Thursday, May 29, 2008

As Monsoon Comes Calling: The Story of a Frog Meeting with Global Market

KERALA HAS a vast folklore relating to its abundant monsoon, and these popular stories, anecdotes and little couplets keep changing from place to place according to the local dialects.

One of the popular songs goes as follows:

“Andippekka, thondippekka,
Venalkalathu Vangiya Katam Veeettitha…”
“Tharam pillare, tharam pillare…”

This is a dialogue between a mother frog and kids as monsoon hits the land and the fields get immersed with water, all the little holes in the earth gets filled and life once again blooms all around…

And the frogs celebrate the onset of monsoon with a cacophony of noises, the little ones’ shrieking noise drowned by the rough and deep noise of the bigger ones and then crickets taking up the music continuing all through the night as rains keep lashing everywhere.

This small folk song, collected by my friend K P Devadas from Kadathanadu near Vatakara, tells the story of a small loan the mother frog had taken during the summer season. The children are asking for repayment of the loan and she tells them to wait, she will surely repay once the rains come.

It is not surprising that frogs have a prominent place in these folklores because it is the frogs who herald the onset of monsoon as they launch themselves on a long session of various ragas as they excitedly confront their mating season. The vast paddy fields and the greenery gave them a most hospitable habitation and all parts of Kerala were home to a variety of frogs. Then came a season of exporting frog legs to western cuisines and very soon these harmless beings were wiped out from many parts! Before civilization and global trade came looking for them, frogs mainly had some snakes to worry about, as the local people considered eating frogs infra-dig.

Of course, the gluttony of the west and those who followed the western tastes were not the only reason for the genocide of frog population in Kerala landscape. The changing patterns in agriculture, with the practice of using pesticides, contributed to the decimation of frog population from our fields.

And now that has started showing. In all those years when I grew up as a child in the village where we used to live in a house close to a paddy field, I had never experienced a mosquito bite. But not so any longer. Mosquitoes are aplenty even in our villages and recently when I spent a night at my ancestral home I realized how much the world has changed; and along with it, my sleepy village too. It was the mosquitoes which came like attacking choppers that reminded me about the way my village has changed. Or how it has been able to catch up with the progress of civilization!

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