Monday, February 28, 2011

Mem Tak-Tak Pa – The Clever Frog

Hop! Hop! Hop! Jump! Jump! Jump! 

Out came Mem Tak-Tak Pa – the old toad from his small marshy pond. The pond, formed of an accumulation of water that oozed out from the base of a huge old willow tree had few water lilies sprouting out and thick grasses surrounding it. With branches of willow drooping over the pond, it served a perfect home for Mem Tak-Tak Pa. This pond is also a source of livelihood for other wild animals. Creatures like deer, wild pheasants, boars and monkeys often frequented this pond for water. 

Over the time, he had managed to develop a perfect under water palace for himself with numerous compartments, wherein he would hide himself in times of danger. Whenever a visitor approached his pond, he would hide himself in one of those cells. His life was not without dangers. He sustained several threats in the past mainly because of the perfect home he had. Once in a while he would come out hopping and jumping and do the round with great pride.

One fine morning, as the early rays of sun pierced through the branches of that old willow, Mem Tak-Tak Pa jumped out of his pond with splashes and sprinkles of water drops giving rise to a beautiful rainbow formation over his pond for a moment.
“Hop! Hop! Hop!
Jump! Jump! Jump!
When the sun shines bright,
Off goes my entire plight.”

He made a round of his pond with unsurpassable pride. He was totally lost in his pride when suddenly a huge dark shadow appeared over him.  Oops! In a moment he was lifted high in the sky, firmly clasped within the claws of a giant dark Crow.

“Ah! Ah! I was waiting for this day.” The cunning Crow had been hiding among the branches of that old willow tree planning this catch for last few days.

Satisfied with his game, the Crow said, ‘You’ll serve me a good meal for the day.’ Poor old frog had nothing in his mind except for the fear of his death. He looked down, but his grateful pond is nowhere to be seen, instead he saw a larger pond underneath. It was so huge and looked beautiful with a large boulder in the middle raised above water surface.

The Crow clasped old frog with his claws harder and threatened, ‘I’ll eat you, if you have any last wishes to make this is the time, otherwise your death is not very far.’ Poor Mem Tak-Tak Pa, his eyes wet with tears replied, ‘Oh! No! Give me some time to speak out my last wish.’ Meanwhile old frog has thought over his trick and gained some confidence for his escape. ‘Will you loosen me a bit from your claws, so that I can speak out my wish clearly,’ begged old Mem Tak-Tak Pa. ‘Alright!’ said the Crow loosening the frog a bit, ‘now go ahead with your wish.’

Mem Tak-Tak Pa thanked the Crow and began, ‘I’ve been wishing this all my life’
‘What’s that?’ interrupted the Crow.

‘All throughout my life,’ Mem Tak-Tak Pa continued, ‘I wished that when I die, I be laid on top of a large boulder situated in the middle of the pond and first be offered to Kenchogsum before falling prey to anyone.’
‘Now that I’m at your mercy and I beg you to let me fulfill my last wish,’ said the Frog.
‘Agreed,’ said the Crow and took old Frog to the pond and boulder to which old Mem Tak-Tak Pa had fancied for so long. The Crow laid the frog on the boulder and asked, ‘How do I make an offering now?’ ‘Oh! It’s  simple. Just close your eyes and face up in the sky and make prayers. Kenchogsum would be watching over us with blessings from there,’ instructed the clever Mem Tak-Tak Pa.

The Crow, not aware of this trick being played closed his eyes, faced up and started to pray – “Ahh…h!  Ahh…h!  Ahh…h!” While the Crow was engaged in his prayers Mem Tak-Tak Pa jumped into the pond and escaped his death.

The Crow could not believe the trick he suffered. As the Crow watched with great loss and surprise, Mem Tak-Tak Pa disappeared in the waters displaying few breaststrokes and freestyles – that he is fond of. Sad and hungry Crow set off to join rest of his folk in the mountains with a feeling of great loss.

