“i think,” said the frog, frowning wisely, “you start feeling freedom once you have lost something…”
he paused and gazed up at the sun moodily, then added a final word with an air of authority, “forever.”
the lavender swayed as it laughed, a throaty provocative sort of laugh, “a loss, really? of what? or of whom? and why should loss make you feel free?”
who’d have thought the slender spike of pale mauve flowers with those soft, intricately detailed, delicate petals would have so much throatiness in it.
the frog looked away disdainfully and lay down on the money plant. it had lived in the money plant pot for several years now. moving with us from jamshedpur to bangalore to bombay to singapore.
it was a sunday morning, when the mind lopes off to some other place, not quite bound by reality, nor fully lulled into fantasy, somewhere in between. the kind of place, not yet understood by science, but some day we’ll get there. it’s the sort of place that comes by every now and then, especially on a sunday morning.
anyway, back to the frog. it had remained the same size for almost ten years now. it appeared from time to time and hopped around wherever it pleased, then went back into the pot and vanished for days. we saw the frog a few times in calcutta, only twice in bangalore, but in bombay, for some reason, it roamed around the house quite frequently. perhaps it wasn’t comfortable in that house in bombay, just as we weren’t. some houses are like that.
actually we had no idea the frog had travelled with the flower pots in the back of the truck all the way from calcutta to bangalore. we were quite sure, once the pots were brought down from our eighth floor apartment, it would have heaved a sigh of relief and landed on mother earth. possibly even made its way to the grand trunk road and got a ride back to jamshedpur.
i had shrieked with horror the first time it had shown its greenish slimy self on my balcony in calcutta while i was peering at the money plant’s roots. the frog was about two inches long and an inch and a bit in height. its eyes bulged and it hopped with a springy step, often jumping a much greater distance than you’d expect of such a tiny thing.
my shriek had rattled the frog. it had sprung backward and fallen into the pot of portulakas. the magenta and yellow flowers were looking wonderful that winter morning, somehow a frog sitting on them glaring at me accusingly spoiled the effect.
my husband was the one who decided the frog must have come from jamshedpur, where we’d just moved from. it was a 290 kilometre drive, the creature might have been lounging in one of the pots when the truck was loaded and now here it was. when the truck had arrived, the pots had been taken straight up to our balcony on the eighth floor, so there was no question of a calcutta frog finding its way into one of them.
no, the frog was from jamshedpur, from the plains of bihar, or maybe it had sojourned from the hills of dalma where elephants roam free. or it was dwelling perhaps by dimna lake; and one day, given its love of rides, it had skipped and hopped into a picnic basket and sat quietly in the back of an old ambassador car all the way to blower house area, where we lived. there were many possibilities.
we decided not to give the frog a name. frogs don’t usually have names given by humans and anyway, other than grkkk, crrrfff, crr crrr, it never said anything much. how would it understand a name?
at that point, i of course did not suspect the frog could talk. and perfectly too. it even tried to affect a british accent. sometimes though it dropped the pretense and spoke like a frog. in a simple squishy bifid tongue way. it was quite a pleasant accent i will say, a roll in it. when we were leaving bombay, we decided we wanted the frog to come with us, so i put it in an empty jam jar, dug a few holes in the lid so it could breathe, threw in some money plant leaves, and brought it along to singapore in my hand luggage. security rarely looks for a frog, so there was no problem.
the lavender winked at the yellow dragonfly and jerked the tip of the spike in the direction of the money plant pot.
“oh don’t bother, i am too full to eat the dragonfly now,” said the frog dreamily, looking out at the sun, “beside it’s yellow in colour, not good for me, gives me acidity.”
the sky was powder blue, snowy cumulus clouds floated languidly like galleons on an endless voyage, the sun was bright and in full blaze. one degree north of the equator, you could really feel the magnificence of the star. the frog took a deep breath and was about to slip into a reverie when the lavender asked,
“but what did you mean about freedom and that losing stuff?”
the lavender, though english originally, had lived in singapore for many generations, its ancestor had arrived here a long time ago. now the lavender felt it was absolutely singaporean, no matter what the difficulties of weather or care, it just bounced back and flowered prettily. about a month ago, i’d forgotten to water it for almost a week, and that sun had been really out and about too, but the lavender hadn’t perished. it had drooped a little, but that was all.
“why do you wish to know?” the frog asked turning on its side, tucking a hand under its conical head and getting more comfortable, the gentle yet tough leaves of the money plant below, warm sunlight for cover. did i remember to mention, the frog never grew in size? it stayed exactly as tiny as it had been the first day i saw it.
“you are content to follow the fetters of the season, of what use is freedom to you?” the frog was in a mood to bait the lavender.
the lavender had known the frog for many years, it didn’t mind the occasional nastiness. the frog was wise and sometimes it could really make you laugh. she liked watching it eat, whipping its tongue out, catching flies and mosquitoes. she usually tried to save the dragonflies.
“but really, lose something,” the frog resumed and then paused, before saying, “forever!”
“and?” the lavender prompted.
“and you’ll feel terrible, of course!” the frog snapped.
then it gave a wide grin, a dragonfly fluttered nearby.
the frog turned its protruding eyes toward the lavender and muttered, “and then the oddest of things… just when it feels really truly impossibly absolutely permanently abysmally terrible and, yes, insurmountable, a flutter like those wings there.”
the frog paused once more, the dragonfly felt the danger of a gaze and zipped away.
the lavender bent a little closer to hear the frog.
“yes, a flutter, a mild one, nothing earth shattering you see. somewhere in the middle of that abysmality… you’ll feel something open, a gap,” the frog’s voice had dropped to a whisper, “a little opening. leading to what who knows, but a gap nonetheless. and through it you’ll start feeling freedom seep in… free…” the frog lay down and started whistling quite loudly.
the lavender thought to its mauve self, “abysmality?!!” what sort of a word was that? the frog was making up things! it was pulling the flower’s leg no doubt. and yet, something about that flutter and the gap and the free… the lavender wished it could understand.
“why do clouds float?” the frog murmured, “no, don’t bother to answer that. it was just a rhetorical question!”
i noticed the frog was speaking with its british accent. why, i wondered. was it disturbed?
that’s when the wisp of pink appeared on a branch of the jasmine shrub. the balcony had many plants beside the lavender, of course. it was like a little forest some said. it was lovely though. the yellow bells had just burst into bloom and the the back of the begonia leaves had turned a brilliant red.
“wisp of pink, when did you get here!” exclaimed the lavender, a happy lilt in its voice.
“i don’t get anywhere, lav, as you know… i appear,” the wisp of pink bounced on the branch, full of mirth.
“some might say, you don’t exist,” the frog said in a pondering sort of way.
the wisp of pink looped around the branch and sat down again.
“you can’t be measured, you have no weight, you can’t be touched,” the frog chuckled, “wisp of pink, you’re really not there!”
“but unreally, i am. yes, frog?” the wisp spun around a few times.
“why must everything be measured for it to be real?” the lavender asked, intrigued.
suddenly the frog jumped up and sat upright, craning its thick neck it looked at the lavender and then at the wisp of pink.
“shall we go for a quick trip,” it said, “such a balmy day!”
the wisp of pink floated over and sat on the frog’s slimy, green back. the lavender spike leaned over and let the frog catch it in its fingers. together they walked off toward the clouds.
i wanted to ask them to stop and finish the conversation but i didn’t want to be a spoilsport. a cloud slowed down, they hopped on. they may be back this evening or at some other time. the frog loved going for rides.
not everything makes perfect sense. thankfully. who doesn’t need fantasy and a frog that will come along with you as you move from place to place. thank you for reading.