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A bunch of folks in the mid-20’s: Mark – An American youngster, Jié Li – A Chinese guy, Shakthi – An Indian woman and Zane – An African boy has surrounded a bush, each carries a spear kind of weapon in their hands. Li gestured to others to be quiet and all the four are revolving around the bush. As soon as a slight movement is seen, Li threw up his spear into the bush. In a knick of time, a hyena jumped out of it and started running away from them. “ukugijima, ukugijima” (run, run) Zane shouts in Zulu and all the four starts chasing the hyena.
“Come on folks, she is just a few yards away from the denser part of the jungle. If she sneaks through, it would be almost impossible to get her. Mark howls to all” The hyena is cruising through the bushes and giant trees that are standing tall in a disciplined symmetric fashion. An attentive Indian young boy of around 10, sitting over a tree unties the knot of a hunting net that is prepared to trap the hyena. The giant size multifold net that is good enough to capture a baby elephant opens up and starts to come down rapidly from the treetop to get hold the hyena coming towards it. It is quite difficult to say whether the trap is a bit delayed to arrive or the hyena picked up its pace. The net arrives a moment late and the hyena escapes the trap. “Vikas, Jaldhi neeche uthar (get off soon)” running Shakthi shouts at the boy and he quickly gets off the tree and follows the other four in chasing the creature. In their run trial, the folks unveil half-a-dozen of net-based traps set up in different directions. However, the hyena maneuvers every single trap and slips down into the jungle. Witnessing this, the folks stop down to catch-up the breath.
The escaped hyena strides into the jungle and looks back before relaxing to ensure no one is chasing her. Few minutes passed by, she feels hungry. In a distance, a moving creature draws her attention. The reflection of sunlight over the deer’s body makes it shiny and attractive. “Chanchal, stop eating the grass. Move, now it’s time to look out for my food. You have enough” Achu attempts to pull off the deer. The terrified deer immediately starts running as she realizes the hyena is cruising towards them for an attack. It took a while for Achu to grasp what’s been happening around. Actually, the hyena didn’t notice the deer in the covered grass group, it’s intention was to take down Achu. However, when it saw the deer, it’s curiosity shifted towards her and it starts chasing the running Chanchal.
“Chanchal ! Chanchal !” Achu shouts in despair and follows the chase. The deer is running like crazy, she is shedding each ounce of energy to escape from the monster hyena. The chase is filled with brisk jumps, surprise diversions, unexpected swings and gasps of breaths. Finally, the hyena ends up in one of the traps that are been untied by the folks earlier. Only after getting into it, the hyena realizes she re-entered the earlier escaped zone in this mad race. Achu soon reaches the hyena trapped location to seek his mate. The terrified deer hidden in the bushes come out of it upon Achu’s arrival.
“Who are you? what are you doing here, Kid?” Vikas examines Achu. “Who are you kid?” Achu responds back. Mark, Jie Li, Shakthi and Zane laughs out in a chorus. Shakthi kneels before Achu “You definitely looks a stranger for us. Moreover, a kid in this unknown land is a bit worrying too. How did you come here ???”. Showing the circular maze toy to Shakthi, Achu replies in a sad voice “we are stuck in a trap like this hyena, due to this maze game. I was not supposed to continue playing this after 5 failed games. But I did so and end up in a maze. I have to cross seven different worlds to get back to my real world. I am just returning from Syria, this is my second world.” Curious Vikas gets closer to Achu and teases in a giggling tone “How do you get out from here? Does this toy make you fly ??” Achu echoes in a serious tone “I have to drag down the scattered three marbles inside the maze toy to the center. That’s the key to escape from your place.”
As Shakthi, Vikas and Achu were in conversation, the other three packed the trapped hyena alive and her mouth is securely masked so that it can’t harm anyone. Li signals everyone to move and they start their journey in the opposite direction to the jungle.
“Can I see that toy?” Vikas seeks and Achu promptly gives to him for a preview and adds up the caution message as well. “Wow, this looks amazing. Don’t worry! I would help you. We work together to solve this maze as soon as possible” Vikas consoles and by pointing the deer “This is cute, where did you get?”. Achu on a jovial note “It is my dad’s gift. Chanchal !!”
Achu: Where are we going now ??
Vikas: To our village called “Maya”
Achu: Why do these people with you are different from one another ?? also I see they speak in a different language.
Vikas: Yes, it’s used to be a mystery to me too when I was very young. Later I came to know the history behind it. Many years back, an Indian flight carrying passengers caught you in a terrible turbulence and landed here. Despite many attempts, they couldn’t able to communicate to the other part of the world and none came in to help them. Soon few more flights from China, America, and Africa landed here with the same kind of mystic turbulence and no one could ever able to get in or get out of this place. It’s a jungle island – a jungle connected village surrounded by an ocean. Many tried to swim out to the other side and even built their own ships to sail over. But none could ever be succeeded in discovering any other piece of land. Hence we all are one with many languages and cultures.
Achu (in a shell-shocked voice): Then you may have got many temples, churches, and other praying areas, right ??
Vikas: No, we don’t have any as such. For the best of all, the gods stay inside everyone’s home. Nothing comes into the public or common area even in the conversations.
