A Frog in the Well

We frogs are such pitiable creatures. Always living in fear. Fear of storks. Fear of snakes. Fear of humans. Living in ignorance. You must have heard of stories of frogs in the well. I used to be a frog in the well too. Once upon a time. Not anymore. Now I have roamed the length and breadth of the land and am much wiser. I at least hope so. After all I am no longer a frog in the well. So it surely must mean I have become wiser? No? If not what was the moral of the whole story? Anyways all that is a story for another day.

Today I was reminiscing the times I was still a frog in the well. Literally and figuratively both. We were a huge family of frogs. Things were going well till some of our fellow frogs started turning arrogant and elitist. These fellows had gone out of the well a bit and seen some world and come. So they started acting as if they were all knowing and the rest of us were idiots. With every passing day their behavior was becoming more and more intolerable. Most of us were just honest, hardworking frogs who went about our business. But these frogs would not just let us be. They wanted to poke their nose everywhere. They wanted to challenge every one of our customs and traditions. They did not miss a single opportunity to belittle us. We did not know what to do.

Then one day a group of frogs came to meet me.

“Something has to be done about these frogs. We can’t let them continue like this. They will destroy all our old ways and bring all of us to ruin.”

“We are already running short of food and they are talking of inviting toads and lizards to our well.”

“Indeed if there is drought in the land above, it is their bad luck. Probably a result of their sins in their last birth. We have been leading a virtuous life. That is why God has not taken away the water from our well. Should we now share it with those sinners?”

“The lizards and toads are highly despicable creatures. The lizards are poisonous and sneak about creepily. And the toads! Even their very mention gives me shudders. They are full of disgusting warts and they shoot out a disgusting green stuff if offended. They will make our lives a living hell.”

I patiently listened to all their complaints. Some of them were bigoted and too rigid in their ways – you know the proverbial frog in the well kinds we were talking about earlier. They just did not want anything to change and they blindly hated any animal that was not a frog. Maybe even frogs from distant lands or even frogs from other wells. Such people have always been there. And we have learnt to live with them. But there were others with genuine concerns as well.

“Some of our own children are starving. How can we share with lizards and toads?”

“We would at least feel good and noble if they treated us well. But these new age frogs call us all kind of nasty names. We are feeling so low. They make us feel like we are the filth of the earth.”

“And what is harm in following traditions? We don’t harm anyone. The traditions give us a sense of comfort. A sense of continuity with our past. A sense of stability. Why do these frogs want to come and disrupt all that? If they don’t believe let them not. We are not asking them to believe or follow. But can’t they just let us be?”

A good many of the frogs were raising concerns. So I decided something had to be done. These new frogs, when they were not berating and belittling us, told us lot of fascinating stories of the world above. Some of them were scary too. One of the stories was about a creature called “the snake”. One could sense a fear in their tone at the very mention of this “snake”. If there was anything that could keep these insolent rogues in place, it was this “snake”. Maybe I should go to the world outside and find one. The very idea of leaving the well scared my wits out of me. But I had to act for the good of my fellow frogs.

I broached the idea to my fellow frogs and they agreed enthusiastically.

“Yes. I think that will teach them a lesson.”

“If they fear this creature, then it must surely be good. Anything they like is sure to be despicable and anything they hate and fear is sure to be good.”

“Go on, my friend. Go and find this creature.”

So I set out on my journey. I had heard they frequented holes. So I went around every hole I could find shouting, “Brother Snake, are you in?” After lot of unsuccessful attempts I got a response at one of the holes.

“Who is this now disturbing my sleep? Go away.”

“I am a frog. I have come to invite you over to our well.”

“A frog? What the bloody hell! A frog actually comes looking for a snake! What has the world come to? ”

“Please listen me out, friend Snake. I know frogs are real scared of your kind. And that is precisely the reason I have come to you.”

I poured out my entire tale of woe. About those frogs returned from the world above and their newfangled ideas. Their constant belittling of our ways. Despite the initial rudeness, as I launched into the story, the snake listened keenly. He seemed to become more and more amiable and understanding with every passing moment.

“I understand your plight, friend frog. These kind of traitors exist in our kind too. The snakes – as we call them figuratively. Of course not us literal guys. The figurative guys are the trouble in every species. I would be glad to be service to you. Tell me what you want me to do.”

“Can you come to the well with me and give these fellows a fright? That will shake them up and bring them down to the earth.”

“Of course I would be glad to. But you know it is possible that after I scare them once and go away, they might revert back to how they were before.”

