I’ve never boiled a frog though I recall it was nerve-wracking trying to dissect one back in Class Eight. My best galpal from childhood went on to do her MBBS at the Armed Forces Medical College, Pune and told tell me horrid stories of her big anatomy class and their cute girl corpse, that they called ‘Candy’. But in the matter of boiling frogs, as far as I can tell without firsthand empirical evidence, the theory does not hold. But the warning surely does: for abusive relationships, for political indoctrination, government encroachment and definitely, climate change. Oh, but the theory? Hugely popular with management consultants and ecowarriors, it’s the notion that “If you put a frog in boiling water, he will try to escape. If you put him in cold water and heat it gradually, the frog will remain in place until he's boiled, because that's the lesson (to us) that gradual, destructive change is not perceivable until it’s too late.”
For God’s sake, that’s the story of our present economic distress, isn’t it? It sounds dreadfully familiar and – surprise! –traditional solutions are being offered, too: prayer and ‘surrender’ (‘prapatti’ in Sanskrit). “Surrender to the fact that the inflation rate is higher than the growth rate and pray that OPEC will be kind,” says a colleague grimly. For home loan payers in particular it’s indeed been a long, slow frog-boiling, a gradual rise from the low of four years ago to the incredible high touched in June 2007, which will assuredly rise again next month.
If, like the frog in the theory, you want to be slow-boiled to death, you can tighten your belt yet another notch. Alternately, you can break free and foreclose on your loan, dump your ‘dream home’ and downscale.
This reporter would be the first to say, “Don’t have too much attachment to anything. Let it go, if the price is too high.” And equally, this reporter would say, “Have faith in a benign Providence. Something better is around the corner, if you trust life and go with the flow.” I don’t think that’s dumb prapatti. I truly believe that when life hands you lemons, you really can manage to make pretty decent lemonade.
As a random example of the many examples on the planet, let’s think back to those who sang the first hymns known to the world, the Vedic seers. They remain the first people known to us by their words and therefore are the heritage of every Indian. They were rightly reviled as a bad old bunch for some of their practices, but they’re not going anywhere, not even if European and American Indologists try hard to ‘own’ them! How can they when the Vedic words and names are part of living India?
One of the best things I find worth keeping from the ancient Vedic people is: spine. They faced wolves, cattle-stealers, sickness, storms and scarcity. And some of their prayers are so appropriate for today, if you take my meaning: “O Pushan, keep the wolf away from my path.”
Seriously though, if you listen to what the Vedic seers are saying, to what their hymns never stopped saying, this is what you hear.
God (Some Power, big and beautiful, maybe it’s just our collective good energy?) is all around us and in us.
We are part of this earth, so let’s respect Nature or it’s like pouring dirt on our own head. (Did you know the ancient Vedic people never made idols? They made precision-built altars instead and un-made them carefully after a a sacrifice, so that they didn’t leave litter behind).
It’s natural for everyone to want wealth and security. But let’s not be greedy; we don’t really need all that junk (A friend just found that out after moving to a new place. Some of the family’s cartons are still lying in her old home, now up for sale. She went back this week and was shocked to see how much they’d left behind that they hadn’t missed once at the new home).
Nobody and nothing is perfect. But, hey, the living’s in the trying.
If we do that quaint, oldfashioned thing of counting blessings, we’ll find there’s a lot of sweetness left yet in this tiring and often hurtful old world. And the useful thing about touching base with the ancients is that we get perspective. We realise, listening to their words, that good and bad have been happening anyway forever. So let’s stay stoic. But do let’s make this perspective boil at election time!