22 June, 2021

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The Story Of Advising A Tadpole

By Mahesan Niranjan

Prof. Mahesan Niranjan

Somewhere in a faraway land is a well with a colony of frogs living in it. They have lived there for generations and are proud of their way of life. Strong hierarchy is a particular aspect of their culture. There is a super senior frog, beneath whom are middle level frogs, then more junior frogs and beneath them were the young tadpoles. There was some understanding in days gone by that the purpose of the well was to serve the tadpoles by providing an environment in which they are nurtured and their horizons stretched so they may leave the well in some mature shape or form. Such thoughts no longer apply.

At the surface level, the hierarchy in the well manifests as “Sir” and Madam” used to address those above. Names are used only in the downward direction. To know how high up the hierarchy was frog A with respect to frog B, you only need to count the frequency with which B would use one of these keywords per unit of time. That is syntax. Semantics always come from A. Lower down, B performs as follows:

“<nod> Sir <nod> <nod> Sir Sir <nod> <nod> <nod> Sir Sir Sir.”

The well and its inhabitants are in bad shape, having been through decades of tough times when lions and tigers were at war. Lions saw no difference between tigers and tadpoles. Tigers wanted to morph young tadpoles into killer machines. So the tadpoles and frogs perished in large numbers, maybe in their thousands, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands. We do not know.

Nobody was counting.

Many frogs lost their limbs. Anyone who cares to peep into the well will easily notice some who are just about managing to swim with paper-clips as substitutes.

Some frogs, however, managed to leave the well. They jumped high and escaped far. Some of the escapees were fortunate to receive kisses from Lady Sa Sa, from her throne atop a white lotus. A kiss from the good Lady can turn a frog into a prince (or princess), endowed with education. It brings out the best in them. Such lucky frogs readily liberate themselves from the enforced belief systems of the well back home. For example, they give greater attention to observing that the human genome has been sequenced in its entirety, than to worrying about whether the cat crossed the road from left to right or right to left as an omen of events to come.

Occasionally, the escapee frogs look back in time and space.

“Well, I also came from the well,” they might say to themselves. The thought that the well nurtured them and gave them a protective environment during their tadpole days, combined with what they observe about its current state, may even induce a mild feeling of guilt in the escapee frogs – now princes or princesses. The probability of such guilt induction tends to be high after the second glass of wine. “Should I be doing something back home?”, they wonder and even shed some tears, to the embarrassment of the more mighty amphibian to whom that particular art is often attributed.

But we know about feelings of guilt, don’t we? They decay exponentially with short time constants. So such temptations of “doing something back home” are easily forgotten.
What’s more, the escapees would also have received a kiss from Lady La La, seated atop her throne on a red lotus. A fine standard of living consisting of material goods, schooling for the next generation of tadpoles – princes and princesses – and gifts to temples will follow this kiss. Those cannot be easily given up. Hence, examples of princes or princesses returning to the well are rare.

Now, back in the well, the chief was about to retire and leadership elections were being held. Just about everyone in the layer below jumped at the idea of being the next chief and put their names forward. That is the usual pattern. When the chief goes, someone hops one level up the hierarchy. The perks must be good, for the hop has often happened by hook or by crook. History shows it is always from within. It is always to protect the age-old culture. It is always to maintain the rhythmic chants:

“<nod> Sir <nod> <nod> Sir Sir <nod> <nod> <nod> Sir Sir Sir.”

Well, no outsider has ever broken into the well-maintained hierarchy of the well.

On this occasion, however, one escapee frog — now a prince — thought differently and put his name forward from a faraway La La land. His educational accomplishments are demonstrably impressive. He has been kissed on both cheeks by Lady Sa Sa, you will agree. I know someone else, who also left the well some time ago, proudly identified with this prince as “this guy is from my part of the world, you know,” when discussing his work at a journal club recently.

The news of his interest stirred the already muddle waters in the well and worries were expressed.

“Hooray,” we hear cheers. Saved by the intervention of Lady Ka Ka! To the delight of those high up in the hierarchy, postman Pat who carried the Prince’s good intentions was delayed on the way. Apparently, one Saint A. Claws has been doing several busy rounds creating much traffic and slowing things down on highways.

The lowest ranks of the hierarchy in the well – the small frogs and tadpoles – are generally unhappy with status quo. In the past, they not only had to put up with top down instructions, but were also dependent on the same hierarchy for the flow of information. These days, however, they have knowledge of a better external world, discovered by going on frognet and reading froggypedia.

Their knowledge is surprising because, statistically, users of frognet are known to spend the largest fraction of their surf time on frogface sharing their pictures and liking those of others. Second comes time spent on frogwin reading about the millions who marched at the glorious frogrise gathering recently. Third in the rank is frogtube where one may study the latest dance moves from Bollywood.

Against all such odds of statistics, we are happy to note that the tadpoles are well informed on the subject of the existence of a wider world – of ponds and lakes and the sea — and their thirst to make the well a better place ought to be acknowledged. They deserve better.

So we now understand that the outsider prince is not going to be considered for the top job and, as usual, someone on the next step down the existing hierarchy will be crowned. They will then able to preserve the traditions and cultures we have carried with us for centuries. Everyone in the well will continue to look to see if the cat crossed the road from left to right or right to left, the well will continue to rot and decision making processes will sing the rhythmic chants:

“<nod> Sir <nod> <nod> Sir Sir <nod> <nod> <nod> Sir Sir Sir”

All that being the environment of the well, earlier this afternoon, a young tadpole named TaDa asked his mother: “What will become of me, ammi (mother), when I grow up?”

“Que TaDa, TaDa,” the wise mother croaked, “you ought not to try and predict the future putha (son). Nobody here cares about you. Nor does anyone care about the well collapsing little by little.

“Try and jump high. Try and jump out of the well.

“Lady Sa Sa will give you a kiss and you will turn into a prince. And when you receive the kiss, the best in you will come out.

“And then you need not be concerned if the cat crossed from left to right or right to left as an omen to tell the future. You could be intrigued that the genome has been sequenced in its entirety.

“And Lady La La may also give you a kiss. And you may have a good life, darling TaDa. And if you make it there, you can drink a second glass of wine.

“And, at times, even cry like a croc.”

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Latest comments

  • 3
    2

    Social fabric of Jaffna has changed. Dynamic leaders such as Mr Anandarajan and Me Thiruchelvam were intentionally eliminated. Tamil polity had a definitive role in the future of tamils however they have not apologised to community yet.

    They can take the leadership role in advocating the meritocracy in university of Jaffna. But being frogs they may canvass surreptitiously for one than advocating it in public.

    • 4
      0

      Ken Robert

      “But being frogs they may canvass surreptitiously for one than advocating it in public.”

      Have you noticed that there has been creeping anti intellectualism among academics as well as ordinary people through out the island.

    • 3
      0

      Prof. Mahesan Niranjan

      RE: The Story Of Advising A Tadpole

      Thanks. A good analogy of the frogs and tadpoles.

      “For example, they give greater attention to observing that the human genome has been sequenced in its entirety, than to worrying about whether the cat crossed the road from left to right or right to left as an omen of events to come.”

      You did not mention that the Frogs and Tadpoles, are foreign Frogs and Tadpoles, called Para-Frogs and Para-Tadpoles, in a land belonging to other Native Frogs and Tadpoles.

      The genome of the frogs and tadpoles you describe have been analyzed, and the Frogs and Tadpoles you describe have been found to be Para-Frogs and Para-Tadpoles from another Frog Land.

      Mitochondrial DNA history of ethnic Frogs and Tadpoles.

      Through a comparison with the mtDNA HVS-1 and part of HVS-2 of Para database, both Tiger Frog and Lion Frog clusters were affiliated with Para subcontinent Frog populations than Native Frogs who are believed to be the native population of the well.

      http://www.nature.com/jhg/journal/v59/n1/full/jhg2013112a.html

  • 5
    5

    Mahesan Niranjan,[Edited out], has drawn in Hindu Gods with pictures unnecessarily in this article. I do not understand the relevance. Previously great Ramana Maharishi was dragged by him for no reason. His anti Hindu venom has no limits and it hurts the Hindu readers. [Edited out]

    • 5
      4

      Mark,
      I agree.
      These pictures are in very bad taste.
      They have no relevance.

      • 0
        0

        justice,

        “These pictures are in very bad taste.”

        They are amusing and relevant to the story.

    • 5
      3

      Mark
      Why do you think mere pictures are Gods and get perturbed?
      God is an invention of the mind, that is my believe.
      That said, The frogs in the author’s well is another at a piece of fiction like H. G. Well’s’ Animal Farm’. That is all.
      Try and understand it from that angle and you will know what he is trying to convey as a message for us all in SL as life is in the Island who inhabit it.
      When are we going to do something to get out of that suffercating well and breath the fresh air is the question ?

