My peripatetic travels have taken me to strange lands. In Lilliput, I encountered human creatures the size of thumbnails, whereas I had the discomfiture of being reduced to thumbnail size myself in the presence of the mighty Brobdingnagians. During my voyages, I have met craven politicians and mad scientists, barbaric homo sapiens as well as civilised horses. After having taken the measure of the endless variety that nature had to offer, I hung my haversack and donated my compass and telescope to the local museum. The exclusive account was given to my literary executor, a certain Mr. Jonathan Swift who, I am told, later went insane. This is perhaps just as well, because for anyone to handle such bizarre tales is job enough. But my travel agent was pestering me for the last few decades to visit Atlantis, which he described as the Pearl of the Orient and like nowhere else on this earth. The name was exotic but I refused to bite the bait until I received this cable: "Buffaloes and bulls cultivated on bonsai scale. Handy enough to ride pillion on tiny scooters but have gargantuan appetites. A sight fit for gods". It was difficult to resist this last temptation and I cabled my assent.
The world was really becoming a mean little place now with so many barriers and restrictions on the movement of human beings. For a certain fee, the tour operator offered to take care of all the currency, immigration, passport and other formalities. I packed my bag, picked up my Handycam video camera and boarded a Boeing Aircraft for my destination. After many hours and changing many an aircraft, finally, I was hovering over the airport of my destination - Atlantis. I was not much used to this mode of travel, so I enquired of my fellow passengers the reason for this. I couldn’t have spoken sooner, because the pilot was on the mike to announce that a couple of young blue bulls were gamboling on the runway. The authorities were trying to persuade them to change the locale of their amorous pursuits to their nearby home.
It made quite an impression on me. In these unregenerate days when the flora and fauna were threatened all over the globe, here at least in a corner of the planet, the convenience of the lesser members of the animal kingdom was being accorded priority over such human nostrums as punctuality etc. We landed a few hours behind schedule but still in time for the magnificent parade that these people hold annually to celebrate their Republic Day.
En route to the parade ground, I was very impressed by the love of nature and natural surroundings that these people had. Cows, goats, pigs all roamed around, sharing the same bit of macadamized stretch of path with cars, buses, trucks. The dwellings could serve equally well for men and pigs! It was indeed a bit of a welcome change from the other countries, where they practice complete segregation. Not only animals, birds were shown equal consideration. At numerous places, tall human statues were erected through public funds to serve as perch for them, and also for them to do their dirt upon. In an ingenious move to placate the churlish taxpayers - for Atlantis was a democracy - these statues were cleaned and decorated once a year and dignitaries performed some ritualistic mumbo jumbo to justify the expense incurred.
Finally we arrived at the parade ground where a separate enclosure was erected for the distinguished personages. A leisurely crowd of courtiers lounged about. These went about with familiar sounding names of officials in British Civil Service. Atlantis prides itself in unity in diversity and a fierce commitment to originality and independence of views. They are a people remarkably free from jingoism and false national pride. The more reactionary and conventional courtiers were present in the de rigour bandhgalas, but the more progressive ones sported tweeds and blazers and various jackets, very much akin to people in our lands. Being a sociable people, the courtiers displayed a natural tendency to garrulousness while the children - the more noisy adults in miniature - played a small game of hide and seek in the enclosure. In the meantime the National Flag was unfurled, and people got up and sat down at their pleasure, while the National Anthem played merrily. The general atmosphere of gaiety and even levity left me in no doubt that they are a highly evolved people politically and they treated such holy icons as national flag, national anthem etc. with just the right dose of cynicism. The next morning’s newspaper carried a story of the national flag slipping down the pole; at some other place it was unfurled upside down. I could now see the foolishness and the fanaticism of soldiers, sailors and citizens back home prepared to kill and be killed for a quilted piece of cloth called the Union Jack.
The parade was over, and the tableau relating to achievements of the state began to emerge from behind a curtained enclosure. The first one, that nearly took my breath away, was a school without teachers, followed by a school chock-full of teachers but with no students. Atlantis, being a very ancient land, had evolved the method of self instruction and, as the story goes, when denied access to a teacher they make do with his statue - as somebody called Eklavya seems to have done. Similarly, the teachers, who are in the lineage of the great sages, are all the time in pursuit of the realization of the ultimate knowledge. In this vibrant democracy, politics has been accorded - and rightly - the status of the ultimate pursuit. Needless to say, these teachers are elected. Hospitals without doctors, doctors without any formal medical training or degree - the presentation was getting to be a little jaded when suddenly, in the distance, a procession of scooters emerged.
The audience was electrified, and a deafening applause demonstrated how justly they were proud of their achievement. It was a sight which I witnessed with no mean surprise. Buffaloes and bulls the size of thumbnails were neatly stacked, one on top of another, and on one scooter at least I counted four score and six. It was confirmed by the excited crowd that each one of them ate animal feed equivalent to one hundred normal animals. I had no doubt in my mind that they are a people much advanced in eugenics and genetic engineering. They appeared to have crossed Brobdingnagian animals with the Lilliputian ones. Invention as they say is the mother of necessity. These animals were to be given away to the poor tribals who had very small huts. So the compassionate state bred these animals commensurate with the needs of these poor people. The copious dung of these animals was pure gold, and was collected as reward by all those associated with this noble project. The compassion and the efforts of the welfare state touched me deeply.
But the piece de resistance of the whole show was the award giving ceremony. In our country, thieves and scoundrels were publicly hanged. The intent behind such a public ceremony was that the general populace should take heed and desist from such deeds. But the barbaric practice did leave them brutalized to that extent. Readers will remember that these people are highly evolved politically, and are above jingoism and sectarian patriotic claptrap. Dr Johnson's dictum "patriotism is the last resort of a scoundrel" was understood in the true sense of the terms. But rather than punishing, their scoundrels who resorted to patriotic acts like keeping the enemy at bay on international borders were called out publicly for such misdemeanours. The rationale was that these who got foolishly killed should be rewarded with petty sums to underline the comicality of their endeavour. I was reminded of the punishment meted out to dissenters in the Roman days, who were made to wear the mask of a clown to rob them of the dignity of their deeds and deaths. There could be no other reason for a compassionate state which honours criminals or their victims, or people killed in accidents and natural calamities so handsomely to be so stingy. But the deeds of these people were described in very fulsome terms. The French pride themselves on having the most polite manner of saying things - if they have to abuse you, then they will abuse you sil vous plait!
It was a grand spectacle which drove home the message pointedly and left the people elevated rather than brutalised. Britain and other advanced nations have much to learn from this country and the colour of the skin of these people may be darker but their hearts have hues of gold. The first leg of my journey had greatly instructed me in the ways of the modern world