Once upon a time, in a village far away, there lived six blind men.
One day the villagers were very excited, and when they asked what was happening they told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today!”
With the first day of spring, when the awakening earth puts on its garment of green, and the warm, fragrant air fans our faces and fills our lungs and appears even to penetrate to our hearts, we experience a vague, undefined longing for freedom, for happiness, a desire to run, to wander aimlessly, to breathe in the spring. The previous winter having been unusually severe, this spring feeling was like a form of intoxication in May, as if there were an overabundant supply of sap.
One morning on waking I saw from my window the blue sky glowing in the sun above the neighbouring houses. The canaries hanging in the windows were singing loudly, and so were the servants on every floor; a cheerful noise rose up from the streets, and I went out, my spirits as bright as the day, to go—I did not exactly know where. Everybody I met seemed to be smiling; an air of happiness appeared to pervade everything in the warm light of returning spring. One might almost have said that a breeze of love was blowing through the city, and the sight of the young women whom I saw in the streets in their morning toilets, in the depths of whose eyes there lurked a hidden tenderness, and who walked with languid grace, filled my heart with agitation.
Akram was sitting under a tree in the pasture near to the camps. He was counting the stars, which looked like diamonds twinkling in the darkness. Every night, Akram enjoyed making different shapes out of them: As a child, one of his favourite pastimes had been to sit outside at night with his grandfather, where together they enjoyed describing the different shapes that each constellation made. These memories were now the essence of his life, and it was one reason he liked this area of pastureland so much; it provided the perfect gateway to those precious childhood memories.
When I finally made it to the city of Wilming, I had only spoken to two other people. There was the border guard, who asked a few questions (very impolitely), and the taxi driver, who I couldn’t get to stop talking, even though I couldn’t understand a word he said. Was he even speaking English? I tried replying to him making noncommittal noises, but ended up desperately staring at my phone, trying to give him a clear hint that I wanted to be alone with my thoughts. I needn’t have bothered; he just seemed to like the sound of his own voice, and it didn’t seem to matter whether I responded or not.
The next person I met was the secretary at the admissions office, who brusquely gave me a huge pile of papers, brochures and forms to fill out and return the next day, ‘Don’t lose them’, she admonished, and topped it all with a map with a big red X showing me where my ‘digs’ were. Before I could ask any questions she was speaking to the next student. I tried to figure out where I was, and realised with a sinking heart my accommodation was miles away. I took a wrong turn several times, avoiding eye contact with anyone I met, and dragging my rather noisy and wobbly suitcase behind me, it felt as if one of the wheels was about to come off, maybe it was a sign of things to come.
Nazir had been sitting in the park since morning. He was staring at the flowers, they were in full bloom, a welcome sign of the spell cast by spring. These brightly coloured flowers with their heady fragrance were enticing all the tiny creatures who had made their homes in the shrubs, trees, flowers, and grass. Among these creatures, there were butterflies, all with brightly coloured wings, flitting among the flowers, each trying to outdo the other with their aerial acrobatics.
He had always been fascinated by the sights and smells of the park, here he reminisced about the past where it had seemed that there was peace, love, and prosperity all around. He was particularly attracted to the colourful wings of the butterflies, and from time to time, he actually tried to catch one, but he never succeeded, they were simply too fast and too agile.