Donkey Days

It isn’t everyday that one gets to meet the inspiration behind a star. 

Not just any star, but an internationally loved one, with no scandals or gossip magazines thrusting their weight of circulation and readership behind them. Where do such stars exist? you ask thinking of all the gossip columns, and the entire magazine staff making their monthly rent (and amenities) writing and analyzing their lives.

Well, such a star could only be a much admired animated character, and therefore the joy is doubly special.

It was a hot day, and the earth was baking lightly when I announced my intention to go walking with my friends in Palo Alto. The smog from forest fires nearby was almost unbearable: birds drooped and took refuge in the trees, plants smacked their lips and dug deeper for some water.  

“You’re nuts you know that? Who goes for a walk on a day like this?” , said the daughter.

I beamed in return, and said it mattered not one whit that it felt like a summer stroll on Venus, for I had very cool friends to walk with!

The daughter, being the daughter, giggled and patted my hair patronizingly.

The son, being the son, rattled off some statistics basically letting me know that Venus is far worse. But you, dear reader, I am sure you get the gist without knowing the exact megatons of carbon dioxide in Venus’ atmosphere. (For those of you still curious, please watch this video from Kurzgesagt : Terraforming Venus) This is a popular topic with the son and I have another post to write on a walk in which we discussed these seemingly impossible things. 

I meander like a drying up river losing its senses along the way on a hot summer day. Where was I? Yes – meeting a celebrity. Anyway, there we were in Palo Alto – my c.friends and I, walking down a wooded path trying to shake off the oppressive heat, and being marvelously uplifted by the conversation. 

At journey’s end, we stood there humbled by the stars of the day. Our friend had taken us to Barron Park, where the local family had maintained donkeys, and they had become a local attraction.

One of the donkeys in front of our eyes was the inspiration behind the donkey in Shrek – that gullible, loquacious, annoying donkey. These donkeys, Perry and Buddy, though were remarkably quiet, enjoying their pasture, and gazing serenely about their surroundings. 

Perry – The inspiration behind Shrek’s Donkey

Standing there and looking on these sturdy marvelous gentle animals made me think of all the loving donkeys in literature. The ones who appeared in Panchatantra stories, the fables of Aesop, Sally who is Gerald Durrell’s pet donkey, the beautiful days of life with sultan the donkey, and of course the loving term I use to sometimes refer to the children, “Kazhudhai”(meaning baby donkey in Tamil).

I headed back home with glee, and called out lovingly to the children, “Hey kutti kazhudhais. Guess who I saw today?” And out blurted the whole tale of the darling donkeys in Barron Park, and the daughter amidst her giggles said, “Oh! I thought when you called me kazhudhai, it was an insult, but it is a loving insult huh?”

I laughed. “Well, yes, I called out to Buddy and Perry, and they gave me the exact reaction that you give me. “

“What is that?”

“Acting as though they did not hear and kept on grazing happily in their little pasture.”

Her laugh would have made Donkey in Shrek proud.

I loved the donkeys of literature, the endearing “donkeys” in my life, and the gentle, sturdy, hardworking, peaceful animals that inspired the world starting from the days of Aesop, through the mangers of Nazareth, to Shrek’s donkey

Walking with Spirit to Dakota and Pluto

I’ve written about the pony before. The daughter loved riding that pony, Spirit, so much, that this was her entry for the Google Doodle.

Keena Google Doodle

I was pleasantly surprised at this entry of hers. She practiced it on her little drawing board multiple times over. It started off with a barn and then morphed into the all-to-do-with-horses theme.

Maybe an occasional day with horses could be her indulgence we thought to ourselves and arranged for another pony ride for her. But this time, they gave her a horse, and told her she could ride it herself. Tell the husband something like this and his inner hero rises automatically. “Don’t worry!” he tells her. “I will ride with you on another horse to make sure you are fine. Don’t worry!”

“But I am not worried!” laughs the daughter rolling her eyes perfectly at this (an art form that seemed to be have been honed over decades of practice, but it can’t have been seeing that she is less than a decade old)

Stung, the husband said, she did not know anything about galloping horses and he would be her savior if the need arose. So, the pair of them set off to get saddled and bridled or whatever else horse-riders and their mounts do. The first thing they were required to do was to fill a form asking if they’ve ridden horses before. The daughter proudly answered ‘Yes’.

The husband flashed his mind back to the time his parents had arranged for him to mount a well-nourished donkey that called itself a horse on the beaches of the dirty Marina Beach in Chennai at the age of 9 and decided to answer ‘No’. “That horse”,he said later, “used to stray off to eat peanuts and trash paper on the beach completely forgetting that a rider was upon it!”

keena riding

The daughter was assigned Pluto and the husband Dakota. Dakota was supposed to follow Pluto. The husband was to chase after the galloping Pluto remember? They waved their good-byes and set off. From here on, I enter the terrain of pure hearsay. The accounts of the husband and the daughter diverge a good deal, and I have taken the liberty of constructing my own sequence.

The husband says that Dakota seemed to think Pluto was his playmate and took great pleasure in tickling Pluto on his hind. The daughter says that Pluto was doing fine till Dakota annoyed him. Pluto and Dakota reached an impasse and one of the instructors had to intervene and send Dakota ahead of Pluto.

There was another problem: Dakota differed from the horse on Marina Beach in one respect only. It went for grass and not paper and trash, but that may be because the trail upon which they rode did not have paper and trash. It kept going off to eat grass and straying from the path.

The daughter had to take on the role of savior and had to shout out instructions to the husband on how to reign Dakota in and keep him on the path. The husband hotly contests this and says he knew all along how to go about horse riding, but did not want to yank at the reins for it might hurt the horse.

What can I say?! Potato – Potaato.


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