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When the wall collapsed, all the half-dead animals became conscious of what was happening. The three horses leapt to their feet and disappeared in a flash. The goats scampered away thereafter, and the buffaloes ambled after them. But the donkeys remained where they were.

"Why don't you go?" Heera asked them.

"What if we are caught again?" one of the donkeys asked.

"So what? You have an opportunity to escape now."

"We are scared. We will remain here."

It was past midnight and the two donkeys were still pondering whether to run or to stay. Moti was busy in trying to untie the ropes that bound Heera but he failed in his attempts. Heera told him, "You escape while there is still time. We will meet someday."

Moti had tears in his eyes. "Do you think I am selfish, Heera. We have lived together for so long. Today you are in trouble; how can I leave you now?"

Heera reasoned with him, "They will immediately realise that this is your doing and flog you."

Moti said with pride, "If they flog me for the same crime that you committed and for which you have been bound, I don't mind. At least we have been able to save the lives of the other animals and they will bless us." Even while he was talking to Heera, Moti jabbed at the donkeys with his horns and forced them out of the enclosure. He then came and lay down beside Heera.

Needless to say that there was a huge uproar when the clerk of the pound, the watchmen and other employees discovered that the animals had escaped. Moti was severely flogged and he too was bound by a strong rope.

For one whole week the two friends remained bound and without a morsel of food. Only water was given to them. Both of them had become so weak that they could not stand.

One day in the afternoon, around sixty people gathered near the enclosure, and the two friends were taken out. All of a sudden they became the centre of attraction. People came and examined their features but went away disappointed. Who would buy such half-dead bullocks?

A bearded person with blood-shot eyes and severe countenance approached them. After examining the bullocks he entered into a conversation with the clerk. Both the friends were apprehensive - they looked at each other with scared eyes. They had no doubt in their minds as to why they had been examined.

Heera said, "We should not have run away from Gaya's home. No one can save us now."

There was a touch of irreverence when Moti replied, "It is said that God takes pity on everybody then why does God not take pity on us?"

"For God it is the same whether we live or we die. Once God had saved us in the form of the little girl; why will God not save us now?"

"I have a feeling this man will kill us."

"So what? Our flesh, hide, horns and bones will be put to some use or the other."

The two friends, after being sold, went along with the bearded person. They were shivering in fright. The poor creatures were so weak that they could not even lift their feet but had to keep pace with the man because if they tottered, the man hit them mercilessly.

Along the way they saw cows and bullocks grazing in the pastures. All the animals appeared to be happy - some were frolicking around and others were sitting on the ground chewing the cud contentedly. They were so happy and yet so selfish. No one was concerned about the fate that awaited the two friends at the hands of the butcher.

Suddenly the two friends realised that they were walking along a familiar path; it was the same path that they had treaded while going with Gaya to his home. They came across the same fields, the same orchards, and the same villages. With every passing second, their pace increased and their weakness and weariness evaporated into thin air.

Oh, oh! Look at that well - it is the same well from where we helped to draw water. Yes, it is the very same well!

Moti said, "We have almost reached our home."

"It is God's grace," Heera replied.

"I am running home."

"Will he allow us to go?"

"I will knock him down."

"No, no, lets run and reach our home. We will go no further."

The two friends sallied forth and rushed homewards bounding like calves. They reached their home and came to a halt. "This is our home!" The bearded man came running after them.

Jhuri was sitting outside and sunning himself. When he saw the bullocks he ran to them and embraced them in turns. There were tears of joy in the eyes of the two friends and one of them licked Jhuri's hands.

The bearded person came and took hold of the ropes.

"These are my bullocks," Jhuri told him.

"How can they be yours? I have bought them from the cattle pound."

"I thought you had stolen them. Go away quietly. These are my bullocks - only I can sell them if I want, and no one else has that right."

"I will report to the police."

"These are my bullocks and the proof lies in the fact that they are standing at my door-step."

The bearded person stepped forward to take away the bullocks forcibly. This was too much for Moti; he lowered his head and showed his horns.

The bearded person stepped back but Moti made as if to charge. The man took flight; Moti pursued and chased him out of the village. The man hurled abuses and stones but Moti blocked his path like a victor. People from the village had gathered to watch the spectacle, and they laughed at the bearded person's discomfiture.

The man went away defeated and Moti returned back, swaggering like a champion.

"I was afraid you might kill him," Heera said.

"I would have killed him had he touched me."

"He will not dare to come again."

"If he does, I will chase him away even before he can come any near. Let's see how he comes!"

"What if he has us shot?"

"I would rather die than serve him.

"No one gives a thought to our lives."

"That's because we are so simple."

In a matter of seconds, the trough was filled with oil-cakes, bran, and fodder, and the two friends started eating with relish. Jhuri stood by and stroked them, and the children watched in delight. It was as if the whole village had joined in the celebrations.

Just then the lady of the house came out and kissed both Heera and Moti on their foreheads.

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  • Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
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  • Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
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  • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
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  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
  • Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
  • Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu