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The Circle of the Retired Intellectuals

Najati Al-Bukhari

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20

The strange and the bizarre experience of Amr, the ex-consul, in the first day as a full member of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals is not at all encouraging, reassuring, comforting, stimulating, exhorting, consoling or invigorating.

The main reason for this feeling of dissatisfaction and frustration is the punishment which was applied on him in the session of the general intellectual discussion in the Assembly Hall just because he was late for about a quarter of an hour.

His coming late, for a quarter of an hour, to the Centre of the Circle was not intentional but it was due to his ignorance of the rules and the regulations of the Centre. Nevertheless this is a very disturbing experience which Amr has undergone yesterday in the Centre. It does not have on him any negative effects or repercussions.

On the contrary, this difficult and curious experience makes the new member, the ex-consul, more and more determined to be an active member of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

Of course, and in accordance with the traditions and regulations of the Circle, Amr does not tell anybody what has happened to him in his first day in the Centre. This is really the tradition of the Circle to be followed by all. Nobody of the members should tell others outside the Circle of what usually takes place in the Centre.

In the evening of the first day he comes in contact with his servant, Abdu. There is no escape from seeing and talking to his servant. This person, Abdu, has to be seen every day by him in the morning and in the evening. On the other hand, he comes in contact with his cousin, Sari. Amr cannot avoid seeing his cousin, and very frequently, because he has been accustomed to see him all his life. There is no point or justification to avoid seeing and visiting his cousin Sari.

In spite of all, the ex-consul, the new member of the Circle is determined not to tell anybody about the various events that have taken place during the day in the Centre of the Circle.

Amr has realized from his first meeting with the President of the Circle, the shining Sun, Ashams, that it would be absolutely necessary not to tell anybody what usually happens and takes place inside the Centre of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

Early in the morning, Amr gets up from his deep sleep which was not as usual full of dreams and even nightmares. Amr does not want at all to forget his cup of coffee of the morning. For him this is a most important tradition which he would be respecting in all circumstances and in all situations and until his death.

Naturally, he should take his breakfast. It should be a rich morning meal with white cheese, olives and herbs and olive oil because in the Centre he should stay, more or less, fasting till the end of the day, in the evening. He remembers that nothing is offered to the members throughout the day with the exception of some tea or coffee.

Abdu is amazed why his master asks for a plenty of bread and a lot of white cheese and black olives. For the first time he asks for some local white butter. Abdu is astonished to see his master taking three cups of tea with plenty of sugar.

After the breakfast, he goes to his bedroom and there he puts on his grey dark suit, his red necktie, and his black shining shoes. At the end of all of these activities which he undertakes every day, he leaves his house. Amr looks around him just to see what his servant or his maid-cook are doing at that particular moment.

In a quick manner, Amr seats himself in the usual seat behind the steering of his private car. Without any hesitation or wasting of his time he drives his car. His main important objective is to arrive there in the Centre of the Circle on time in order to avoid the punishment which he has undergone yesterday.

The time is not yet eight o'clock. The new member of the Circle looks at his watch several times so as to be sure that the time is not yet eight o'clock. Amr is highly satisfied and gratified.

Amr is glad that he arrives a little bit early because he will have enough time to change his clothes and put on his pajama which is found in room six of the contemplation and the refection activity. It is normal for Amr to see there, in the room, the other four occupants of this contemplation room. Everyone is really busy to finish putting on the pajama on time.

Nobody looks at the other occupant who is busy in taking off his trousers and in putting on the pantaloon of the pajama. Two of the four occupants are very old, therefore, they have to sit on their straw stools so as to take off their trousers and put on the pajama.

In the past, in their homes, servants and their wives used to help them to change their clothes in the evening before sleeping and in the morning after waking up. Even nowadays at present, in their houses, they are helped by the wives and servants to change clothes in the morning and in the evening.

"O!! We still have plenty of time before the beginning of the session of the intellectual discussion. We have a lot of time. We should not hurry up like children who are watched by their mothers all the time. Here in this room, I do not think that we are watched by a secret and invisible eye. I have been an occupant of this room for the last two years and I have been always examining the walls of the room to see whether it is bugged with some electrical devices. I assure you I found nothing. We are very safe in this room. It seems this would be the first time you attend the morning intellectual discussion session. This would be for you a unique experience and a completely new experience in your life?" said an occupant to Amr.

This old man, who shows interest to talk and dialogue with the new member of the Circle, looks to be more or less of a small size but he is a little bit fat and has a bulging belly. Evidently, he is a b bald-headed, and it seems, since a longtime. His eyebrows are evidently thick and black in spite of the fact that he is more than eighty five years old. For sure and without any doubt, it could be said that this old man is not a good looking human being, or that he has been ugly.

