A Soul In Disguise
A Soul In Disguise16 mins 1.5K 16 mins 1.5K
The Frog that came to live with us
This story has evolved out of anecdotes and scribbling from my diary written during most fascinating and memorable moments of my professional career. I have picked up these fragments and tried to structure them in to a mosaic to narrate an episode which left deep impact on us. The episode not only changed our lives but also our attitude towards every living being surrounding us.
It was my transfer to a small town to take up charge of an expansion project of my Company's manufacturing facility. Location was a sleepy little town. It had all the traits of growing in to adulthood but had barely reached its adolescence. All its lanes dissolved in to fields or woods. There were no lights even on main streets. The town was made up of broken bricks or mud and straw hutments and a few old dilapidated houses. It had a small population and was surrounded by pockets of other hamlets miles apart. The villagers from nearby areas converged during weekly market on Sundays to buy and sell their needs the only visible activities there. Perhaps there might not be any other place as serene and relaxed as that town. At the edge of the town also existed a quaint structure which would take anybody by complete surprise. It was a beautiful large cottage surrounded by vast expanse of thick woods and well maintained green lawns all around with flowers in front and fruit trees as backyard. A strong and high stone wall with equally strong main gate surrounded it to secure the cottage. That was our house.
At one corner in front of the house was my office. During day time factory personnel, consultants, contractors and officials from different authorities came for discussions. On other end of the house my wife had set up a small office of her own and kept herself occupied with her own mini projects.
In that obscure and silent settlement, no visitors ever came except villagers frequented and looked upon her for some kind of help or advice. She had earned the reputation of being benevolent. She helped them with getting medicines, frames of spectacle and other small odd items normally not available in the town. Occasionally they also brought sick or injured birds or small wild animals with hope of getting them cure. She skilfully helped them in whatever way it was possible within her means.
We were just two of us in the house, besides household help, gardeners and guards. Thoughtfully, the Management had provided with best of amenities to make us feel comfortable on every conceivable count. We were looked after extremely well and certainly better than our haven in Mumbai. However missing were the people, the coffee shops, the restaurants and late night parties we were used to in Mumbai. Normally evenings were quieter and dull making each day appearing longer than previous. Sometimes there were intrusions by inhabitants like snakes, rats, lizards and many others. Those, ugly and ghastly looking creatures came at any odd hour, a little shy and curious but keen to see new occupants of the house and of course to pay their humble respect. Though both of us are ardent lover of nature, such visitors were not welcomed in the house and often created ruckus and deep sense of anguish. Such moments prompted our thoughts to go wild and we even contemplated resigning and returning to Mumbai. However during sane moments, we reconciled to the situation and only prayed to be back someday.
It is the environment which profoundly influences every living being and over the time inadvertently trends to mould their attributes and habits to instinctive recourse. As our evenings were void, we started having early dinner and calling the day off earlier. We naturally woke before dawn and started our days early.
The time clock on the wall remained only a show piece as our routine got dedicated to natural rhythm of the sun. We developed interest in gardening, photography and bird watching and saw nature closely. Some villager presented us a pair of rabbits and we got involved with them. Usually after early dinner both of us set in our study or living room reading books, listening to music or gazing out through large window glass pane moonlight falling on treetops during full moon nights or even watching head lights of moving traffic on highway. We found a striking change in our thinking and lifestyle though unwittingly.
It was a usual evening and after dinner we were sitting in the study room engrossed in reading. It was pitch dark outside and stark silence in the house accept there were occasional sounds of taps of security guards taking rounds of the bungalow. Suddenly both of us heard curious noises emanating from a drain hole just under a wash basin at other end of the hall. My wife got up and reached out for the drain and spontaneously shrieked in distress at the top of her voice. I quickly joined her and found that a large frog was hopping continuously at her feet and staring at her without even trying to runaway. I tried to shoo it away but it would not move and kept hopping in front of her. I quickly picked up a thick cloth and dropped it on the frog to contain it. I manage to wrap it in folds and dashed for door and hurled it hard towards the lawn and closed the door. That was even worst situation than we had in the past when even a simple appearance of such queer creatures created stir in the house and a debate ensued for hours. The impact of that episode lasted for days and was forgotten.
Perhaps that incident would have been forgotten forever had it not been its recurrence within a short span of time. Surprisingly again a frog was found at the same drain hole hopping and trying to draw our attention. We got it dropped outside of the compound walls with the help of guards asking them to take care not to hurt it.