      • 0
        0

        Correction
        The author of ‘Abimal Farm’ is George Orwell.

        • 3
          0

          What does it matter, as both Orwell and HG Wells are wells?

          • 0
            0

            SJ sure has wit!

  • 11
    2

    There are many wizened, but unwise frogs in the well striving hard to bring up the tadpoles to be like them. They would kill to keep the well as it is. They will not permit a vigorous, much travelled and wise frog to tell his tale of the wonders beyond and provide hope for the fast growing tadpoles. They will keep on preaching that the striped tadpole was the greatest of all. They insist that the old frogs and tadpoles learning to croak, should all croak in the name of ‘Frogil’, their language, which is fast dying in the old well, along with the way of life it came to represent.

    They are blind to also the fact that the well water is polluted and becoming sparse. They may die off, far before they forget to croak in the prestine ‘Frogil’ they once did.

    Prof. Mahesan Niranjen, your beautiful composition made me contemplate the sad plight of the old well up north and the panoply of old frogs that preside over the affairs of the hound tadpoles!

    The University of the old well, is also trying to keep clean water and fresh air away from the well, with the able assistance of a tardy postman and ‘Frog in the well’ academics Lawyers and a retiring Vice Chacellor.

    Oh! What happened to my once glorious well!

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 1
      0

      DrRN
      The well will return to its glory when all manner of creatures stop defecating in it.

      • 0
        0

        SJ,

        Domestic pigs are considered dirty. They defeacate and urinate all over a dirty pen and wallow in the dirt.
        However, if the pen is kept clean and dry, with only a corner wet, they move to that corner to defeacate and urinate. They do not dirty the dry part of the pen. They also stop wallowing in dirt.

        I think we have a lesson to learn from the pigs!

  • 8
    9

    I do not know whose bright idea it was to use the image of Kali and call her evil. Kali is a challenge to male dominance. Of many powerful Goddesses in Indian traditions whom Sanskritization tried to merge, Kali survived intact.
    She (not a communist or anarchist by any chance) can be as fierce as Rudra, and use violence to overcome evil
    This aspect could give an unexpected twist to the story, but I reject that the Prince was evil in any way.
    I harbour doubts, however, about a few of the frogs among those croaking aloud for the arrival of the Prince, who after Kali’s harsh intervention are cursing all and sundry for their plight. Perhaps it was them that Kali sought to punish and not the Prince?
    I do not want to improvise further as I am awaiting my old friend from France, Inspector Jacques Clouseau who arrived a few days ago to resolve a string of mysteries including the hijacked package and other conspiracies. But he is rather slow these days.

    • 2
      1

      SJ

      I was told VP was a Kali devotee. Was he wearing a garland of human hull when he was reigning over all Tamils including your goods self?

      • 2
        2

        We are told many things about many people. The Hindu religion is full of myths and mythology as do other religions to perhaps a less degree.
        People believe what they like to.
        Being a non-believer, I do not worship and choose to keep an open mind.

        Sorry for the slow response– I know that you are most forgiving with me.
        I had to spend time with Inspector Clouseau who sought my help in his tour of the island before he settled down to resolve the various mysteries in a place that some frogs which crossed the seas to return as princes— especially the ones that only ended up as toads —choose to call a well.

        • 0
          0

          SJ,

          “I had to spend time with Inspector Clouseau who sought my help in his tour of the island before he settled down to resolve the various mysteries in a place that some frogs which crossed the seas to return as princes— especially the ones that only ended up as toads —choose to call a well.”

          Finally a foreign policeman from Surete is investigating mysteries in SL.

          Any hope of foreign judges in the future?

          Please request Inspector Clouseau to investigate the well water in Chunnakam now that he is in the area.

      • 0
        0

        Native Vedda,

        “I was told VP was a Kali devotee.”

        Come on! VP was a or the God himself. Why would the Sun God want any competition from other deities?

        Btw I have discovered a new hybrid deity in Jaffna called “Muttu Mary Amman”.

  • 2
    1

    If we believe all the outdated myths build over centuries one will even believe that the pigs and frogs can fly.

  • 8
    0

    Finally I can sync with Dr Niranjan’s writing style!

