It started long back when the people from the Pole grew envious of the bright, hard sun of the Equator.
And so the painters at the pole painted a sun that was bright, yellow and fierce. They held their brushes at an angle of sixty-six and a half degrees between their fingers and made a bright yellow spot on the canvas. This bright patch of color was then stroked with more lively shades of yellow and red till it no longer remained a yellow patch. Because now it became the sun. The hair of the brushes burnt with a turgid smell and the paper was scorched as they drew the hot sun.
It was an art that was perfected by a marvelous artistry and pristine hard work. It had taken two generations of daily practice to come up with this extraordinary skill. And they enjoyed every single day as they painted the furious sun. Not because they liked to paint but because they liked the bright, furious sun of the Equator.
And so they kept painting incessantly till there was no more paper to paint on. And then they cut down whatever few trees and stunted shrubs grew in the lower latitudes and made new paper to paint on. They painted all through the six month day and six month night. But soon they ran out of paper again. And this time there were no more shrubs to cut.
A wave of tension hit their fair faces. They sat thinking about the predicament on the newly frozen ice-slabs. And soon after a furious exchange of ideas they came to a unanimous decision- they were going to sail to the ‘Land of Paper’. They let the anchors loose and they pulled their long kayaks into the freezing water.
The Poles were a tough breed and they hauled their little kayaks with all their strength. They paddled fiercely as they sailed through the parched layers of ice, escaping dangerous crevasses and cliffs bravely. They sailed without a care to ‘the Land of Paper’.
The Polar Easterlies were strong and it diverted them from their path. But luckily their slender kayaks lacked any sails and so the drag was less. In a month, they had moved a few degrees south.
The Poles took to sailing as fishes take to water. Every passing day, they became more comfortable sailing in their homely kayaks. They were clever enough to make necessary changes as they moved down south. Their cargo of reindeer skins, hard and heavy bones, light furs, wax and various types of knives came handy. After seven months of toilsome sailing, they moved further five degrees south. They celebrated this achievement with an extra serving of reindeer meat in the dinner.
When they reached the edge of the tropical region they were greeted by a warmer Westerly wind. They made a sail out of the reindeer skin and the log. They were now sailing faster than ever. The gust of wind powered their long kayaks like a cartouche flying over water. It gave them hope and edged their desire of finding ‘the Land of Paper’.
As they passed through the water, they hardly noticed the changing sun except for its growing warmth. This was because the sun’s declination was so gradual that one could hardly notice it by noticing it regularly. They sang folk-songs about the violet and ruddy sunsets of the poles amidst the white ice. They paddled and paddled till they tired and fell asleep.
It was now almost a year since they had subsisted on fishes and almost two years since they had last seen an ice-covered land. They also realized that they were growing sick of perennial water all around them. But, they didn’t waver. Their determination was as strong as their kayaks. They cheered each other with stories of what awaited them on the other side, never letting anyone forget the enormous magnanimity of the dream that they nurtured. And sometimes they sang about the sky’s reflection in a lonely icicle that hung on a pine. And thus they prodded on without stopping to ‘the Land of Paper’.
One fine morning, awakened by the burning rays of the sun, they were surprised to see the horizon painted with a green border. They set their rudder in the direction of the greenery. But soon a rapid fear, that the world might end at the greenery and that their kayaks would tumble into empty space, crept into their hearts. But now that the rudder was set, there was no turning back.
Fortunately the world didn’t end at the green boundaries. Instead they were surprised and even overwhelmed to find a land covered with lush green trees. They jumped out of their kayaks and started dancing on the sand. They let out victorious snouts and cries. They hugged each other and sang numerous folk songs from the Pole. They were convinced that they had reached ‘the Land of Paper’.
Their celebration lasted till the sun went down. After which they started digging the entire land for paper. They sang as they dug in the dark of the night. Sometimes, they stopped digging and listened to the painful howl that was coming from the adjacent forest. They kept on with the work till they became unconscious with weariness.
When they woke up in the morning, they found themselves covered in wet sand and a fierce sun burning their fair skin. They noticed for the first time that their skin had got tanned. But that didn’t matter to them. Without losing much time, they once again started looking for paper: this time in the forest. They searched the rugged slopes and the small caves and even the base of the trees; but they found no paper.
In this frantic search for paper, incidentally they came out on the other side of the forest. There they found small huts shimmering at a distance like protrusions of hay and mud. But they didn’t know what these huts were. Some said that they were big tortoises. The others, who were less poetic, said that they appeared more like igloos. But no one knew exactly what they were. And so they decided to go ahead and find out what they actually were.
They went stealthily without making any noise. When they reached one of the huts, they stood outside its gate silently, waiting for something to happen. But nothing happened. As a last resort, they gathered their courage and decided to venture inside.
Inside they found small wooden case, few dirty rugs and broken vases on the table, a broken chair, a few utensils, containers and a stove in the corner and a man sleeping on the cot by the window. They started searching the house for paper. The man who was snoring heavily woke up due to the noise that the poles made. He was surprised to find so many fair people in his small hut. For once he thought he was dreaming and tried to go back to sleep. But the noise was too real to let him sleep peacefully. He woke up and tried to make sense out of the pandemonium. The result was that he cried out at the top of his voice, “What’s going on?”
The Poles were taken aback by this sudden cry. They stopped their search and faced the man. The man was intimidated by the number of the Poles. And so he said in a pleading tone, “What do you want?”
The Poles were clever to realize the linguistic barrier between themselves and the man. And so the wisest one amongst them came forward and said loudly, “Papyrus!” And then he repeated it thrice. “Papyrus, papyrus, papyrus.” The rest of the poles then joined him. “Papyrus!”
The terrified man stood up from his bed, ran to the other room and brought whatever paper he had in his house. The Poles were overjoyed to finally behold paper. They picked up the stack greedily. But once they saw that some of the sheets were already scribbled, they threw it away without any haste. And so after a while, the only thing that they were left with was an old note-book which had a few blank pages. They then greeted the man with gratitude, came out of his hut, and then raided the adjacent hut. They roamed all the huts and got themselves every inch of paper available in that village. So after two days, when they sailed back to the Pole, they had enough paper to last them a few years.
The way back was also very difficult. But the sheer joy of having found ‘the Land of Paper’ gave them ample motivation to sail back wildly towards the Pole. And wildly did they sail, for they managed to reach back in only a year and a half.
The entire adventure had lasted for five years, two months and thirteen days. Finally when they reached their igloos, they were hungry from sea-food and thirsty from hot-water. And so they drank and ate for a week and slept for another. And during the third week they turned their attention towards their treasure from ‘the Land of Paper’. They pulled out the entire tome of paper and placed it in a special igloo.
The smell of fresh paper was intoxicating. They brushed their fingers through the leaves of paper. It felt good. When they picked up their brushes they realized how long they had been away from home. They merrily dipped it in water and then yellow paint. And when their brushes touched the first virgin paper their heart almost skipped a beat. But then a strange thing happened. They stopped. Something was missing.
They dipped their brushes again in the yellow color and painted anyways. The brush-hair didn’t burn nor did the paper get scorched. They looked at the paper closely. Strangely, the equatorial sun wasn’t there. Instead they only saw a yellow circular patch. They tried again on a different leaf of paper. But all they came up with was another yellow patch. A wind of faint tension blew across their faces as they wondered what was wrong. Why wasn’t the sun coming alive in their paintings?
It took them a few more leaves of paper and drops of paint to realize that during the five years of their adventure to ‘the Land of Paper’, they had forgotten their art of painting.