After a little longer gap, to our surprise, it reappeared and was sitting at the same spot. Incidentally its appearance became less disturbing as we got used to repeated sequence of events. However, it roused our curiosity towards the creature which came back no matter how far away it was dropped. We calmly and closely observed that it had a V shaped mark on its forehead. Its body was covered with light yellow and white rugged skin with dark brown patches all over its body. We got it removed as usual without any hassle.
One evening we returned late, it was dark outside. As soon as we climbed the steps and reached landing of main entrance of the house we saw, in a gleam of light oozing out through a gap between door and the floor, a frog turning and squeezing its neck through the gap trying to enter the house. By seeing us it did not runaway but paused and as soon as the door opened it dashed towards the drain hole and settled there. We could identify it from distinct mark on its forehead. It was same frog. Without paying much heed we let it stay there to be handled in morning and covered the drain with a basket. In the morning while my wife was sipping her cup of tea on lawns outside, I picked up the frog and threw it hard towards open in front of her. Within moments it was surrounded by a flock of crows. The crows started pulling it up with its limbs trying to take it away. Suddenly my wife dashed and scared the crows away. I joined her. She asked me to pick it up and take it back inside the house as she could not see it dying before her. Fortunately, it was not hurt by the throw or the attack by the crows. Perhaps it had recovered from trauma and set upright and perplexed looking straight in to my eyes as if asking me for my inhuman act. I was crushed and low in my self esteem and murmured sorry.
The frog then again started hopping as if saying it was alright and making same illegible gestures by rubbing its head and face with its forearms and closing and opening its eyes as if trying to convey something. Those gestures were not new to us however for the first time my wife deciphered those actions and realised that it was trying to tell us "Please do not throw me away, I have come to live with you." I picked it up and put it in a spare bathroom. My wife brought some soaked beans, bread pieces and some grains to feed it. It would not even bite them. She brought a small plastic tub and filled it with water. It straight away hopped in to water as if appreciating her gesture of welcome. She was concerned about feeding the little guest as it must have been hungry since last evening. She went to the market herself and brought some tiny shrimps. It started munching them. It seemed it liked the place and did not come out of the bathroom for two days. The poor creature had made several attempts and at last managed to convince us that it only wished to be with us. We accepted it to be member of our house and named it Tom. Those were first visible signs of change in our attitude towards such despised creatures.
Tom roamed happily and fearlessly within the house not stepping out any time and returned to bathroom by itself after sunset. At times, it moved rubbing itself against our feet just to attract our attention. It would come out hopping and visit the office while my wife had visitors. Regular villagers were amused to see that cryptic bond between my wife and the frog and accepted Tom as member of our house. Some villagers brought shrimps and small worms regularly as gesture of their gratitude and alliance with our feeling for Tom. A villager brought a thin colored glass bead necklace with a tiny bell tied to it specially designed for Tom. The bell helped us locating Tom at any point of time and prevented our stepping on it accidentally.
Over some time, it was apparent that Tom was more attached to my wife. Strangely they both developed an effective communication amongst themselves and it was amazing to see Tom following every command, instruction and signal of my wife as an obedient kid. Whenever we returned home late in evenings we always peeped in to see Tom. It would also greet us with a few hops and low pitch croaking sounds as if saying it was fine.
We spoke to a few knowledgeable forest experts, friends and naturalists about peculiar behaviour of the frog. However, we were flooded and got completely drowned in to detailed descriptions of origin of amphibians, various species of frogs numbering 6500, colours, sizes and shapes, their behaviour as ecological indicators and some biological jargon. We were also told that such creatures do not have emotions. We could not make any headway in to understanding the soul of a creature that was strangely and strongly attached to us. It was disappointing to hear intelligentsia, with their circumscribed understanding of nature and devoid of any apt scientific explanation, dubbing behaviour of the frog simply a freak of nature. However, we could not buy that explanation and thereafter did not bother anymore seeking answer to mystery of nature. Our ignorance was bliss in disguise and more fascinating as we enjoyed what we experienced. Whenever we met people during any activity around the town they asked us about Tom and listened to us with curiosity and lot of interest and we also told them all incredible things Tom did in the house. Tom gave us immense sole stirring moments by its strange actions, movements and croaking sounds, helped in breaking monotony in our lives and taking away pressure due to work off our minds and led us closer to nature.
We remembered the saying that physical beauty was only skin deep and thought that it was also true for ugliness. Tom had a beautiful soul under its ugly disguise. Tom was talk of the Town.
My project was nearing completion and my parents planned to visit to stay with us for a while before we returned to Mumbai. We carefully debated about my parents and Tom being together in the house. We could only think of sending Tom away from the house. In any case, we ourselves were to return to Mumbai shortly and thought it to be prudent and also our responsibility to see Tom settled back in to its natural habitat before our departure. It was a decision taken by us with great pain as we could not visualize any other way out. We knew it could be difficult task, keeping in mind that Tom just came back no matter where and how far it was left. I knew about a lake close to the town supplying water to villages around it.