Yet, anyhow, it cannot be said about this little man that he is repulsive. In his totality he looks to have been a nice person. It seems that this man was put into retirement at the age of seventy years by his family after he has been and for twenty five years responsible for the family enterprise which produces the oriental cakes and pastry which is famous and well known all over the Region.

This ugly little man masters the art of conversation and dialogue. He is extremely eloquent in his talk with others and he could impress anybody with whom he speaks and in whatever topic and subject discussed. However, and it is very important to remember that his basic formal education does not exceed the primary level of education, the end of grade six. At that time, when he was a small boy, there was the system of the eleven plus examination, which was the passport to the next educational level and which he could not pass.

Nevertheless, and from time to time, this little man reads on the average of ten books annually of general education and culture. It is believed that few persons in the society especially that of the Quarter of the Rich, read as much books every year as this little man reads. He reads one book in a month. It is reported that all people, that is men and women, do not read books at all.

Even it is reported that in some families, wives prohibit their husbands from bringing books, any kind of books into the house. It is even reported that certain wives invite friends to attend a ceremony in which all the books in the house would be burnt.

The little man listens attentively to what the other occupants say between now and then and he remembers, as he listens, events in his life similar to those told by the other occupants of Room six.

The little man has lost his wife ten years ago when she died because of the cancer of the breast. He has ten sons and daughters and all of them are married. All of them have engendered for him many grand-children, about twenty five in total.

However, this little man lives now all alone in his big house after the death of his wife. He is served by four maid-servants; all recruited from the South East Asia countries. There are also three servants recruited from some African countries.

As usual, this old man in retirement, as it is the case of most old men like him, is not visited by any member of his family. He is not even paid a single visit by any of his ten sons and daughters.

It is reported that his wife, who died because of cancer of the breast, was not at all happy with her husband who treated her as only a machine for the production and the procurement of children and nothing else. She was seen by her friends and her relatives all the time pregnant and taking care of newly born children. She was unfortunate because she gave her husband seven daughters and only four sons. This little man wanted all his offspring constantly to be sons, boys only. Girls, daughters, are not welcome at all by this little man. Whenever he used to have a baby girl he used to imprison himself for many days, or he travelled abroad and stayed for one month to avoid seeing his newly born daughter.

But on the other hand, it is well known that all people around him in the Quarter of the Rich are jealous of his success in his business in the field of making of cakes and pastry. People in the Quarter of the Rich as well as in the other quarters of the city and in the country a whole like to consume pastry products. The family of this old man, an occupant of Room six, has so far become very rich because of the success of their establishment.

"This is the first time for me, as a new member of the Circle to attend this daily meeting of the members of the Circle in the intellectual discussion session in the Assembly Hall of the Centre. Yesterday, as you have noticed, I was ordered to stand on one foot only during the whole session in a corner of the Assembly Hall. This was a punishment for me because I came late, for only fifteen minutes. I was asked to close my eyes. My ears were filled with wax so as to prevent me from hearing what was going on of intellectual discussion in the Hall. I was really prevented from hearing anything of the intellectual discussion that took place for three hours." said Amr to his colleague, the small man, who is like him an occupant of Room six.

"Listen to me. This is my third year as a member of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals. I could assure you, and with certainty that the session of the morning in which we discuss purely intellectual topics and subjects is interesting and in fact all of us find pleasure in participation in the intellectual discussion. I assure you that all the members without any exception try their best not to miss a single morning session." answered the little man who has finished dressing up his pajama which he usually puts on while attending the morning sessions.

"However, there are many surprises that usually take place in such general sessions. As you would be finding out very soon when you attend the session, the topics and the subjects discussed are not usually of the same value and importance. You would discover very soon that anybody from among the members can propose any topic for the intellectual discussion, without any control or limitations. You would notice when you attend the discussion sessions that sometimes the Hall is transformed into a battle-field. You would notice that every member becomes really a fighter who should defend his cause in a very savage and ferocious manner." said another occupant of Room six in looking fixedly at the little man.

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"I am ready to face whatever surprise I would have there. I have passed many years of my life of retirement in several hard tests and in many difficult experiences. Listen to me, I am ready to face whatever undesired situation would confront me and would stand as a barrier in my way. As an old consul I could easily react to any undesirable situation in a very meticulous and agreeable method." said Amr to the other occupant of Room six.

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"You would be surprised of the unfolding and the development of events in the general Assembly Hall." said the little man to Amr.

It is now seven fifty five in the morning. This is the proper time for leaving the ten rooms, the ten contemplation and reflection rooms. All the old men in retirement and the members of the Circle, the forty nine, have to leave at once their cells, their rooms. All have to go all at once to the General Assembly Hall.

