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The intelligent donkey

Unfortunately, the donkey has been a victim of falsehoods and canards.

Unfortunately, the donkey has been a victim of falsehoods and canards.   | Photo Credit: AP

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To consider the beast a synonym for idiocy will be to ignore its real traits

To most people, the term intelligent donkey is an oxymoron. The general perception is that donkeys are the epitome of stubbornness and stupidity. People often disparagingly refer to not so intelligent people as donkeys.

Unfortunately, the donkey has been a victim of falsehoods and canards. In fact, donkeys have been man’s companion since the time immemorial and they have been the poor man’s best friend. The donkey has served as the beast of burden and as the poor man’s horse, and even provided milk for the nutrition of poor children. Donkey’s milk closely resemblances breast milk as compared with that of the cow, the sheep and the goat.  The donkey survives by foraging marginal shrubs and hence is not a burden on the owner.

A donkey is the smartest equine on earth and is quite independent in its thinking patterns. A donkey assesses the situation before panicking or taking flight.

Donkeys have been used for the protection of smaller farm animals, such as goats and sheep, from predators like foxes and dogs.

It might amaze people to know that there is a tomb in remembrance of an intelligent and brave donkey. Khota Qabar (literally ‘the donkey’s grave’) is the name of a small village situated near Abbottabad city in Pakistan.

The historic battle of Balakot was fought between Sikh forces and the jehadis led by Syed Ahmad Barelvi. This is thought to be the first historically recorded jehad inspired by the Wahabi ideology.

The jehadis had camped in the town of Balakot. On their way to Balakot, they had camped near Abbottabad. The Sikhs, in order to staunch the jehadi supply lines, posted troops on the hills overlooking the road to Abbottabad that passed through a gorge. The jehadis, sensing the risk of sending couriers through the gorge, sent a donkey without a handler to carry their supplies.

The donkey has a good memory and uses it intelligently. One of the exceptional traits of a donkey is that once it carries a load to a destination, it can remember the route and does not require the help of a handler to be able to go back to the same place. Just a light kick in the back sends it trudging to the destination. The jehadis employed a donkey to carry their supplies without a handler. This intelligent and brave donkey perambulated in the darkness of night carrying supplies.

But it wasn’t long before the Sikhs found out the secret and one night the donkey was shot dead. The jehadis mourned the loss of the donkey and honoured it by burying it in a grave. Thus ended the saga of an intelligent and valiant donkey.

So the next time you call someone a donkey, think again. 

amartya.talukdar@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 1:04:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-intelligent-donkey/article21822863.ece

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