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Adventures in Aipotu
By Sanat Mohanty
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Adventures in Aipotu: Episode 7, Part 1

Of Fishes and Crabs

Up ahead, the grassland ended on the banks of a large lake. Damini could not see the other side of the lake. A warm breeze had picked up. Aris Turtle said, "I will swim across the lake. Hold on tight and you will be fine. We need to go to that island there." The turtle slipped into the clear blue water and began to swim towards the island. Damini's lower body was submerged. The water was warm and Damini enjoyed it. There were all kinds of interesting fish that swam around.

Without a warning, the turtle dived into the water. Damini was pulled along in the wake of the large turtle diving. Before she could react, she gulped water and floundered. She was afraid that she would drown. But then she realized that she could breathe underwater. The turtle reappeared in front of Damini. "This is Aipotu, girl", Aris Turtle said. "Remember that you can do many things that you cannot do on Earth." Damini thought that she almost saw the old turtle's mouth curl into a smile.

Aris Turtle turned around and dived even deeper. In trying to follow, Damini realized that she could swim beautifully as well. Soon she caught up with the old turtle. The water around her was beautiful. Sunlight filtered through to quite some depth. There were fishes of various colors. On the left was a family of sea horses. Up ahead, there were porpoise playing around. Soon some dolphins joined in as well. She swam up to them and played with them for some time. They let her ride with them. She would have been forgiven if she thought she was dreaming. This was a whole different world. The dolphins and the porpoises began to sing in a rather shrill tone. Soon, other fish joined in as well. She did not understand what they were singing but the music seemed, ummm, interesting, to put it mildly. The turtle had come back looking for her. Down here in the water, Aris Turtle seemed more at home, less irritable and on the whole a more jovial companion. He began to hum along as well. Then realizing that Damini did not understand the song, he translated it for her. This is what he said:

A long time ago
Right here you would find
The civilization of Atlantis.
One of its kind.

Unlike all the rumors
That you may have heard,
It was a civilization of fish,
Not of animal, nor bird.

It was so long ago
That man didn't even exist.
In Atlantis lived
Every fish on your list.

It was not a kingdom
For there was no king
Since the fish have no hands
There was no scepter, no ring.

There was no ruler;
Fish governed themselves
Not with the power of angels
Nor with the magic of elves,

But just by talking,
And making sure all knew
What was happening around
And who was doing what to who.

This Utopia in Atlantis
Was achieved by equality,
By ideas of non-violence,
And with just polity

But there was one problem
That was to cause its ruin.
A kind of fundamentalism
Superficial as the skin.

The fundamentalism on which
Was built such a society
Was a silly one really!
The fundamentalism of beauty.

Every fish needed
To look a certain way,
Needed a specific fin ratio,
A specific tail sway.

Oh! Don't get me wrong.
If you didn't have it all.
You were not discriminated.
You'd stay away from the ball.

The peer pressure
To have a certain look
Was just so high
That you gave all it took.

Dolls were built exactly so.
Every model in the pool
Looked just that way.
Even little fish at school.

Soon, every fish looked
Exactly the same.
You could not identify
What's-his-name.

You could not even say
Who was your wife.
Such mixing of fishes
Led to serious strife.

It resulted in chaos
No work could be done.
Some realized soon
Atlantis' end had come.

Such fish evolved
And migrated to land.
If you go there, you'll find
Another ruckus band.

Atlantis, collapsed.
The end was sour.
And the shock of it
Made us fish what we are.

Damini could not help rolling in laughter. It was a sad tale but it was funnily told. "Besides, the problem of how one looked, was true for humans as well", Damini thought. "Representations of models in magazines and in the media seem to say that only a certain kind of look or a certain kind of physique is beautiful. Even on Earth, doll manufacturers brought a similar representation of beauty to young children. In quite a few ways, that civilization seemed similar to ours." Yet, the song these creatures sang and the way they enacted it was extremely funny.

Aris Turtle was smiling as he watched Damini laugh. After a while, he dived back towards the floor of the lake. Damini saw him dive and followed. As she glided above the lakebed, schools of fish darted past them. The bed was covered with all kinds of colorful weeds. Up ahead, the turtle had stopped and was looking intently at something. As Damini caught up, he turned around and pointing at a mound, asked, "Seen anything like this before"?
 

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Adventures in Aipotu
By Sanat Mohanty
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