Published in The Magazine, The Dawn
on Sunday, March 28, 1999

I HEARD this story from my father when I was a child, and he may have read it somewhere, so please don't accuse me of plagiarism if you've come across it before, but this story is so good it's worth telling over and over.

There was this king who had employed a weather forecaster at a fabulous salary.
Whenever the king wanted to go out of the palace, he'd call the pundit over and ask him if the weather would be fine or foul. The pundit would peer into a crystal ball or stare at a deck of cards and would then give his answer. And such was his wisdom that he was never wrong. Until one day...

He had told the king that there were no chances of rain for the next few days, so the king had set out with his sychophants for a picnic in the mountains. But on the way, while they were refreshing themselves with a cup of tea a simple peasant told them not to proceed further, as rains were imminent. The king scoffed, "I'm paying a specialist a fortune every month to predict the weather, and he says it won't rain! Why should I believe this illiterate serf?" So they went to the top of the hills and it rained so much that they wished they'd never been born.

When they got back to the palace, the first thing the king did was to throw the weather forecaster into a dungeon filled with snakes. "Find the peasant and bring him here!" he told his trembling courtiers. So they brought the poor rustic before him, and the king said kindly, "You will now be my weather predictor, and we shall pay you whatever you wish."

"Sir," said the quaking man, "I can't say when it will rain or when it will shine. It's my ass who knows: his ears go vertical whenever it's going to rain."

So the king appointed the ass as his weather-specialist, and ever since then the best government jobs have always gone to donkeys.

By Shakir Lakhani