This is a lovely story that I am sure most of you must have heard when you were children. The other day my husband was narrating this one to my younger son, and it struck me how very sensible and relevant this story is for every stage of life. So here’s the tale just to refresh your memory.

A man was walking with his son and his donkey in his village. He passed an old man who sniggered how foolish they were to be walking when they had a donkey who could easily carry them.

Hearing this, the man climbed on top of the donkey. They had gone just a little distance ahead when a bunch of women looked at him in contempt and commented that he was very selfish to be making his young son walk in the sun while he enjoyed a ride on the donkey. The man immediately got down and put his son on the donkey.

Some time later, he came across a group of men. They pointedly commented that the boy was so lazy to be going on the donkey while his poor father walked.

The boy got down. Now, both of them decided to go on the donkey. As they passed some people, they overheard them feeling bad about the poor beast of burden who was clearly overloaded. Alarmed, both of them got down. The man and the boy now decided to carry the donkey. So, awkwardly and painfully they trudged the donkey along on their shoulders till they came to a bridge. Here they lost their balance and the poor donkey fell in the river and drowned.

the man, the boy and the donkey

Moral of the Story: Please everyone and you please none!

Correlate this to your routine life. Whether it is getting married at a particular age, having a career or not, having children or not, celebrating festivals, losing weight/gaining weight, raising your children in a particular way, taking care of your parents, even having views – everything is under the microscope now. Everyone and their uncle has an opinion on how you should lead your life.

Seriously, you can’t satisfy them all! It is a lost battle from the word go. You will just end up being miserable and unhappy. This festival season, as we celebrate the victory of light over darkness on Diwali, I pray that all of us can clean the cobwebs of confusion and unhappiness from our minds.

May we all learn the most important lesson:

Put your happiness above everything else. Self-love is not selfish. It is the best love to practice.



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47 Thoughts on “The man, the boy and the donkey

  1. Rachna just wanted I to hear today morning 🙂 I see this as a sign..
    richa singh recently posted…Remember, Remember the Fifth of November!My Profile

  2. Self Love is not selfish at all. I wonder why we believed all the people who told us otherwise? Even today I see people trying to make a self assured person feel so guilty. The worst part is most of the times its done by family. I like to call it “The you never did this before, why are you doing it now syndrome”.

    Its always good to realize that self love is never selfish, and whenever you realize that is a good time to start loving your self.
    Jaibala Rao recently posted…Her IdentityMy Profile

    • I guess we were all brought up in a society which did lay emphasis on honoring the wishes of another, of doing what is perceived to be right. Hence people who followed their heart against what the society dictated were often looked down upon even ostracized. But with changing times and our own recognition of what makes us happy, we are starting to change. We are also focussing on the self as well. Thanks so much for reading.
      Rachna recently posted…The man, the boy and the donkeyMy Profile

  3. Lata Sunil on November 5, 2015 at 10:13 am said:

    Thanks Rachna. It is an important reminder. We are so trained to please all and keep everyones wishes prioritised based on an invisible hierarchy. With the regressive content on television showing a long suffering bahu or woman trying to please all, this simple wisdom with the simple story is a good reminder.

    • Thanks, Lata. What you say about being trained to please all is so true. Typically, we were taught to lower our voices and defer to another’s viewpoint. Nothing wrong in that per se but certainly not at the cost of something that is really important to me. And these social messages really irk me. Sometimes, I wonder if the people shown in these TV serials actually exist. Because it would be tragic if they did!
      Rachna recently posted…The man, the boy and the donkeyMy Profile

  4. Self-love is the best love to practice

    There is nothing more true, Rachna. People who have nothing better to keep focusing on others’ lives instead of their own. And the ones who truly love us, who can help us amplify our self-worth, are the ones who will accept us no matter what. It’s important that we surround ourselves with people of the second category. That way, it is easier to love ourselves and stop judging others too.

