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Adventures in Aipotu
By Sanat Mohanty
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Adventures in Aipotu: Episode 15, Part 2

But something within her kept telling her to stop. She could not just run from these questions. And maybe these were the questions she had to find answers to. She was so wrapped up in her questions that she had forgotten that she needed to get out of this world. And it did seem that this was what she needed to resolve. To get out then, she would have to face these questions, answer them for herself. There was no running away.

On one corner of the road, a number of people had gathered. She went to the edge of the crowd and then wiggled her way in. Off the road, there was a small stage. A woman was performing. She seemed to be presenting a one-person play. She was dressed in red with her hands and face painted black. And as she sang, she acted as well. And she sang thus:

I am confused.
Is it really 'I'
(or) do I act to get by?

When I cry,
is that me
or is it society
to which I conform
by the attitudes I form?

Often I wonder;
when I am sad,
things aren't so bad
when I step back.
It isn't white and black,
but shades of gray I see
that help set me free.

I know sometimes
I just laugh
at a minor gaff,
or a stupid joke,
a pinch, or a poke
not because it is funny,
but the people around me
are laughing till they roll.
Is mere conformation my goal?

And I know
I am neither sad,
nor dejected, nor glad
with the situations I face.
Yet I am supposed to place
my reactions at societies whims
and cry till the stage light dims,
or take charge and lead
when I might rather concede,
or just laugh; as the case may be.
Am I acting or is that me?

And at each sentence, the actor would roll and fall and jump and clap. Her actions were funny and the music was upbeat and the audience clapped and laughed. It seemed they were completely focused on the beat and the theatrics. But the lyrics were rather serious and the crowd almost ignored it completely. It was as if they paid attention to that part that they were comfortable with. Damini wiggled out of the crowd, thinking about the lyrics. What was she doing? She certainly was not following the herd and conforming to the people. She was not laughing at silly jokes just because she was expected to laugh. She was not making herself do things just for the sake of society. But she was reacting to it. And that was not appropriate as well.

The cat was right. She would not give up her time with God or Filo or Sophie for anything. She had learnt from them. She had enjoyed their company. Her journey at Aipotu had certainly been much more enriched because of them. But they had to leave. Because they had other things to do in their journey. Like she had things to do in hers. She could not hold on to them. That would prevent them from going along in their journey and fulfilling what they saw as their responsibilities. If she had held on to them, made them walk with her because she would miss them, she would be selfish. Besides, if they had stayed on because she pressured them to, they would not have been able to share freely like they had done. And it was in sharing freely that she had learnt so much, that she had enjoyed their company.

A journey was to be shared for the sake of sharing - that was when such sharing mattered most. She would share her journey with those who walked that way, she decided, without any strings. That was the only way she could truly share. Else, she would be more focused on the strings than the sharing. And when someone had to leave, they could. Just like she would leave without being hurt when the paths diverged.

As the crowd dispersed from the one-person theater, Damini saw the young man and the little girl standing and speaking to the actor. Damini walked up to them. "The lyrics were very thought provoking", the man was telling the actor. "They helped me sort things out as well", Damini butted in. "Thanks", said the actor. "Hello", said the young man. "Glad to know that you were able to sort your thoughts through." "Yes", Damini replied, blushing slightly as she remembered that she had been a little rude earlier. "I just wanted to tell you", the young man said, "companionship is just like life. You could remain afraid of getting hurt when friends part and not explore what it means to share. Just like you could remain afraid of death and never live fully." "Yes, I know", Damini replied. "Can I walk with the two of you?" "You could", the man said, "but I believe it is time for you to leave." And Damini found herself standing on a grassy patch on a sunny day, right in front of a yellow top, surrounded by gargoyles, busts and statues. The gargoyles now seemed ossified - they neither moved nor spoke. The Hippo, now, had a smile and a twinkle in his eye. In fact, none of them looked like gargoyles any more.

Damini shook her head. Maybe it was just her perspective. She began to walk towards the circus, her mind still ruminating on her trips via the gargoyles. All around the circus was a wooden fence. The only opening in the fence was a wooden gate with a banner. "Welcome to the Circus" it said. And below it was a sign that read "Truth Shall Prevail, not Unreality". Damini knew what that meant. As she crossed the gate, a large frog stood thrust a pamphlet at her. Damini took the sheet without looking at it for her attention drawn elsewhere.

Up ahead stood a large black elephant. "Ollie", Damini yelled joyfully. She had finally found her friend. "Hi Damini", Ollie said. He seemed to be relieved to have finally found her. "Its time to head back, you know." "Oh!", Damini replied, "But lets first visit the circus. Please." "Well", Ollie replied as they approached the flapping cloth that marked the entrance to the yellow top. "Earth is a circus, isn't it?", he said as the passed through the gate. Suddenly, everything turned dark. Damini went into some kind of semi-conscious state. Through the darkness, she seemed to hear someone call her name. "Damini! Damini!!!", she heard a voice she could recognize. "Wake up beta", her mother was calling her. Turning over she finally woke up and looked around. Next to her a stuffed cotton and wool elephant lay on its side. Above her was the tree with its leaves dancing in the breeze. The sun had begun to set and her mother and Sharad were putting their picnic basket away.

But this seemed weird. She was certainly in a different world a few seconds ago. Quickly she got up on her feet and looked around. There was no circus. And Ollie lay as if nothing had happened. The breeze was getting cold and Damini dug her hands into her pockets. There was some sand in her left pocket and she pulled her hand out, a warm feeling spread over her. She looked at the sparking dust that lay in the palm of her hands. Quickly, she felt her back pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. On it was written "Truth Shall Prevail, Not Unreality." Indeed, she had traveled. And what a journey it had been.

"Come on Beta", her mother called. "You slept through the picnic." "Lazybones", Sharad yelled. Then turning around he saw her staring blankly into a distance. "Stop dreaming, lazybones. Its time to get home." Sharad jumped into the car as their mother turned on the ignition. Hugging Ollie, Damini smiled and walked to the car.

Earth was a circus. What was reality?
 

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Adventures in Aipotu
By Sanat Mohanty
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