As soon as the editorial team of The WIMWIAN called out for cover stories, there was a story we received the very same day with a message ‘I am currently stranded overseas in Ethiopia and waiting for my repatriate flight back to India. I am under quarantine and my story is about how I made it productive and how we must all be optimistic.’ The message was from Capt. Abhishek Pai (MDP 2011).
Here, Capt. Pai shares a beautiful narrative on his perspective and experience with Toy Theatres, bringing so much come alive from the world of historic puppetry art.
The Glass Half-Full Attitude with a Birds’ Eye View! Nature had started her World War 3. The seriousness was hidden. Millions like myself had already made vacation plans to Europe to enjoy spring break. Madam Corona was already released. She too, was on her own world tour. Our new visitor did not go unnoticed. Her epidemic was now a pandemic. This was exactly the time her master, Mother Nature spoke to us. In her stern and chilling message she said, ”You are not necessary. The air, earth, water and sky without you are fine and even better. When you come back, remember that you are my guests, not my masters.” The world finally saw its doomsday.
Within hours of realization, countries were going under lockdown. Flights were cancelled overnight and millions were stranded overseas. Thank God for my good karma, I managed to get a ticket back home to India via Ethiopia – The Land of Arc of the Covenant. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you view the world, on landing in Addis, my connecting flight to Bombay was cancelled indefinitely and my country encountered the worlds’ strictest lockdown. In all situations I have always seen a glass ‘half-full’ never ‘half-empty’.
My ‘half-full glass’ attitude comforted me as I sipped on a volcanic blend of coffee with a local, only to realize that coffee was first discovered here. As sunset neared, I looked out for the Banded Barbets flocking to reclaim the large, leafy tree they had abandoned a few years ago. The Wattle Ibis were back in the valley while hundreds of White winged cliff-chats creating an annoying din as I thought to myself and smiled, ‘this is their world too and we will survive the war with Madam Corona. Each city will get back the soul it was born with’. When we find ourselves in crisis, our vision tends to narrow onto the challenge and we lose the bigger picture perspective on our lives. Being a Private Pilot helps me navigate any challenge as I perceive a situation from a birds’ eye view and then dive down into each area where I can be proactive and productive. How we choose to spend our time and energy will determine how smoothly and successfully we progress through this unsavory situation. And a cup of strong coffee is a bonus!
Untouched Opportunity: Toy-Theater reaches Ethiopia! The volcanic coffee blends gradually helped me settle down in my karmic abode. As days passed into weeks and into months, I realized the Abyssinian culture had more differences than similarities to my Hindustani culture. It is a clear known fact that commonalities unite people better and the ‘adult entertainment’ spoke one language throughout our world. This led me to wonder, ‘What would you do, when your one week vacation in Europe gets extended to a three months adventure in Africa’? This was the ‘Eureka’ moment. I decided to collaborate and showcase ‘Kamasutra’ theatrically through the medium of a customized Ethiopian Toy Theater that I handcrafted during my stay. The base of the orchestra is adorned with ancient linguistic Ge’ez scriptures while the proscenium and the curtain design reflects the Axumite Iconography from the innermost sanctum of the Coptic Church.
One may not speak Amharic, Hindi or English, but the silent language of sexual drama, through theater, is understood by all. Kamasutra is a universal language and is a perfect formula to bridge cultures and to collaborate adult communities together. Being a Jack of many trades, an academic, a pilot, an architectural miniaturist; I have enjoyed curating stage design the most and always wanted to dabble into ‘Adult Toy Theater’. This was an excellent Karmic opportunity. I had once again created my own space and owned it.
The project finally came to fruition at Addis’s iconic Zebra Art Gallery. The proprietor is also a famed auctioneer, and helped me cross paths with Ethiopia’s celebrated Iconographer Gebre Merha. His color palettes captivate ones soul like no other. The triad bonded over history, restoration, taxidermy and ebbing art forms including the glamourous world of Toy Theaters. We ended up discussing collaborative economic paradigms and liaisons with my newly owned ‘White House Gallery’ back home. The business alliance is not only between two art galleries or between two countries, but also between individuals who respect each other culturally expressing gratitude, thereby endorsing solidarity during this mammoth crisis. This collaboration proves to all humanity that no matter what challenges strike our race, we as evolved humans need to evoke the humility that exits deep down within us.
My suitcase is now not only filled with cherished memories and newer partnerships, but also carries with it the realization of true essence of freedom. It is this freedom that we humans have taken for granted. As I await for my departure across the pond, I am less worried about sharing a seat with Madam Corona, and more excited about sharing my blessed moments with my loved ones back home. Cheers to our new beginnings and to the expanding Toy Theater aficionados across the globe.