    Happy Diwali to you and your family 🙂
    Vishal Kataria recently posted…What Happens When You Sell Out to the Wrong PeopleMy Profile

    • I agree with everything you say. When I say do what makes you happy, I automatically include the few close to me whose opinion matters and who I will defer to sometimes at the cost of my own will. Hence, I don’t mean exist in vacuum but I do realize that I am not too much of a people pleaser now. I can stand out for the crowd and speak up my mind even when a few may not agree with it. And, that’s okay because I am sure of my convictions and somewhere at peace with my own self.

      Happy Diwali to you and your family too.
      Rachna recently posted…The man, the boy and the donkeyMy Profile

  5. Nice reminder.. to be yourself

    I recently read somewhere ” Be Yourself, the world will adjust”…. 🙂
    Prasad Np recently posted…Contest Alert: 2016 Calendar GiveawayMy Profile

  6. That’s my favourite story specially since I’m progressing (I hope) to thinking more about what I want and like, as I grow older. I see the same trait in my daughter and it’s heartbreaking watching her worrying about not making everyone happy. It’s a thin line encouraging the kids to think about what they like while yet valuing what they’re told to do.
    Beat About the Book recently posted…The two QuasimodosMy Profile

    • Yes, it is such a fine balance. We can’t be completely unmindful of what others say especially those close to us and yet stand for what we believe in and what we want. I found Beloo’s point pertinent that many of us are still struggling to figure out what exactly we want and what gratifies us. Also, a few of us have commented that with age we are becoming more self-assured and confident of our choices. I wonder if it is because we are ‘settled’ in our life and our choices. Teaching this to the kids is a really tricky task as you pointed out. Thanks for reading!
      Rachna recently posted…The man, the boy and the donkeyMy Profile

  7. Superb story and the lesson is truly timeless. Thanks for refreshing my memory. 🙂
    Destiny’s child recently posted…Of a childhood memory and vegetable loveMy Profile

  8. Rachna excellent story, you know I feel the same way. We must live our own lives.
    There is a proverb (Latin I think), “Live your own life, for you will die your own death.” I always thought that was really thought provoking.
    Colleen recently posted…Shopping Ban Challenge (Until January 1)My Profile

  9. Such a simple yet profound tale! Be you. Be happy. Stop beating yourself up to please all. Yes, lovely indeed to read this one!

    • It is, isn’t it? I am so happy that through telling tales to our children, we relive their message in our own lives. And such a relevant message for today’s times.

  10. Self love is not selfish.So true. We have to love ourselves first and foremost. If we are not happy, no one around us will be happy. Such a simple story and so relevant even today. Glad to be back here Rachna or do you prefer the other name 😛

    • hehe Sfurti. Good to have you back too. I like the point you make about being unhappy and thus making others miserable too. I think in our generation, we don’t apologize for caring for our own happiness and wellbeing.

  11. This is a lovely reminder Rachna! You cant keep everyone happy and Self-love is not selfish.
    Rajtupa recently posted…Three Fallen Angels and the Theory of Everything Bong!My Profile

  12. It is more like being true to oneself, because if we try to please everyone, we would at one point or the other go against our nature and instincts, which would be dishonest. Also when we say self love, there is a thin line dividing it from selfishness. Remember ‘It’s my choice?’
    Zephyr recently posted…Have you connected with yourself lately?My Profile

    • Yes, being true to oneself for sure. And that to me translates to self love. There are many things about oneself and one’s behavior that we don’t accept because the society has often told us that they are desirable. To be truly at peace, I think one needs to make peace with oneself, one’s beliefs and convictions no matter how much the others pull you down. Yes, your point is valid about self-love not jumping over to extreme selfishness. But to tell you the truth, I would rather be selfish than a people pleaser. 🙂 I can’t stifle my opinion and conduct anymore even it it may rub a few the wrong way. Of course, the underlying premise is that I normally feel that I am guided by what is just and right.

  13. Oh I have been-there-done-that; tried to please everyone, without giving a thought to pleasing myself. Such a pointless, futile exercise! Thankfully, I am over it. I think growing older has that effect on us. 😉
    Shantala recently posted…Pradyumna-The Son of Krishna – by Usha Narayanan | Book ReviewMy Profile

    • I guess, I was there too a long, long time ago. Not anymore for sure. I speak my mind and lead my life on my terms, well mostly. 🙂 You are right. As one is older, one tends to free oneself of those shackles. Thanks for reading, Shantala.

