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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Saying thus, Gangadatta, the King of frogs bolted

Saying thus, Gangadatta, the King of frogs bolted.

Another episode from Panchatantra of Vishnusharma.

In a well there lived a king of frogs named Gangadatta. Most of his relatives were inimical to him and in spite of all his attempts to conciliate them, the enmity was growing and he was impatient and was eager to wreak vengeance on them. Once when someone had put a wick basket into the well for some purpose and was dragging it back to the mainland, he jumped in and reached the surface of the earth. 

While sighing with relief for having escaped from the relatives who were finding fault with him always, he thought. "I want to get even with the kinsmen who have tormented me. It is akin to gain a second life for oneself if one is able to retaliate for the insults heaped on him when his time was bad." 

While he was engrossed in such thoughts , he saw a cobra entering his hole nearby. One idea stuck him like a flash. " If this cobra is infiltrated into our well, he will do the needful and finish off all my offending relatives. It is always a good idea to turn one stronger enemy against another. One can ensure the destruction of at least one of the enemies, without any personal exertion. If a thorn has stuck into one's leg, the thorn can be removed only using another thorn. "

He slowly approached the entrance of the hole, and respectfully addressed the cobra.. "My dear beautiful black cobra, please come out. I am calling you to offer you a favour." 

The cobra thought, "Who is calling me? It is definite that the caller is not one from my own race. What I hear is not the sound of a snake. If it is from human race, it is always dangerous. I am now settled in a hole which is strong and safe. It is already taught by Brihaspati that one should not keep company with a person whose character, nativity and clan are not known. If it is some sorcerer who is having some spell or herb to capture the snakes, then I have to play absolutely safe. Maybe someone who is having an enemy is inviting me and prompting me to bite one of his sworn enemies.

After protracted deliberation, the snake called back, "Who are you?". 

The frog replied, " I am Gangadatta, the king of frogs. I have come all the way to the entrance of your abode with a view to establish permanent friendship with you."

The cobra was wonderstruck. " Oh my goodness, what is this? It is indeed incredible. Is it possible that the dried grass will come seeking the friendship of fire? By nature, you are my food. How come that you are rambling incoherently like this?'

The frog replied, " It is true, Sir. Judging by species you are a natural enemy for me. But I have come to you after incurring insufferable insult at the hands of some people of my own clan. When I am faced with destruction and humiliation, is it not right on my part to approach even an enemy for friendship, offering some quid pro quo in return?"

"Tell me who caused you insult?" asked the cobra.

" It is my own kinsmen", replied the frog.

The snake asked, " Where do your relatives reside? Is it in a pond, or a well or a ravine ? “

"They are in a well with stones paved as steps”.

The snake replied, "How unfortunate, I cannot enter a well. We snakes do not have legs. And even if I manage to reach there I cannot come out so easily. Where can I reside inside the well? So you please get out of here. I am interested in my own welfare. So I will try to eat only things which can be digested inside my stomach with comfort." 

The frog replied." Do not despair, Sir. I have already found ways and means to introduce you into the well. There is a beautiful hole along the stone paving of the well and it can be an ideal residence for you. Sitting there, without any physical effort, you can eat away all my relatives one by one."

The snake thought. " I have already grown old. I am just keeping my body and soul together by catching some lean dry rat once in a while. This wretched frog who is the enemy of his own clan has now shown me a way to live in comfort with breakfast, lunch and dinner readily provided in the shape of fat frogs, that too without any exertion on my part."

So he told the frog king, " Friend, go ahead and show me the way"

" I have one request, Sir," said the frog, 

" some persons who are very close to me are living in that well. Please promise me that you will not trouble them."

The Cobra replied in mock anger, " What is this? You are my friend and benefactor and all those who are close to you are like my own life. How can I think of giving trouble to them. You just identify them. I will never cross their way."

The snake came out of the hole and gave a friendly hug to the frog. Both set out to the place where the well was situated. Both of them occupied the wick basket placed near the well, and reached the residence of the king of frogs well in time and in good shape. From there Gangadatta led the snake to the comfortable abode inside the well premises. He identified his enemies-cum-kinsmen very meticulously and true to his words, the Cobra made breakfast, lunch or dinner of them one by one with constant regularity.

