Image Credit: matheran.org
Originally written for and published by The Hindu.
When my parents planned a trip to Matheran, I wasn’t actually that delighted. I was looking forward to a long, lazy holiday, doing nothing. “Another trip?” I groaned unmotivatedly. “I just want to stay in this small, dark cave where the bugs and humidity won’t get at me.” But they pooh-poohed these perfectly reasonable objections, and off to Matheran it was.
The train which takes tourists from Nerul to Matheran wasn’t running. (No vehicles are allowed in Matheran). That meant we, along with scores of others who were also not deterred by this, had to walk along the railroad tracks the whole way. The trail looked like it was straight out of The Jungle Book, and I confess to having enjoyed the walk, despite an unwelcome skirmish with a pair of monkeys. They thought snatching fruit juice from the open bag was acceptable behaviour. I politely disagreed. If that wasn’t enough, one of them followed me, its greedy, gleaming eyes fixed unblinkingly on the half of the sandwich I was holding. Intrepid, fearless traveller that I am, I dropped it like a hot potato and speed-walked straight out of there.
The first day of our trip was quite lovely. The town was densely (well, more or less) forested, and there were long hiking trails because the trees hadn’t been cut down to make roads. Unfortunately, these trails were filled with horsemen. Not centaurs, but those men who make their living by giving people rides on their horses — in this case, as an alternative to walking the whole way. Still, at least the dust in the air was kicked up by the horses, not the smoke from vehicle exhaust pipes. However, we could hardly have predicted what was going to happen the next day.
My mother stepped out of the bathroom the next morning. “There’s a frog in there,” she announced, in the same way one might announce that the newspaper had been delivered. My father arrived immediately, knowing that his presence was of the essence. After we got over our initial bewilderment that a small swamp creature was in the toilet, my brother and I began to debate as to what method my parents might employ to dispose of the intruder. “Maybe they’re going to flush it down,” I suggested brightly. My parents re-emerged from the Temple of Doom. We eagerly inquired as to what the method of disposal had been. My father declined to comment, while my mother implied that it had been gruesome. “Maybe he squashed it and then flushed it down,” I suggested to my brother. “I’d rather not know anymore,” he replied, looking queasy. We set off on our hike, believing we had left the episode behind us.
When we returned in the afternoon, I went into the bathroom. Phew! Thank God there isn’t a frog in here any longer, I thought. I ran out, screaming. “There’s still a frog in there!” I said accusingly. They didn’t look surprised. “All this while, I’ve been wondering what you’d done to the frog,” I grumbled. “And it turns out you’ve done nothing.”
By evening there were not one but two frogs in the toilet, and the second popped out when we tried flushing the first one down. “Maybe they’re brother-and-sister frogs,” said my brother. “Just like us.” I was revolted. “Even if we’d been born frogs,” I said, “I’d like to think we’d have more class than to live in a toilet-bowl.” Nighttime found a third frog joining in on the fun.
Odder still was that I was the only one bothered that there were swamp-dwelling amphibians in our bathroom. I mean, three frogs the size of babies’ fists and the colour of mud were jumping, and I mean jumping, around in there. Why did this not worry anyone but me? My brother actually poked fun at me because, apparently, frogs in the bathroom aren’t a legitimate concern.
Finally, my father, the actual intrepid traveller, caught all three in a bucket and chucked them out into the darkness. That didn’t mean, however, that my dreams that night weren’t full of demonic frogs leaping to and fro. Nobody was more joyous to return home than I.
Finally, I thought, I don’t have to be afraid to step into the bathroom. The only gross thing about this bathroom is the wheezing noise the exhaust fan makes when you turn it on by accident. But wait a minute. Is that a cockroach scuttling under the sink? Oh no.