    You don’t believe the mentality of even the mid-level leaders in the well. In the post war challenging environment, some of tadpoles would be selected and trained to perform somersaults. Then they had to perform the somersaults in front of their local leaders. During this time, some of the local leaders would get nerves and make sure none of the tadpoles would perform better than their personal records. Once in a while a few young tadpoles would set the bar high. Then the local leaders would place young tadpoles in a hostile environment. Not sure it was the definition for tough love or pure hate. Eventually local leaders would brainwash the young tadpoles to think like their traditional hierarchy system. Even worse, some leaders would not allow a tadpole from another group in the well to outperform their own team. They never think that all young tadpoles came from the same well.

    The best way to challenge the traditional hierarchy system is to create another colony in the well and create a parallel system so that young tadpoles would know the difference between the failing traditional hierarchy system and an alternative system that can benefit all the occupants in the well.

  • 2
    0

    As soon as you get the frogs out of the well and make them enlightened, Tamils are doomed. There won’t be Tamils anymore.

    All these political solutions are to exploit and to ilve in the well, there are people who do not have help. god knows it. but, what he can do. People think god is almighty. Even the recent turmoil in the Jaffna University in selcting the VC should be Caste related.

    Anyway, I know, Kaali is not a Bad goddess. she is very reasonable, she followes rules. She is bad only for the wicked.

    • 2
      0

      If we Sinhalese comment on what happens in the Northern areas of our country, we must make sure that what we say is constructive. “Jim softy”, you seem to hate all Tamils and want them to disappear from the face of the earth. It is wrong for you to say such things.

      It is very important that all areas of Sri Lanka function well. That means we must do whatever we can to ensure, in this instance, that Jaffna gets the best possible Vice Chancellor.

      Let all applicants be interviewed.

    • 3
      2

      Jim
      A frog in the well is truly a mind-set.
      Take one out of a well and dump in a puddle in a faraway land: the fellow picks up a little knowledge and, lodged in some corner of his puddle, will as arrogantly croak to others on what to do and what not to.

      Travelling widens one’s mind– my foot.
      Do not go far, take the CM of Jaffna. Personally a decent and well respected professional who spoke much sense before he travelled to the West, but returned as a person hardened in nationalist prejudices.
      Look at all the well-educated Tamil and Sinhalese frogs that leapt afar to land on greener pastures, now spilling even worse narrow nationalist venom than in their days in the well.

      I know of plenty of frogs in local wells who understand their wells very well and know how to coexist with fellow frogs and other creatures.
      They are less informed of the world outside but are capable of understanding what happens around them and have better instincts than the frogs that left the well in haste.

      I have a clutch of famous frog fables which are as interesting. Mark Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” is one such. But I have juicier ones on frogs of later days.

      I will bring you some of those tales once I dispose of this guy, my old friend from France, Inspector Jacques Clouseau, who is now a pain in my neck demanding confidential documents to whose privacy I have sworn.

  • 9
    0

    Dear Dr.Niranjan,

    You are a native of the Nagar of Courage ! Your moves and checks are excellent!! These local Deanfrogs have applied after “Thi Pongal” saying “Thi Piranthal Vali Prakkum” Not only that at the “Valarpirai” One AgricultureFrog placed his application at the Chavakacheri Temple to get God’s grace. Medical frog sooner joining the new well became Head frog and then Dean frog now trying to be the VC frog. He claimed FRCS(UK) without that qualification. Definitely Medical frog will print forged Degree Certificates and get hisses from Lady LaLa if he gets the post!! I think Niranjan you just escaped from the curse of these frogs as you did not want to be the other Prince from the UK……

    • 2
      0

      “native of the Nagar of Courage”

      Took me some time to get but I like this nice interpretation of my roots! Thanks.

      • 3
        0

        What you write is enough evidence of your roots and upbringing ..

        Cheers !!!

  • 12
    0

    Dear Prof Niranjan,

    Please consider applying to the post of VC next time. People like you should give leadership to the university. The system needs to be changed. Only courageous and open-minded people like you can do it. So please take the next opportunity available and apply for the VC’s position.

    • 0
      0

      Abiman
      But what happens if the lady lawyer PC in the University Council telephones her advice that his application arrived a day late?
      Any way why would he again jump into the well of frogs?

      • 3
        2

        You may educate the potential VC about the existence of courier service.

        • 3
          0

          SJ,

          “courier service”

          Yeah, yeah but the applicants should use “registered cover” whatever it is. My experience is that courier services leave valuable parcels and letters with my neighbors kids. The guy on Lumala aka postman is much better.

        • 0
          0

          Yes, let’s educate the man after re-instating him to the status of “potential VC”.

          We need the fresh flowing water of rivers, not wells with frogs in them.

          Unfortunately, rivers never flow backwards.