Finally, all the enemies-cum-kinsmen of Ganagadatta the king of frogs existed merely in memory alone. And when Gangadatta felt that the mission was successfully completed, he called upon his friend the snake, and after thanking him profusely for the meritorious services rendered, told him. " Now my sweet friend, you can go back to your old hole. I shall inform you when the wick basket comes down the next time." 

The cobra could not conceal his displeasure. 

" Gangadatta my friend, I cannot endorse your views. How can I go back to my old hole? It would have been already occupied by now by someone else during my fairly long absence. So I suggest that you just identify your close relatives one by one so that I can have my food at regular intervals. If you are not agreeable to this proposition, I shall be left with no choice other than eating all of you in a single bunch, and proceed further as I may deem appropriate" ( Please listen to ring of the voice of the bureaucratic boss for the first time)

Poor Ganagdatta thought, " It was foolish on my part to invite the nuisance of a snake to punish my relatives. But he is very powerful.. If I try to defy him, he will eat all of us together with immediate effect. So it is better to offer him for food my dear relatives one by one, like paying installments to a taxman. This way I may be able to save at least my closest kin.. I do hope the snake will not try to eat me or my wife and children as he is a close friend of mine. If the destruction of everything is in sight and there is no way to defend all, it is better to offer some sops and try to get away with least damage."

Accordingly, he identified his brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces and in-laws (that is nice anyway) one by one for the breakfast, lunch and dinner of the long lean friend. And the snake would eat the relative offered for dinner with a flourish and then as if taking some bonus, would eat away a few other relatives in the sly. There is no wonder about this. Only a person wearing clean clothes has to worry about the cleanliness of the table and chair he occupies. For a fellow mired in muck everything around is according to law and everything is law. A man with no character is the most care-free person in this world. He need not worry about anything. How can one make a chimney covere with oily soot dirtier in any way? 

And finally, after gobbling up all the relatives of Gangadatta the king of frogs, the snake made a breakfast of young Yamunadatta, the darling son of the Royal frog. When the senior frog learnt about this, he started beating his head and crying. He could not control his tears. 

Before long, the snake ate up the queen frog as well as the other frog princes also. All that was left was the old man Gangadatta. Quite unlike humans and especially bureaucrats some trace of sense of propriety and fair-play was left in the snake. Even he could not think of eating his own long-time friend, the elderly frog Ganagadatta. However, he sent a note of warning to the frog. " I am now really hungry and no food is left. You may do the needful, or may face the consequences.”

Now some good sense dawned upon the frog. He replied with a lot of diplomacy. " Sir, it is quite unthinkable that you should starve when I am alive. I will explore and find some ways and means. I think the proper action to be taken by me in this case is that I should visit some other well, and talk to the frog occupants there and persuade them to visit this well and then you can finish the story by affixing proper dots and dashes in the script wherever necessary. " 

Saying this, the frog alighted the wick basket when it came down the next time. He never looked back. 

It was a period of very hungry wait for the snake. Days converted themselves into months but nothing was to be heard from the frog. The anxiety coupled with hunger made the snake desperate. But the snake was now weak and he did not have any means of getting out of the well. So he approached the lady iguana (udumbu) which was residing in the same well in the next apartment hole. He requested her to go out in search of the frog and deliver to him an urgent summons from his dear old friend, requesting the king of frogs to come back immediately with his contingent of fresh frogs. After a lot of persuasion and entreaties from the snake, the lady went out and found the frog somewhere and delivered the message from the snake.

The frog replied, " My fair lady, please pay my best compliments to my dear old friend, Priyadarsana, the snake, and tell him that I am constrained not to pay a visit to him as my life will be in peril. Please tell him that a desperate person like the snake who is in hunger and penury will not hesitate to do anything, and therefore I am not in a position to accept his hospitality in inviting me back to the well."

Saying thus, Gangadatta, the King of frogs bolted.

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