managed to reach the gate.

As soon as Bijli saw his friend tottering along, he went up to him and congratulated him. “Well, my friend, I see that you have been rewarded for your singing.”

Bhola sheepishly replied, ” Don’t rub it further, I’m ashamed about not listening to you.”

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