The boatman waited patiently for his passengers to get on his little wooden boat – they were three – a young boy with a goat and a hen, which he had purchased from the weekly village bazaar. As soon as the boatman started peddling to the tiny island where the boy’s village was located, the youngster started singing, with the sound of the song permeating the evening twilight. Suddenly, the goat started moaning.
The boatman who had the gift of communicating with animals, asked, “Now, why are you crying?” The goat replied in all innocence, “I think this boy also been taken away from his mother as I have been taken from mine, so he is crying. I am so scared and feel something very bad is going to happen to me.” Listening to the goat, the hen got into a frenzy, it started flapping around the little boat with nervous energy, so much so that the boatman had to stop it lest it toppled over. “What has got into you? Why are you behaving so strangely?” asked the boatman. The hen retorted, “The goat is a fool. He is sympathizing with the boy, little aware that both of us will be killed and eaten by him and his family as soon as we reach their home. I do not want to die, I am so terrified of my cruel fate.”
The island was still a little distance away. The boatman knew that animals have the sensitivity to understand approaching danger and death. Because he could empathise with their feelings and thoughts, he could acutely feel their terror and pain.
All this while the boy was oblivious to the communication between the other three occupants of the boat, because like most people, he could not understand the anguish of mute animals.
This story had a happy ending though. Before the boat reached the island, the boatman had made a deal with boy. He bought the goat and the hen at a higher rate than what the boy had paid at the market. While the boy went home happily counting the extra rupees, the boatman took the two home, where they lived as a part of his family. For a long time the goat gave milk that nourished his children, while the hen laid eggs that fed them well. Both had paid back the kindness of the boatman many times over. It was a fair exchange.