          • 0
            0

            Sinhala-Man,

            “Unfortunately, rivers never flow backwards.”

            Is there not one in Venezuela that changes direction?

          • 0
            0

            Possibly, Jeya T!

            But you knew what I meant!

            There’s another interesting thing called “The Bay of Fundy” in Canada!

  • 3
    11

    Niranjan is a frog in the well himself. He points out by implication the deficiencies in Jaffna University – much to the glee of language-divide supporters. Surely Niranjan should know that every Lankan university is a well with lots of frogs. It is not rocket science to find out that this frog-in-the-well syndrome was set in soon after independence in 1948 by language-dividists – they have continued to amass wealth.

    British universities may not be wells but are ponds and British academics are frogs in ponds – they like to call the ponds Ivory Towers.

    Come off these fables Niranjan. These may be OK in your lectures – particularly the Hindu Goddesses. Your students may call you a liberal but remember they are week-old undergrads.

  • 9
    1

    Thanks, Niranjan.

    Your stories always entertain, but, of course they make important social or political points.

    Let me add my two cents worth on the COMMENTS, since I know little of Jaffna, first hand. Amarasiri and Native Vedda (for all his pretences otherwise) I take to be non-racist Sinhalese. I would then claim to be the third such person, or it may be that “Nimal” also could be so described.

    “Jim softy” is almost definitely a racist Sinhalese. He insists on making comments on almost every article. If it relates in any way to the North of the country, or to Tamils, his comments are usually nasty, NEVER constructive.

    I have challenged him here:

    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-profound-impact-of-caste-in-contemporary-sri-lanka/comment-page-1/#comment-2076597

    Those are the only “Sinhalese” people who comment. We must be concerned with everything happening on our island, but not complicate matters that we know little of.

    In this instance it seems rational to me for the Professor of Biochemistry to be interviewed for the position of Vice Chancellor, Jaffna University.

  • 4
    9

    Nasty frogs, at home and abroad, imagining that they at the top of the queue to be kissed to metamorphose as a princes, use any puddle anywhere to croak curses at any other frog that could be a potential chief.

  • 2
    0

    SJ it seems you have escaped from your previous two play grounds. Could you play softball for one more session.

    • 0
      0

      Sorry mate GS,
      The second was really a continuation of the first.
      You should have realized by now that I am neither player nor punter, but a lazy commentator from the gallery.

      I got caught to my old friend Inspector Jacques Clouseau from France– Good guy, but a pain in the neck.
      True that I missed out on the fun, but seems not a lot as the fibs are now less original.

      I will be reporting the findings of good old JC soon. The catch is that I have to make them 300 word packages to pass the gatekeeper.

      • 1
        0

        Looking forward to reading the 300-word revelations.

  • 3
    0

    Mahesan Niranjan,

    Thank you for your story.

  • 0
    0

    Here you are, ScienceGrad

    Inspector Clouseau was not very cheerful.
    “Mon home, all of them told me that the lady with the funny hat was the culprit. But I know that everybody is always wrong. But to make them happy, I started my inquiry with her.”

    What follows is his narrative:
    Tears in her eyes she said “They blame me for what Goddess Kali did.”
    “Did Goddess Kali hide the packet?”
    “Not her…Believe me, it was I who asked the Yankee to apply.”
    “Why on earth bonne dame?”
    Hesitantly she admitted, “I want to go down in history as the best VC that my university had in this century.”
    “How will this yankee doodle help?” I asked
    With a sly smile she said “If he succeeds me the Mafia who pestered me will make life miserable for him and he will make a mess. There will be chaos.”
    “Do you expect to be called back?”
    “Don’t be stupid Jaques!”
    “Then?”
    “The mess will take another civil war for campus life to return to normal. You think that I want to preside over that? No way!” and she proceeded “Nobody with anything upstairs will want to touch the job, and I will be the best VC this place knew for may be another hundred or even three hundred years.”
    Then she started sobbing. “Mother Kali has let me down badly, despite my daily pooja!”
    I was interested in the packet. “Who do you suspect did the job?”
    “It had to be a candidate, and I suspect…” and she stopped abruptly.
    Jaques moaned in grief. “I could not get another word out of her.”
    But, as usual, he cheered up soon after to say “I have got a clue now” and ventured out on his next episode.

    • 0
      0

      SJ,

      Thank you for a nice story. Expecting to read more later.

      Did you not promise to stay away for two days?

      • 0
        1

        But I do not always keep my promises much to the dismay of some of my ‘admirers’.

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