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Adventures in Aipotu
By Sanat Mohanty
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Adventures in Aipotu: Episode 3, Part 1

The Bowl of Perspectives

Around her the walls of the bowl rose up steeply. The bowl itself was as large as a football stadium. There were, in her estimate, more than a thousand men and women at the base of this bowl. Almost all of them were dressed like painters - long shirts with aprons that had paint all over them, trousers and painters caps. At the center of the bowl was a large statue that looked like an elephant. The painters were standing around drawing and painting the elephant. Once in a while there were some cheers and jeers that went around or some shouting that one group or another indulged in. As Damini circled this statue, she realized that the painters were standing is some sort of an order. There were four distinct groups around the elephant. There were three large groups who stood in front of, on the left of and on the right of the statue of the elephant. There was a rather small group that hung around near the rear end of the statue.

The group of about three hundred standing in front of the statue looking at the trunk of the elephant was organized into lines that formed V's. At the head of these lines, there was one woman who had her easel close to the trunk of the statue. She seemed to be the leader of this group. There was a large screen that hung high above the elephant's head that showed exactly what this woman was drawing. Everyone in this group kept looking up at this screen. Once in a while, this woman said something and everyone else in this group let out a loud cheer.

Another group of about three hundred stood along the left side of the statue in lines. They had a screen over the left side of the statue that showed the paintings of various people in this group. The group kept looking up at the screen as they drew. Once in a while, just about anyone in this group would say something and the rest of the group would let out a loud cheer. Damini could not identify any individual who was the leader of this group.

There was a third group on the right side of the elephant. This was probably the largest group with about five hundred people. This group was not ordered into any well-formed lines but stood around in small groups. However, when Damini looked closely, she found that this group did have two or three individuals who seemed to go and speak with these groups of painters and then come back and consult amongst themselves. They had a screen over the right side of the statue. It showed some view of the statue itself. Once in a while, one of these leaders would tweak some knobs thereby changing the color or contrast or angle of view. Usually, loud cheers and some boos followed such a change.

These three groups kept distinctly away from each other. They did not wander into the area occupied by any of the other groups. The groups often jeered at each other and exchanged slogans. Once in a while the jeering would heat up. Damini was sure that it was not a sporting rivalry and that they really did not like each other. Besides the cheers and jeers, there was little dialogue between these groups.

The last group was assembled at the backside of the statue and was the smallest with not even a hundred people in it. The group did not have any screen. There was no structure or order in how the people in that group stood around. In fact they moved all around the bowl and often drew angry shouts from the other groups. Sometimes, members of the other groups would pull them into their own lines and force them to order. Damini could not identify any leader, however closely she looked. They even wore all kinds of different clothes and seemed rather shabby. This group did not join in with any of the cheering or jeering and in fact spent a lot of time talking and laughing with each other. In fact, once in a while, they made some friendly comments to the folks who stood at the edge of the other groups too.

Damini got a general picture of what was happening but she could not understand why there were these groups and why there was animosity between them. So she walked up to one of the painters who stood along the edge of the group assembled in front of the elephant.

"Hello," said Damini. "I am Damini. Who are you?" "Shh," said the man, "we should not talk to each other. Don't you know the rules? And why are you wearing these weird clothes?"
"But I am new here," Damini pleaded. "Couldn't you tell me what you are doing?" The man just glared back and shushed her. Damini stared at the drawing of the statue that the painter was making. There was something wrong, Damini felt. Then she exclaimed loudly: "But that is not how the statue looks from here! You have the angle completely wrong. You are not drawing what you see."
People around glared at her. The man shushed her again. "Do you want to get me and yourself into trouble by asking such questions?" he whispered to her. By this time, people around her had already were whispering loudly and pointing at her. Suddenly a posse of four painters with long brushes marched up and surrounded her. Without saying a word, they began to push and shove her towards the vertex of the V, making sure she was always at the center. When they reached the trunk of the elephant they pushed her towards the woman who Damini had identified as their leader. This was a tall woman with an air of authority and a feel for power.
 

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Adventures in Aipotu
By Sanat Mohanty
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