அறிஞர் அண்ணாவின் கட்டுரைகள்

Leap, Frog, Leap !

Can, anyone of you, compose a lyric on frogs? you may begin it somewhat in this way,

"Leap frog, Leap!"

For, frogs are in the News today. Why not, they may ask, for, are not more unpresentable persons occupying places of power and position? we but ask and get muddy ponds - not mirthful mansions. Anyhow, these frogs, have now secured powerful allies—yes—the mighty Americans, it is said have taken a great fancy for frogs and a rich trade is leaping up now! A firm in Kerala, is engaged in exporting ship-loads of frogs, for America!

Yes, we know—but how can that be called alliance—is annihilation alliance?—the Americans are getting the frogs, just for eating—not for safeguarding them, you may ask. But why this logic, when frogs are discussed. American Alliance seems to denote nothing better, in other cases as well. But let us not talk politics - when talking about frogs!

They are now on their way to America! They say frog meat is tasty! How nasty, you and I are apt to exclaim, in disgust! But how profitable the trade, the merchant chuckles! Pay some loose coins to street urchins, they get lot of catches and you get plenty of dollars!!

Knowing the predicament of foreign exchange - especially dollar shortage which our country is facing - these frogs, it can be safely asserted, are assisting in a mighty spirit of self sacrifice in easing out the situation. In a way these frogs, are helping Pandit Nehru—assisting him in his Second five year plan!! See, these people lack this amount of patriotism! At least the frogs have got that!!

Nor is this all! frogs do not merely, help the Pandit, in his stupendous task—but also help the land where they are born to leap—Bharat! Here it is said they perform another patriotic service! They by the power somehow assigned by Divine Providence, bring plenty of rain! But in this, the frogs, demand something by way of a condition!

Perform a marriage for the frogs - don't put silly questions - it is a marriage between frogs - Yes - perform this marriage, you get plenty of rain! Possibly, God Almighty arranges honey-moon for the frogs, through this down-pour! There is Sastic authority, Sirs, for what I am saying - yes - not merely that - in Bharat we had had the delightful sight. In an up-country village - wherein lands were parched due to want of rain, some Pandit - not our Panch Shila one - suggested the age-old device of performing the frog-marriage, to propitiate god and get plenty of rain. The villagers readily accepted. Why not! - Do they not hear with rapture and reverence the Puranic Bard recite stories of old - wherein, it is stated that during a drought in Ayodya, Kalaikottu Ma Munivar, the sage with stage horn, was invited to visit - and as soon as this stage horn sage set his foot there was a torrential rain! Why we have any number of stories of this sort!

So, no wonder the villagers, performed the frog marriage! How funny it ought to have been! Grown-ups, wading through ponds, catching up frogs - selecting them - sorting them according to their sex, and then attending to the very many rites connected with the marriage.

I do not know, whether the prohit chanted the very same 'mantram' that he is wont to chant when conducting marriages, in the human world! But, see I am committing a mighty blunder! what difference does it make! Whatever he muters, neither the frogs, nor the folks that get the prohit's service, are in a position to know - what it all means - for that language is neither known to frogs, nor the followers of ancient wisdom - it is what they call Deva Basha - the language of the Gods!

There ought to have been much fun during the marriage - and we are not informed what all took place, after the marriage - and the most important thing - we are not informed whether there was rain. About the marriage alone, the up-country dailies are certain.

Performing the frog-marriage for getting rain, perhaps was considered to be too funny - so Katmandu had another device, we are told. There too they had no rain for a long time. They did this to get rain. Thousand cows were driven along the Katmandu Valley - the pandit would have selected the sacred spot - and there they were milked - and mother earth had the entire milk! Milk in mud! you will exclaim! why not? We do the same thing - in a slightly different form.

The idea there was, flood mother earth with milk, dame sky will reward you with rain - plenty of it! Now, don't ask why - that is the modern method of discarding old dictums!

In fact, after this Katmandu affair, it seems Sanathanists, approached the chief minister of Bengal, requesting him to arrage for a similiar 'puja' in Bengal - but he being a Doctor, stoutly refused - may be the Sanathana Samaj, is thinking of Satyagraha to vindicate Vedic Wisdom!!

Frogs for the table! Frogs for rain!! - and now, frogs for the race! - and this from the West!!

The West is conducting Frog-races, they say.

Frogs are specially selected for this purpose, and there ought to be much practising. We do not know whether, the trainer leaps higher than the frogs, but anyhow, they conduct Frog-race!!

A month ago, one such Race-Frog-was taken in an Aeroplane, from Paris - mind you, yes from Paris - to America!

That's not the only frog that leaps on to America from Paris - Hollywood may say. Let us not dispute.

The longer the legs the greater the leap, surer is the success in the Race.

So, frogs are tested in that way.

