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A reunionese fable

Arlin, Ivrin and Rachid

Three rivers flowing outwards to three different points on the compass

In Mafate lived a man called Ivrin, a Christian patriarch. He sang heartily at midnight mass, but had never left his cirque. He taught his grandchildren all sorts of things, in particular the way to reach the sea, out towards the north-west.

One day he visited Cilaos and struck up a friendship with an Indian gardener called Arlin, who was also Creole and somewhat of a troublemaker. When they met each year they would end up arguing endlessly, with Arlin taking great pleasure in teasing his friend by maintaining that the only way to reach the sea was via the river running out of Cilaos towards the south.

One day, they had had enough of arguing and decided to climb the mountain to set things straight and finally find out who was right. On the way up, as they approached the hostel at nightfall, they caught up with an old merchant from Salazie, an extremely pious Muslim called Rachid. All night long they shared their views on the origin of creation, with one defending Brahma, the other Allah and the third Jesus. They also debated the direction of the sea, with Rachid maintaining of course that this was towards the north-east.

They were both up before sunrise, each one keen to prove their faith and outdo the others. Just as the sun rose, they reached summit at the same time, and all three pointed in different directions. And all three cried as one “You see! I told you! I was right!” And each one was pointing to the same ocean.

They burst out laughing. They had climbed so high that they discovered they had all been right, but that they had been unable to understand this before. As they walked down, they said to each other “God is like the sea: He surrounds us all but we only see what appears at the end of our own valley”. They decided to continue to call their land ‘Reunion.’

In remembrance of this day, Arlin, Ivrin, Rachid and their friends dine together once a year.