The Frog and the Nightingale: Believe in Yourself

This week’s theme made me read topics I never heard of about the society. Finally I came across a poem, written by Vikram Seth named “The Frog and the Nightingale” (published by Evergreen Publications, but it was later used by the Ministry of Education in India) which is a fable with a moral and like any other fable with morals, we fail to ponder over. As the name suggests, it’s about a frog and a nightingale; well you might think what does children poetry has do with me, a grown up? It does and you’ll understand what I mean once I am done. The relationship between the two characters, the frog and nightingale is highlighted remarkably. The frog in its monotonous routine croaks all night, and the creatures nearby don’t discourage it though they secretly wish the end of this misery.

Other creatures loathed his voice,
But, alas, they had no choice,

He was inconsiderate about his audience and in denial that he needed either to change or stop, which is quite to similar to several people we enjoy gossiping about, let it be TV or your personal life; gossip is present.

Back to the story, one day, thankfully, the night is blessed with the presence of a nightingale, who sings melodic and divine songs crafted by her talent and skill, receives a massive applause.

Toads and teals and tiddlers, captured
By her voice, cheered on, enraptured:
“Bravo! ” “Too divine! ” “Encore! “
So the nightingale once more,
Quite unused to such applause,
Sang till dawn without a pause.

For obvious reasons, envy slithers in between taking advantage of the naïve nightingale and crafts the story ahead. The green-eyed (envious) frog decides to offer her a critical feedback even though the frog isn’t an expert and doesn’t know what he is talking about.

“Did you… did you like my song? “
“Not too bad – but far too long.
The technique was fine of course,
But it lacked a certain force”.
“Oh!” the nightingale confessed.
Greatly flattered and impressed
That a critic of such note
Had discussed her art and throat

The inexperienced nightingale takes his words to heart, moulds herself to fit in and works harder. However trying to please frog, she gradually loses the joy of singing. In the end she pushes harder than ever to impress the crowd, it drains her to the edge of exhaustion and she gives up and dies.

Day by day the nightingale
Grew more sorrowful and pale.
Night on night her tired song
Zipped and trilled and bounced along,
Till the birds and beasts grew tired
At a voice so uninspired
And the ticket office gross
Crashed, and she grew more morose –
For her ears were now addicted
To applause quite unrestricted,
And to sing into the night
All alone gave no delight.

Now the frog puffed up with rage.
“Brainless bird – you’re on the stage –
Use your wits and follow fashion.
Puff your lungs out with your passion.”
Trembling, terrified to fail,
Blind with tears, the nightingale
Heard him out in silence, tried,
Puffed up, burst a vein, and died.
Said the frog: “I tried to teach her,
But she was a stupid creature –
Far too nervous, far too tense.
Far too prone to influence.
Well, poor bird – she should have known
That your song must be your own.
That’s why I sing with panache:
“Koo-oh-ah! ko-ash! ko-ash! “
And the foghorn of the frog
Blared unrivalled through the bog

This poem reminded me of the days, when I was a fresh graduate. I was ready to face the world with my enthusiasm and determination. When I got my first job I found myself in an environment, where the numerous frogs called “Corporate Bullies” were ruling over various nightingales. Though they were not talented, they were tolerated by the other creatures who call themselves as the “Authority”. As I had newly arrived on the scene they tried to impose their actions/manners on me in the name of “Company Standards” in the probationary period, where I was supposed to be trained about the effect it had on the continued organizational growth and development. But it was the lack of confidence due to which I relied on them for getting trained, but was unaware that my success was hidden in their shadows. They offered no words of encouragement for good work, but perpetually demanded me to work harder. Ultimately I was amongst those who lost the joy in working, trying to live up to someone else’s standards and expectations, losing my determination to go forward.

Therefore, the satire here being, “…a work that targets human vices and follies or social institutions and conventions for reform or ridicule”, is a warning to the people, who give up their talents, self-confidence and moral courage to those who have little knowledge themselves, and shares no worthwhile advice. So listen to their inner voice and act accordingly with self-confidence.

 Image Source: [1], [2]

Further Tripping…

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