  14. Such a beautiful and meaningful story…Says so much about how we get nothing out of living a life aimed at pleasing everyone… True, self love is not selfish and we need to keep this in mind if we want to lead a peaceful and sane life devoid of all the meddling by every other Tom, Dick & Harry!
    nabanita recently posted…10 Things You Shouldn’t Ask A Woman (About Having A Baby)My Profile

  15. Good story with an important lesson, Rachna.

    But for so many people is not easy to be really sure what makes them happy and satisfied in a deeper way, in a contentful sort of way. So there arises this tendency to please others, to gain their approval, sometimes even at the cost of their own inner urges. To know oneself is perhaps the beginning of a deeper acceptance of the self.
    Beloo Mehra recently posted…The Orgranisational Cycle: Age of Reasoning (Concluded)My Profile

    • You make such a valid point, Beloo. The confusion often comes from not spending enough time with yourself and for not understanding what is it that really makes you happy. Indeed to gain approval, we often do all kinds of things that go completely against our grain. Such an insightful comment this was. Made me gain better understanding of self love.
      Rachna recently posted…The man, the boy and the donkeyMy Profile

  16. Self love is the most under rated thing ever ! It is the most important thing one can practice. Also important in to follow what you want to do and not try to please people !

  17. Very well said. Self-Love is not selfish.
    Arun recently posted…Hyderabad Trip: Nehru Zoological ParkMy Profile

  18. I really want to learn this.. Seriously.. it is just not possible to please everybody at the same time. And even if for a second they are, you will never ever be then!
    I guess, this Diwali, I’ll have to take a pledge on this!

    Loved it Rachna 🙂

    Geets recently posted…Tear.. why you Come?My Profile

  19. I think one of the very first lessons my mom taught me was – you can’t please everyone!
    And love yourself first, only then can you love others…
    nicely said Rachna.. a timely post especially with the festive season upon us and expectations sometimes are sky high!

    • Thanks, Pixie. How wise of your mother to inculcate that in you. Often, I saw parents doing the opposite. Of course, we need to be mindful of the desires of those close to us but end of the day we have to make ourselves happy and satisfied above everyone and everything else.

  20. Uff.. I have been living my life especially after marriage every aunts and uncle I come across the streets….its not easy at all.. and many a times I have had to learn the hard way…

    I have tried to keep myself sane because it’s only during our vacations with relatives back home.. It was more like I have no other choice than please them all…
    Bilna recently posted…Banana Oats Smoothie – A Quick Healthy Fix for Mornings!My Profile

    • I know, Bilna. It can be stifling. I know how much people consider interfering in others’ lives their right. I hope you can figure a way of blocking these people. The pain on a daily basis is just too much to bear.

  21. About the only lesson I lived up to 🙂
    C. Suresh recently posted…Of a book and reviewsMy Profile

  22. I laughed at the end of the story – the cruel child in me is alive 🙂 , but seriously, if I had listened to every advise I’ve been given in my life, I’d be swirling like a dervish with nothing done while trying to please. Trying to please is a silly busyness, imho.
    But look from another angle at this story – there is some truth in every comment the passers by made. I see the moral of the story also as appreciating the benefits of being agile, attune with the situations life puts us in…
    iliana recently posted…No ExitMy Profile

  23. Such refreshing post after a long time.For the last few days since i started my new beauty blog, i was only strolling onto beautysphere but o man they were so boring.oops!! Its such a yawning business reading about product review all the time and commenting for what i have no idea. but then you need readers for your blog too. 🙁

    Anyways am glad i specifically typed your blog name(yes i remembered) and rejuvenate my brain cells.I think this is what people loves about your writing ,simple yet so meaningful.

  24. This is such a delightful post. In fact, I haven’t heard of this story till now. I definitely want to tell this story to my 9 year old. Thank you!
    Swapna Sanand recently posted…Anarkali Malayalam Movie Review: Prithviraj at his best, Biju Menon & Suresh Krishna bring on brilliant performancesMy Profile

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