Now this frog from France is Eve not Adam! Denise, is the name, and this frog has got three Bull frogs as atendants! A bottle of mud worms freshly dredged from the river was taken along with it. For Denise should not miss her delightful dinners you know! Cannot America supply worms? You may ask! Oh! Yes! Billions and Billions of them! When America is able to supply billions of dollars-even though it may be throwing good money over the sands - cannot that land of the lords supply worms - just enough for frogs! Uncle Sam can and would, but Denise won't take - like the late lamented Malavya, who it is said took 'Ganga Water' from here to London, during the Round Table Talks, Denise wants, the worms from her own native land!

And know you, Denise's achievement? Not an ordinary one! She jumps 14 feet in one bound! But it is said that the record is 16 feet, set up by a Californian frog, Lucky.

Now what kind of a fancy is it - this frog-race, we here are apt to exclaim! why not frog-race, asks the average American, and he will begin to swear by Mark Twain.

Frogs and especially frog-race, shooted into fame, because of this great author.

And let us now be introduced to Daniel Webster - the celebrated jumping frog of Calaveras county!!

Yes! Daniel is the name for the frog and it was Mark Twain who showed to the world, the wonders about this jumping champion!

Of course, Mark Twain gave a yarn! But who knows not the Twain way of making you laugh and learn through that!! Now for the tale.

"There was a feller here once by the name of Jim Smiley!" begins Mark Twain, and gives a detailed account of the accomplishments of this Jim. He has got a knack of betting on anything and was uncommonly lucky always! He would invite betting on anything - Horse - race, dog - fight, cat - fight - chicken - fight, anything. Hear Mark Twain, in his own inimitable words,

"If there are two birds sitting on a fence he would bet you which one would fly first."

Such a knack had he of drawing anybody into betting - and such luck had he that he won always.

And this Jim, once caught a frog - named him Daniel Webster - and perfected the 'jumping' by constant practice.

I am going to educate him said Jim and for three months he was engrossed in that one task.

Flies, Daniel, flies! - he would sing out, and on seeing flies, Daniel would jump to catch them - and succeeded - and through this practice, Daniel Webster became a champion. Jim was mighty proud of D.W. - and many were the admirers he got around the frog.
Jim Smiley kept the frog in a little lattice box and he used to fetch him down town sometimes and lay for a bet - and as usual he won.
One day, a feller came - and Jim laid the bait - he fell - but said, "But I have not got a frog of my own". "Don't worry, Mr.Stranger, I will get you one. Just hold this box for a while. I will fetch you a frog! So Jim went to a nearby pond, and this fellow thought and thought. An idea flashed! He got the frog out, and prized his mouth open and took a tea spoon and filled him full of some stuff - and set him on the floor!

Jim returned - of course with a frog - a new catch!

And now for the race! The feller touched his frog, and it jumped - but Jim touched Daniel - the expert - the champion - but, what is this - he jumps not - he is planted as solid as an anvil!

Smiley was surprised - disgusted - failure!! at the hands of a stranger!!

The feller took the money and started away.

Jim then examined his 'expert' - he was far too weighty - and baggy - and turned Daniel upside down and low! he belched out a double handful of the stuff! Ah! here is the dirty trick, thought Jim, and ran after the stranger, but he was gone.

We are not informed about either the future of Daniel Webster, or the further prospects of Jim!!

There you see, the 'frog' getting a place in literature - thanks to Mark Twain. And because of the special place assigned by Mark Twain to 'frogs' - they say that frog-races are conducted in California now - and Denesie, the Parisian jumper, flew to take part in that race.

It is possible, some eccentric Dame with lot of dollars, on seeing a successful Mr. Leap, might have taken a fancy to kiss the Victor, - and in that act might have noticed a flavour, a sort of sweetness - and then, it is possible, that this idea of having the frog as menu, might have arisen! All are possibilities, by the way, not certainties!!

Leave aside these horsy frogs - if you will permit me to use the word horsy - I have merely given an adjective form to the word 'horse' - let us, get the acquaintance of Mr. Don Juan - the Lover frog!!

Yes! There are frogs, that simply tear one another for the sake of love! Do you mean to say, that frogs are devoid of love! They ought to be mighty good in the art!! Because they are in muddy ponds we mundanes are not paying them due tribute.

It seems, the frogs in the pond and the frogs in the river - are two 'sects' apart!

The river frogs, on one historic day - so do the journals say - invaded the pond. The pond fellers - mustered their full strength - for mind you, these river frogs, came there not for fun, but for getting the fairer sex!! How arrogant!! - one is bound to say. But is there not an age-old dictum, in war and love everything is right - and this, by the way, was war for love!

So the battle arose! The river frogs, were victorious - tore away the pond frogs to bits - but though successful in war they were not unchivalrous later - they lovingly and with majesty, led the female frogs, out of the pond to their new homes in the river! And the story is to end perhaps, with the usual words - and they lived ever happily afterwards!!

(Homeland - 30-06-1957)