One afternoon, before arrival of my parents, we picked up Tom and pushed it in to a cage and reached the lake. It was surrounded by high mountain cliffs on three sides and a dam built with concrete and large stones on other side. There were steps to reach top of the dam and further down to waterline. The water was absolutely still and with stark fidelity mirrored mountains and trees around it making the place picturesque. There was no wind or even breeze but had a nip in the air. The place was devoid of natural sounds of jungle and unusually quiet. I opened the door of the cage and my wife asked Tom to come out. It hopped out and set facing us as if asking us as to what we were up to! She asked Tom to go. It turned around and twisting and turning its neck started crawling down the slope. It was not in its usual self and appeared dejected. Instead of hopping enthusiastically it kept crawling slowly and reluctantly towards waterfront.
Perhaps its innocent soul had sensed our sinister plan. It turned again just before the edge and looked at us as if again asking "What now?" My wife said aloud, "Tom go." It turned and reached the waterline, paused there for a while as if mustering courage to detach itself from bonds between us and then suddenly took a long leap diving straight in to the water. There was sound of a splash and strong ripples ensued around the spot of its fall. After a while water was tranquil as if nothing had happened there. Our hearts sank along with Tom deep in to the lake. We waited there in a hope to see Tom surface but it did not appear. We repeatedly shouted "Tom." Our calls simply reflected by cliffs echoed several times and hit us back hard. It was all very quiet and still again. I could see tears welling up in eyes of my wife and even I was deeply moved. We waited there until it was dark. With heavy hearts, we returned home and peeped inside the bathroom, it was vacant.
When my parents arrived, we narrated entire episode of Tom with its minutest details to them. My father was wonder-struck but my mother quickly reacted by saying that we should not have removed the frog as its appearance in the house was a good omen and that at least we should have informed and consulted her before acting in desperation removing it from the house. It was a jolt to us as Tom could be with us a little longer besides my mother would have been also very happy to see it. There was a longer lapse of time and we wished that Tom came back as in the past. We even visited the lake several times but could not find it. We knew that Tom had gone from our lives forever and that we would not see it again. As per schedule my parents left for Mumbai. I became extremely busy with completing last lap of the project and also with preparations for its inauguration.
Meanwhile we made one or two trips to the lake with hope to find our dear little one but drew blank. All the events of the factory had concluded satisfactorily and it was time for us to say goodbye to the Town.
The day of our departure was in midst of winters with chilly ambience. It was early morning and still dark. The entire town was asleep and enveloped in thick blanket of fog. Before getting in to car we just turned around to have a glimpse of the house remembering some of exhilarating moments of our lives. The moonlight percolated through fog creating some visibility. We saw curvature of pave covered with loose pebbles and sides lined with angular bricks leading to the house and rows of steel poles with lamps still aglow.
We could barely see the house as there was thick haze all around. We turned back to get in to the car. Suddenly both of us saw a frog sitting motionlessly a couple of steps away from us and staring at us. We both spontaneously and simultaneously shouted Tom and quickly moved forward to be closer but it was not there. We stood there for a while wondering whether we saw Tom as perhaps it was always there around us all those days but never came before us or it was only an illusion or it was his soul that came to bid us farewell. We consoled ourselves and thought that wherever it might be at least it was free from shackles of unorthodox bond to which it was slave by its will. It might be happy in its natural habitat and one with nature where it belonged to and with its natural instincts might have forgotten us by then. Our car moved slowly towards gate and once again we felt as if we were followed by Tom. However, when we looked back through rear glass of the car, there was only a void behind. We prayed for him and bid him goodbye forever.
We were back in Mumbai but not as our old selves, craving to visit coffee shops or happy to be invited to parties or gathering people around us. We did indulge in social activities but on many occasions felt ourselves out of place. We usually chose quieter place at gatherings. Obsessed and still fresh in our memories we tried to narrate the episode but it sounded only as fairy tale for kids. Some of our old pals pretended to listened to us attentively but we knew we were out of context in those ambiences. But deep within in our hearts we have the conviction that the frog that came to live with us was a messenger from God to tell us, "That Almighty created all living beings without any bias and therefore we accept with dignity the coexistence of good, bad and the ugly"
The story is based on a true episode revolving around my wife and a wild frog. I wrote the script with her help and while narrating it she relived the events with her vivid memories of the episode. However, after completing the text she felt that though we might have accomplished writing the account satisfactorily, we could not bring alive soul of our beloved Tom through words.