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Don’t be a Frog in the Well

We have all heard the story about a frog in the well. In our ancient texts, it is called Kupamanduka, where kupa means a well and manduka means a frog. In Bangla, it’s called ‘kuo bang’, where kuo means well and bang means frog. The story is also found in Chinese folk tales.

In Malay language, there is a phrase ‘katak di bawah tempurong‘, which means ‘frogs under a coconut shell’. In 1893, a Parliament of World Religions was held at Chicago, USA. Here, Swami Vivekananda represented India and Hinduism. He narrated this story to illustrate why there were so many differences among religions.

The story goes like this: A frog lived in a well. He was born and brought up there. It was a very old well filled with shallow water at the bottom. The walls of the well were all covered with wet moss. When the little frog was thirsty, he drank a little bit of the well water, and when he was hungry, he ate some insects. When he was tired, he lay on a little rock at the bottom of the well and looked up at the sky above him. Sometimes he saw passing clouds. He was very happy and satisfied. One day, another frog that lived in the ocean came and fell into the well.

‘Where are you from?’

‘I am from the ocean.’

‘The ocean! How big is that?’

The well frog took a small leap.

‘Is it this big?’

The ocean frog laughed and said, ‘No, it is bigger.’

The well frog took a bigger leap and asked, ‘This big?’

‘No.’

The well frog took a mighty leap from one side of the well to the other.

‘Is it as big as my well?’

‘What nonsense you speak, to compare the sea with your well!’

‘Well, then,’ said the frog of the well, ‘nothing can be bigger than my well; you are a liar, get out of my well.’

Let’s not laugh too much on the frog in the well because we are all like him in some way or the other. We, too often, discount things that lie outside our own experience. We think that we have seen all there is to see and we know all there is to know.

We all have our wells; whether we can recognise them or not. Remember, we can be a happy frog even at the bottom of a well but we can be a much happier frog out in the big wide world. We must recognise our well and come out of it. The only way to expand our knowledge is to shun our narrow-mindedness and broaden our horizons. 

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