Achu: Hmm, then at least you would have got a common leader as we have one in our classroom.
Vikas (giggles): Nah! No one leads, no one follows. Everyone lives as they are with mutual respect. In one line “We live and work with an individual, not under an individual”
Achu: Then who decided what to do ??
Vikas: Necessity. Let it be the food, clothes, shelter – the total community work as one for the common purpose and yields the final product as per the necessity. The excess would be stored in the common repositories, if it’s a shortage, then it would be on every single head.
Achu: I have a room, painting book, uniforms, shoes and lots and lots of many things that are mine, don’t you have anything for you ??
Vikas: Noone owns anything, but everyone does. As I said, it’s a use per need model.
Achu: Then, you don’t have any pocket money. So sad !!
Vikas (laughs out loud): Don’t be. We don’t have money in the first place here.
Achu: Don’t you go to school ??
Vikas: I do, everyone has to learn one physical skill and one mental skill of their own choice.
Achu (exclaims): What is that ??
Vikas: For suppose you would like to learn medicine, you can learn only if you pick pottery or carpentry with it. My specialization is hunting and account keeping of resources. Even my mother’s too. That’s why I am here with her.
Achu: oh! you people hunt and share that meat with all. I understand now.
Vikas (in a brisk voice): No, No, you are wrong. We are vegetarians as our animals too. We don’t feed on animals. We hunt to rescue and treat the ill-behaved animals. This hyena is one among us. Somehow it got ill-minded and started tasting meat. It would be treated to regain its actual nature as a vegetarian and co-friendly creature.
Achu: Your village is weird and interesting.
Vikas: I would say magical, as we thrashed down all the rules and built our own. My mother says it’s called democracy.
As both indulged in the conversation, the journey shortened and the village arrived – Welcome to ‘Maya’
The entire village is in a celebration mode. Joyful banners, cheerful faces, mud huts filled with slogans in various languages. Looks like a local festival. As the others carefully unlock the hyena into a closed fenced space, Vikas takes Achu and Chanchal to the tour of the village. As Achu is completely in a shock, experiencing every aspect of it, a rhythm music of drums and shehnai touched them. Vikas in a forceful tone, “Come on, hurry up! the ceremony started. We should have been at Azad’s house by now.” As they reached the venue, an old man in his 70’s was announcing to the audience “Yet another beautiful soul to join us. We are glad for Azad and Kalki. Though it’s a celebration of community, this time it’s my turn to announce the news and ceremony inception to everyone. Welcome, all. Folks, you can start now.” The old man moved aside hailing these words and a bunch of youngsters carrying a rock approaches Azad and they slowly knot the rock with a rope, tests its strength to hold the rock, upon the final validation they start to tie up the rock to the waist of Azad. Entire village claps and Kalki, wife of Azad standing next to him is in joyful gesture.
Achu is totally confused, and the Chanchal too. Not only in human customs, it never happened in the animal kingdom too. Achu stumbles “What was that? how can a man carry that?“. Vikas explains “If a woman can carry that much of weight for close to 9 months, why not a man ?? In our ‘Maya’ both husband and wife get pregnant literally. The weight of the rock on the men increases as the baby grows and finally, it gets untied with the delivery of the baby.”
It’s been more than a few weeks now, Achu is more inhibited to these kinds of rules and gestures in ‘Maya’. He became close to everyone, stayed in almost all the houses as the hosting happens in round-robin method, learned a handful of languages. Everyone in the village tried to score the maze game for him to get out the village. Unfortunately, none succeeded.
Today’s stay is at Zane’s house. The ostrich egg, bamboo fillets, African custom musical instruments filled excitement in every muscle of Achu. It’s bedtime, Achu curiously seeks “Zade, have you ever felt it would have been good to be back at your place ?” “Ha, No. I get something here, which I can’t get anywhere in the world – Freedom and unjudged life. I came to know how cruel the real world is, from my ancestors“. Zade response is a bit complex for Achu to understand. Their conversation around big 5’s in Africa, poverty, racial discrimination, vast beauty of Africa continued for quite long that night, eventually, they drifted into sleep.
Achu suddenly gets out of sleep with a feeling of someone carrying him on shoulders. As he opens eyes, Zade is rushing out of the hut with him over the shoulders and the hut is caught with fire. He unhorses Achu on a safer land and rushes inside the hut as if he missed a very important treasure. Achu’s fearful eyes soothed a bit with the sight of Chanchal, which is standing next to him. As they curiously wait for Zane, the intensity of the fire steps up and it almost swallowed major part of the hut. Suddenly Achu hears the voice of Zane coming out from the hut in Zulu as “ukugijima, ukugijima (run, run)”, followed with the throw of the maze toy from the hut, completely caught off the fire now. Achu’s eyes filled with tears as the maze toy comes down for him in the air. Achu misses to catch the toy, the toy hits the ground and all the 3 marbles inside the maze auto-aligns to the center. Game over !! Achu and Chanchal disappear.
The air is filled with Achu’s thought “Why Zane, Why ?? I would have stuck here with all of you if the maze toy got burnt. But I would have been happy rather than losing you. The worst part is, I really never know whether I lost you or not”
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