“You are right. What do we do?”

“I suggest I come and live in your well. I don’t eat insects, slugs and snails. So I won’t be a drain on your resources like those evil toads and lizards you mentioned. Just take me into your well and find me a nice hole. I will just settle there and live peacefully, now and then emerging out to give those adversaries of yours a good scare.”
“That would be wonderful, Mr. Snake. I never thought you would do so much for us.”

“I am always there to help the little creatures. Come, let us go!”

The methods adopted by the snake were rather draconian but the results were good. I had just wanted him to frighten those fellows. But Mr. Snake just gobbled away a couple of them. When I made known my concern, the snake reassured me. “Don’t worry. Actions speak louder than words. I had to make an example of a couple of them to strike fear into the hearts of the rest. Don’t you see a marked improvement in their behavior?”

He was right. There was no more any spring in their leaps – that arrogance, that dominance. They had mellowed down greatly and some even cowered in fear. I guess loss of one or two of them was not such a bad thing in the interest of the greater cause.

But the thing was Mr. Snake kept gobbling away at them. I again remonstrated. But he again mollified me. “You know what my friend – the key is to just not let up on them. You need to keep the pressure on. The minute you turn lenient, they will once again show their true colors. Just listen to me. I know what I am doing.”

Somehow it did not feel right. So I called my fellow frogs for a meeting. Some of the more hawkish ones were still buoyant. “Mr. Snake is right. Let him clean out all the vermin.”

But most were tentative. “But is there something we can do?”

I said, “We are still so many in number. We could get together and throw out the snake. But it doesn’t feel right to do that to someone who is doing us a favor.”

So we decided to let things be and continued on. Then one day, all our foes were wiped out and to our shock and horror the snake gobbled one of our numbers. Can you imagine? He gobbled one of us. Us who were the ones who welcomed him in the first place!

I again went to speak to the snake. When I spoke up, he looked indignant. “Come on. I have done you such a great favor. Don’t you guys owe me a reward? See it this way. That fellow I gobbled was a weak, puny one who was a burden to you guys anyways. The lesser they are of these free riders, the more the rest of you all can live in prosperity. “

This didn’t sound right at all. But I was not going to argue with Mr. Snake. He no longer looked all that benevolent any more. I was feeling a bit scared.

As the days passed by, our members began to disappear down the snake’s maw with increasing regularity. So the few of us who were left called a meeting.

“There is nothing we can do now. We are too few in number now to have any hope against him. We are done for.”

I thought for a while and said, “The only way for us is to try and escape from this place.”

Some of the more rigid, traditional ones refused to budge. “This is our well. We have lived here from ancient times. We can’t leave it.”

“God made us to live in this well. If we leave, we shall incur the wrath of God.”

So we had no other way but to leave them behind. So I discussed with the rest and made my plans. I again approached the snake. “Mr. Snake, our numbers have dwindled so much that hardly any of us remain?”

“And you blame me for it?”

“No, no. Not at all, Mr. Snake. In fact we appreciate all that you have done for us and we owe you this and more. We were actually thinking more about you. What would happen if all of us were wiped out one day? Wouldn’t you have to go hungry?”

Mr. Snake got a worried look on his face. “I never thought of that. It is a valid concern. What do I do then?”

I continued on. “So we thought some of us will go out as scouts and welcome more frogs from outside. You know a road trip of sorts where we hand out brochures and spell out all the attractive features of our well and stuff.”

“Very good idea, my friend. I like the way you think. Please go ahead.”

Thus it came about that some of us managed to escape the clutches of this vile monster. I know what you are all thinking. It was all my fault. If I had not invited the snake in, none of this would have come to pass. I agree. But see it from my side. I was just a frog in the well. How could I have known of the dangers the creatures like these snakes posed. I mean we could have listened to those smart frogs who had been to the outside world and all. But who can put up with constant humiliation! Couldn’t they have told us things in a more soft polite way? Did they have to rub it in all the time? I know some of us were rigid and totally closed of mind. But they were the ones who remained in the well to die. As for the rest of us we might have listened and even eventually turned around to their view point if but they had been more sympathetic of us and our ways instead of being so high handed and treading over our toes all the time. They were so full of themselves that we hardly ever even heard their words. All we could hear was the arrogance and a general contempt towards us. How could we have just let that pass? We were not saints. We were not even intellectuals. We were just frogs. Frogs in the well.

Anyways what has happened has happened. We have all learnt our lessons. The hard way.

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