After his close encounter with the Crow, Mem Tak-Tak Pa was thoroughly tired and he needed a good rest. Once again, Hop! Hop! Hop! and Jump! Jump! Jump! he got out of that pond to find himself a peaceful place to lie on. Not very far from that pond is a small cave overlooking the pond below. With panoramic view of the pond and cool breezes, Mem Tak-Tak Pa settled there for a short nap.

But not long before he could settle for a much desired rest, an intruder approached from amongst the bushes.

“Wai! Mem Tak-Tak Pa, What are you doing?” A huge Tiger appeared panting as he spoke. ‘Hmm…Taking rest!’ replied Mem Tak-Tak Pa, ‘What are you up to?’ ‘Just looking around,’ so the conversation went on. ‘The day is sunny,’ said Mem Tak-Tak Pa. ‘Yeah!  And slightly hot too,’ responded the Tiger and requested, ‘Will you help me scratch my head? I normally get rashes in the sun.’ Mem Tak-Tak Pa who wished for a peaceful day off climbed over the Tiger reluctantly and started scratching. As he scratched, he picked up furs from Tiger’s head and carefully slid them in his mouth and asked, ‘What do you eat normally?’ ‘Why? I eat mostly deer and sometimes wild boar,’ replied the Tiger casually. ‘How about you?’ asked the Tiger. ‘Hmm, I eat grasses and insects mostly, but when my luck favours I eat Tiger too,’ boasted the frog. The Tiger couldn’t believe this and said, ‘You’re kidding! How can small creature like you ever think of eating huge animal like me? I can’t believe this.’

The Frog had already inflicted fear in him and said, ‘I’m serious. I just finished one and was taking rest as you came by. I can prove it to you.’ Mem Tak-Tak Pa jumped off from his head ferociously and facing the Tiger started to vomit those furs that he slid under his tongue and said, ‘Here it is! You want to face similar fate like your friend,’ saying this frog jumped towards the Tiger angrily.

Seeing this, the Tiger jumped off abruptly and started running for his life when suddenly he was stopped by the Fox. ‘Wait! Wait! Why are you running? You look scared too, why?’ asked the Fox. ‘I’m scared, Mem Tak-Tak Pa eats Tiger,’ replied the Tiger as he ran, ‘He must be following me and better watch out, you might as well fall to his prey.’ ‘But there’s no one behind you,’ said the Fox, ‘Hey! Listen to me!’ the Fox insisted. The Tiger stopped. ‘You are the boss of this jungle, how can anyone dare to harm you,’ the Fox continued. ‘I saw it. That frog eats Tiger,’ said the Tiger in great fear. ‘Come on don’t be coward now,’ said the Fox, ‘How can small insect-eating creature like him threaten your life.’ ‘I can’t believe this!’ continued the Fox, ‘Any way, let’s go back together and teach that frog a lesson.’ ‘Oh! No,’ muttered the Tiger. ‘Come on I’ll accompany you,’ insisted the Fox. The Fox then tied one end of rope to the Tigers leg with other end tied to his leg.

Frightened Tiger followed the Fox reluctantly. They reached near the cave where Mem Tak-Tak Pa lived and peeped through the bushes. As they approached, Mem Tak-Tak Pa jumped towards them, ‘This Tiger has come again. I’ll not spare him this time.’ Hop! Hop! Hop! and Jump! Jump! Jump! went the Frog chasing intruders off.  

‘Oh! Run for your life,’ cried the Tiger and started running and jumping, dragging the Fox along. The Tiger jumped over the cliff. But poor Fox, got separated from the Tiger as the rope broke off, and crash landed over a huge boulder down in the valley and died.

***I heard this story from my mother long time back but I heard this again from Mr. Dorji Tshewang, an official with the Royal Court of Justice, Lhuentse during one of our trips to Singye Dzong. Therefore, this is based on what he narrated to me.

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