Siwa is an Oasis in the Egyptian desert. With little mud houses, stone mosques and pretty handicraft shops, the town has a tranquil look about it. A cool, glassy lake brings a lot of tourists.
There are no taxis in Siwa, but dainty donkey carts decorated with frilly flowers, bells and ribbons take tourists around the oasis and the nearby lake.
Daffodil was a well behaved donkey from Siwa. Every morning, he would obediently allow his master Jaffy to tie him to his cart and they would both set out in search of tourists. Jaffy earned enough through this and was indeed very happy. Daffodil had been loyal to him for many years. But one thing that he was not happy about was the word “Taxi” that was brightly painted on his cart. Tourists would hail him “Taxi! Taxi!" and burst out giggling.
One fine spring morning, when it was cool and bright, Daffodil woke up to see Stimpy the stork flying gracefully across the blue sky. He was fascinated to watch Stimpy moving freely wherever he wished to. Suddenly, Daffodil felt that he was actually a prisoner. A sudden urge overcame him to run around on his own without being harnessed to the cart. He wanted to be free to trot off to wherever he wished to. But, with the cart he could not go where he pleased because he and cart, were controlled by Jaffy.
Some days later, a group of tourists hired Jaffy and Daffodil to take them to the lake. As the tourists were enjoying the view of the sand-dunes and Jaffy was out for tea, Daffodil decided to have his day out, all by himself. Perking up his fluffy long ears, he trotted off happily along the road. It was the first time that he had roamed on his own. Although the cart was attached to him, his owner was not around. How wonderful it is to be free, he mused!
As he traipsed along the oasis, sniffing at the plump dates that had fallen on the ground, he spotted a boy and a girl--who happened to be visitors from India--plucking olives from a bush. They both had round faces and were laughing as they munched at the syrupy, almost fully ripe fruits. Then, one of them suddenly spotted Daffodil and squealed to the other excitedly, “Look! Here's a runaway donkey-taxi! Let's hop onto it!”
The boy was plump and could not run, while the girl, who was all bones, could run, almost as fast as Daffodil. Chased by the girl, Daffodil galloped through the sandy pathways of Siwa.
The children, Daffodil somehow felt, were funny and friendly, and so, after a while, when the three of them had run out of breath, he stopped to chat with them. Nestling on a mound of sand, they got down to talk. The children regaled Daffodil with stories about donkeys in India, where they were considered to be very useful animals. Daffodil was delighted to hear this.
After a while, Daffodil wanted to spend some time by himself. So, after bidding goodbye to the kids, he trotted across to a green patch, where he met an old donkey called Dusky who was leisurely munching grass. After exchanging pleasantries, Daffodil asked Dusky what he was doing there.
Dusky said that he now led a quiet, retired life. He had worked for ten long years drawing a taxi, having been the favourite of the tourists for his sedate manners, his shaggy, shiny coat and his brisk trot. He had once been in great demand in Siwa. But, after working for many years, he had grown old and slow. He could no longer trot. So, his owner had left him to spend the remainder of his days on this green patch. The whole day Dusky was by himself, munching grass and sleeping but with no one to talk to.
Dusky gave Daffodil some wise advice. “ Look Daffodil, you are still young and you pull a cart. Your owner considers you valuable, and tourists love you, too. You should be happy. Once you grow old, your owner will no longer take care of you. That's how humans are, you know. They are stupid, not we donkeys! So as long as the sun is shining on you, make best use of your energy. In your sunset years, you will be alone like me. But I am busy in my own way.
Daffodil reflected on Dusky's sagacious advice. He lifted his fluffy ears and shook them about as if to say 'Thanks' to Dusky. He had taken a day off by himself and had wandered around without his owner. He had really deserved the break. Besides, he had learned so much from the kids, and from Dusky as well. But, now, suddenly, he longed to go back to Jaffy and the safety of his cart full of tourists. His hard labour would one day pay off, he thought. He would also have his days of freedom like Dusky. Till then, he thought, God had given him energy to work, so why not keep trotting?
But, before getting back to work, Daffodil wanted a some quick snacks. And so off he trotted to the nearest date-palm tree, under which he settled, munching on the dozens of rich, juicy fruits that lay scattered about.
That is how Daffodil had his day out.