It should be remembered that the other three occupants of Room six are as follows vis-à-vis their previous profession, careers and occupations.

One of them is a well known mechanical engineer who at the beginning of his life worked with several well established construction enterprises. Then, later on, he established for himself his own mechanical engineering enterprise.

He, at the end of his career, was in charge of many mechanical engineering projects related to central heating and to air-conditioning. At the end of his professional life he becomes one of the richest residents of the Quarter of the Rich.

All his seven children have already got married and all of them have their children. All of these grand-children of the mechanical engineer go or have gone to the best schools of the quarter and some of them have been already sent abroad to the West to pursue their higher education in the best universities there.

The second occupant of Room six is a medical doctor who gave the final judgment concerning the death of the occupant of Room six who gave, as a result of his death his place to Amr.

The third occupant of Room six is one of the most famous prime ministers of the country. He was a prime minister for five consecutive years, without any interruption. During the five years of his reign, he was the most honest and the most efficient prime minister in the country since its creation.

But when this prime minister was relieved of his post and a new person was appointed as the prime minister, all the enemies of the previous prime minister began to fabricate stories about his corruption and about his misconduct in his private life. Of course, all of these bad stories about the ex-prime minister are nothing but rumors. It is an established fact that this occupant of this Room six has been an ideal and an honest and efficient prime minister.

Faced with this difficult and strange situation, the ex-prime minister decided to join the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals. All of these three occupants of Room six, like Amr and the little man have passed the age of seventy years. The oldest amongst the five occupants of this room is obviously the prime minister. Although he looks to be the youngest, yet he is eighty five years old and he is completely disappointed, disillusioned and even deceived and saddened.

Inside the Centre of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals, this ancient prime minister discovers that all of those who have been around him and who began to attack him when he fell down are hypocrites, imposters and charlatans. The ex-prime minister remembers his days of glory, of fame and celebrity and he discovers that all of this life is nothing but vanity, vanity, deception and illusion and fantasies.

The five occupants of Room six go out of their room, of their cell, dressed in their pajama and putting on their feet their blue colored slippers. All of them go down the stairs in order to be in the Assembly Hall. They are now in the ground floor and there they see also the other colleagues, going down the many stairs separating them from the door of the Hall in the ground floor. The destination of all of them is the Assembly Hall. There in the Hall is the oblong table around which all the members would be sitting.

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Of course, all the members of the Circle are now standing in front of the door ready to enter into the Assembly Hall. But before deciding to enter into the Hall, all of them await the arrival of the President of the Circle, the Ashams; the Shining Sun. Ashams is the head of this meeting the aim of which is the intellectual discussion of subjects proposed by the members of the Circle.

Few minutes before eight o'clock, all the members hear the sound of the approaching steps of persons who are coming to the door. Obviously, these are the steps of the two bearers of the stretcher of the President of the Circle who is lying on it.

The sound of the steps indicates that the bearers are going towards the door of the Assembly Hall. Of course, and it is normal, every member of the Circle knows that this President, the Shining Sun, has been put into retirement for three times in the Ministry of the Dead and of the Old Age. After that he became the President of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

While the stretcher carried by the two bearers and on which is lying the President of the Circle, is passing in between the members standing in front of the door and who have been waiting the arrival of their dignified President, some kind of a sound of sighs, breaths of moaning, lamenting and mourning has been resounding around in the whole atmosphere in the corridor and in the narrow passages of all of the floors of the building of the Centre of the Circle.

Obviously, everybody in this particular time of the day, in the early morning, is accustomed to hear such a sound, such a noise, with the exception of Amr, the new member of the Circle. The ex-consul is totally surprised to hear such a disturbing and a strange noise.

"It seems to me that the President suffers from some sort of pain, of severe pain. I assure you that he is sick, sick, sick. He suffers from some pain. No doubt of that" said Amr to the old man standing next to him, the little man.

"Please, do not say that. All of us know very well that the President is always in good health. He suffers from nothing, nothing. I tell you nothing. All the members of the Circle say that the President does not fall sick at all. He enjoys a good health." answered the little man with a tone of confidence and certainty.

"Listen to me, my friend. What we hear is the moaning of somebody who is about to die in the near future, very soon, that is in few hours time. He is in his last moments of his life. I give him a maximum of one week life, not more than that. Look at him. There is no doubt at all that this man would give his last breath of life very soon. Look at him how much he suffers." answered Amr with certainty and with a lot of restlessness and inquietude.

