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Adventures in Aipotu
By Sanat Mohanty
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Adventures in Aipotu: Episode 15, Part 1

The Lonely Road

Damini missed the big dog. Even before she had been able to say bye - much less express surprise that it could talk and yet had not spoken to her all this while - it had disappeared. She missed Sophie and Filo. She missed Aris and she missed God. She also missed Ollie who she had not seen since they had arrived at Aipotu. She sat down on the grass, feeling rather lonely.

The frog-ram saw her sitting and began to sing:

A bust you hugged
A gargoyle too.
Now all that is left
Is to hug a statue.

"Oh, All right!", Damini sighed, getting up. "Let her be", the hippo said, glaring at the frog-ram. "Can't you see that she is tired?" "Since when did you have a soft spot for someone?", the frog-ram answered back. "Are you jealous that she did not hug you?", the hippo countered. "Ok, guys. I shall find a statue and hug it. So stop fighting.", Damini said, suddenly sounding rather tired. So she ambled up to the statue with the butterfly head, and hugged it.

The world around changed but Damini was expecting it. She found herself on a road, walking. There were many others walking as well. All kinds of folks were on it. Old, middle aged and young. Children, teenagers, young people, parents, grand parents. Most people were in groups. There were at least a few other couples. There were very few others who were alone. In fact, besides her self, there were perhaps two or three other people walking alone. But she did not care. She was missing all those she had spent time with, all those who had been with her and it hurt. She did not want to miss any one. She would rather be alone than meet someone else. So she walked along thinking about her loneliness and feeling sorry for herself.

As she walked along, she noticed that there were other paths that branched off and yet others that merged with the path she was on. At every branching, some people would part ways. There would be hugs and sobbing and lots of emotions. Yet, they would part. New people would join the path every time the paths merged. They might be walking alone or in smaller groups. Eventually, they would wish others walking around them, talk, laugh and very soon, they would almost be one group. One would never have guessed that they did not know each other before.

As she walked along, a number of individuals and groups said hello to Damini. Damini returned the greetings but deliberately kept to herself. A young man jogged along with his tiny daughter perched on his shoulder. "Hello", he said.
"Hello", his little daughter lisped.
"Hello", said Damini.
"Won't you join us?", asked the little girl sitting on her father's shoulder.
"No, thanks", Damini said.
"I noticed that you have been walking by yourself all this while. Is there something we can do for you?", the man asked again.
"No really, I am fine", Damini replied with an iota of irritation in her voice. The man shrugged and jogged away. His daughter turned back a looked a couple of times but soon they were lost in the crowd up ahead.

Damini felt bad for seeming rude. After all, the man and his tiny daughter wanted to help. But she really did not feel in a mood to associate with anyone. She just walked along, oblivious to everything around her. There were people laughing around her, and people crying. There were emotions being shared. She noticed it all. She even missed having a companion at times. However, she did not want to go through the process of parting company and missing anyone after she had become close to that individual.

After some more time - Damini knew not how much time - she felt tired. Noticing some benches up ahead, she made her way to the side of the path. The benches were situated a few feet away from the path. While the path itself was made of stone, the benches were built of wood and placed on the hard soil that lay on either side of the path. There were a few others sitting on the benches, resting. Damini found one bench that was empty and sat on it, stretching her feet out in front of her. She had not realized how tired the walking had made her till she sat down.

She must have dozed off for she was suddenly awaken by a voice asking her something. Opening her eyes, she saw a young woman, may be in her early twenties, asking Damini if she could sit on the bench. She rubbed her eyes, looked around and then focused back to the woman. "I am sorry to wake you up", the woman said gently. "All the other benches were occupied and my feet are rather tired, so I wondered whether it might be all right for me to join you?" Damini looked around. She did not want company but the other seats were all taken. She nodded her head. The woman thanked her and then sat down next to her. She picked up a basket that lay on the ground by her feet and from the basket, a tiny kitten peeped out. Damini saw the kitten and was immediately tempted to pet it. However, she resisted the temptation - after all she did not want to make more associations, especially when she knew they would end soon.

The woman picked up the kitten in her hands and placing it right in front of her face, began to talk to it. "Why do I travel alone, you ask", she said, speaking to the kitten. "Because I have no need for relations, for friends", she said, in reply to her own question. Damini perked up at this strange conversation. After all, it was exactly what she had been thinking. "Why do I need to make friends when the they part company. Don't they realize how much it hurts? Why start relationships when it comes to an end sooner or later?" "If you really want an answer", a sleepy voice replied, "you should ask the young girl sitting on the bench with you." Hearing a new voice, Damini turned to face the woman and her cat. "Yes, I mean her", the cat said, more assertively this time, pointing its face at Damini, in response to the young woman's questioning eyes. "Do you know the answer to my questions?", the young woman asked Damini tentatively. "Well, I have been asking the same questions", Damini replied. "I see groups enjoy themselves, people having fun and sharing their joys and sorrows with their companions. But they always part and then I see the sad. I see the same cycle repeat itself with me too. So I ask myself why I should care to have any relationship? Why should I associate with anyone?" "And yet you miss sharing your thoughts, your happiness and sorrow with someone else, don't you?", the cat asked. "Yes I do. But it is the price I pay for not being hurt." "Would you miss all that you learnt from the friends you had? Would you rather give up all the good time you shared with your friends?" "Stop nagging me!" Damini just got up and ran from the bench. She had had enough of these questions. She had asked them of herself without any satisfactory answers and now a cat was asking these questions. Getting on to the road, she ran. She ran as if she was trying to get away from these questions.
 

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Adventures in Aipotu
By Sanat Mohanty
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