The salt would be gathered into bags for sale. The merchant would collect them and carry them to a city nearby. He had a donkey which would carry the salt bags for him.
The village where the merchant bought his salt was a few kilometers away from the town. The donkey would make the trip to the city once every week. The merchant was a kind and honest man. He was fair in his dealings. He also treated the donkey well.
The donkey, though, was a lazy animal. He hated to carry the sacks full of salt for his master. The route to the city passed through a small forest. In the middle of the forest was a small stream.
The stream was not too deep. It could be crossed by foot as its waters were only knee deep. The donkey and his master would wade across the stream.
One day the donkey and his master were crossing the stream as usual. It was the rainy season and it had rained heavily the week before. The stream was deeper than usual. The merchant and the donkey struggled across the swollen stream. The heavy sacks of salt weighed down on the donkey. They struggled and walked across the stream. Just as they reached the middle of the river, the donkey stumbled over a stone and fell down into the water.
The donkey struggled to get up and with help from his master, managed to get on its feet. The donkey was shaken and scared at what had happened. However, he was in for a pleasant surprise. When he got up he realized that his load seemed very light. He was baffled at how it had happened. As the bags of salt fell into the water along with the donkey, the salt had dissolved in the water. The bag had thus become light. The merchant realized this too. He was unhappy at the loss of his precious cargo. It resulted in the loss of a lot of money.
He sadly led the donkey to his home. The donkey though was secretly happy. His burden had become light.
The next week, the merchant went as usual to the village and bought the salt from the salt makers, put them in bags and loaded them on to the donkey’s back. As they walked down the road through the forest and reached the stream, the lazy donkey had a sudden idea. He remembered how his load had become light when he stumbled into the water last week.
If only he could fall again this time also into the stream, his load would be lightened again. The rains though had stopped and the waters were at their normal level. He was how wondering he could stumble in such a way that his master would not suspect any foul play. The donkey and his master waded into the stream as usual. Just as they were in the middle, the donkey again stumbled. The sacks fell into the water and the salt was lost. The donkey was happy.
The merchant was shocked and devastated. For the second week, he had incurred a loss. The merchant was confused as to how the donkey would stumble in such a low level of water. He still did not suspect the donkey.
The next week, the merchant and his donkey again went to the village and bought the sacks of salt as usual. As they reached the stream, the same thing happened. As soon as they reached the middle of the river, the donkey fell down. The salt was lost and the week’s business was lost with it.
The merchant now began to grow suspicious. The donkey was falling down exactly in the middle of the stream for nearly three weeks in a row. He thought that the donkey was fall down intentionally in order to lighten its load. This had to be stopped or he would lose a lot of business and money.
As he was pondering of this problem, the merchant hit upon an idea. The next week, the merchant went to the salt producing village as usual along with his donkey. Leaving the donkey outside, he went inside the salt maker’s shop. He talked to the salt maker and asked him to give him bags filled with cotton along with bags of salt.
The merchant then loaded both the bags on the donkey’s back. The bags filled with cotton were very light. The donkey could not make the difference as the load on his back weighed the same.
The merchant then led the donkey on the way back home. The donkey did not suspect anything as the load on his back weighed the same. He did not notice that many cotton bags were also added to his back along with the usual salt.
As they neared the stream, the donkey was happy and eager to lighten his load. As he came to the middle of the stream, he again pretended to trip over something and fell down into the water.
It was only as he got up that the realized that something strange had happened. The load on his back had increased. The many bags of cotton had absorbed water and increased in weight.
He struggled to get up on his feet. He eventually managed to crawl out of the stream. It was a long and difficult walk home with the heavy burden. He had learnt his lesson. From the next week on, the donkey stopped playing his trick and carried the load of salt from the village to the market as usual. The merchant was happy that he had taught his donkey a lesson.
Children, this story teaches us the value of doing our job sincerely. No matter how hard the job is, we need to do it to the best of our ability.