"It is necessary that we keep silent. We should not utter a single word. Otherwise, we would be accused of an act of sabotage. Tell me if you please. It is absolutely prohibited in the Centre of the Circle to talk about such rumors, that the President is extremely sick or that he is nothing but a living mummy. We should always and all the time say that our chief, our head, is in excellent health and that he suffers from nothing and is in perfect health. We should say all of these positive praising statements of the health of the President in spite of the fact that he is all the time, night and day, carried on the stretcher by the two bearers. I remember during the past, since the Shining Sun became the President of the Circle, our chief being always carried on a stretcher. I have been seeing all the time our President lying on the stretcher." said the little man solemnly.

The two bearers of the stretcher enter into the Assembly Hall slowly and prudently. As soon as the two bearers are inside the hall they put the stretcher of the small rectangular table near the head of the oblong table around which all the members of the Circle normally sit.

At that moment, the moaning and the sighing of the President of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals become more and more intense indicating that the President of the Circle is suffering from some kind of a severe pain.

The moment the President is there inside of the Assembly Hall, all the forty nine members of the Circle begin to enter inside the Hall. Indeed, each member enters into the Hall in a completely disciplined manner. Every one of the forty nine members knows the location of his seat around the oval table.

The ex-consul Amr, the new member of the Circle, goes directly to his seat which is placed on the right side of the rectangular table of the Shining Sun.

For some long duration of time, silence prevails, predominates, in the Assembly Hall. Of course, this frightening silence is continuously disturbed by the moaning and the sighing coming from the President found on the stretcher.

Everyone in the Assembly Hall looks at each other in a strange way. However, nobody dares to speak or cough, or laugh or even to smile.

After a period of waiting and lingering, the President of the Circle speaks at last in a somewhat trembling voice. In spite of everything, in spite of all the difficulties, in spite of all impediments and obstacles, the President could communicate his message and his orders in a very satisfactory and acceptable way.

First of all he asks the Assembly to start the debate and the intellectual discussion of the proposed topics.

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Amr does not feel at all that he could talk, the first, before anybody else. He should leave the chance of initiating the discussion for the others of his colleagues who have more experience in this field of human intellectual endeavor. Indeed, he does not know at all how a member should talk and what he should say. He is just a beginner; therefore, it is normal for him to wait till others speak before him.

A number of the members around the table propose subjects, topics, themes and points of discussion, deliberation, consultation and meditation.

A very old member of the Circle, who could be more than ninety years old and who was a famous physician in the Quarter of the Rich, a generalist doctor, suggests discussing the problem of urinating during the night, the sleep, and from which all old persons, men and women suffer.

The moment the doctor finishes his presentation and his detailed explanation, some of the members of the Circle sitting around the table begin laughing in a loud voice, but in a hysterical and in an uncontrollable manner. This laughter continues for a long time and for a while it is thought that this laughing would continue for hours and hours and that nobody would stop them.

Nevertheless, the laughing stops after a while. It is obvious and clear to all that the majority of those present around the table think that the proposed topic is funny, extremely funny, amusing and very droll, extremely amusing and droll and even humorous. Whispering goes on around the table between the members of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

Another member of the Circle, the old ex-prime minister of the country asks the President of the Circle and the chief of the meeting the permission to speak so that he could propose his ideas concerning the intellectual topic to be discussed.

The head of the meeting, Ashams, the Shining Sun, coughs only once which means that he approves the intervention of the prime minister. All the members keep silent and all of them look at the ex-prime minister. This old member has not uttered a single word for the last several months. This is the first time that he asks for this permission to speak.

Then the ex-prime minister begins talking and proposes that each member around the table should make some noise coming out of the nose. This special and musical noise should continue to come out of the nose for one quarter of an hour.

After that the ex-prime minister proposes that each member should cough for five minutes and without stop at all. He proposes that the one who stops coughing during the specified five minutes would be punished by asking him to stand on one foot and for three hours in the corner of the Assembly Hall.

Then the ex-prime minister proposes that each member should spit of his saliva, spittle, on the floor of the Assembly Hall and for several times. As soon as the ex-prime minister finishes his proposal all the members of the Circle sitting around table look at each other and for a long time and in an absolute amazement and bewilderment not believing what they have just heard.

After this period of astonishment all the persons around the table begin to laugh and laugh and laugh vigorously and hysterically. Actually a number of them have begun to weep and cry in sadness and in melancholy as if they are small children.

The chief of the Assembly Hall, Ashams, and from his stretcher where he is resting down on it like a living mummy, asks all the members of the Circle to keep silent. The Shining Sun asks all the members to respect the opinions and the ideas of others.

Instantaneously, all the members obey the orders of the President and the law and order prevail in the Assembly Hall. Nobody laughs, nobody smiles, nobody cries, nobody causes any noise, nobody coughs and nobody spits on the floor. All intellectual activities have disappeared for a while. For a certain period of time nobody dares to talk or to say anything or even to open his mouth. All the members of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals are afraid of the anger, the wrath and the fury of the President of the Circle.

Another member of the Circle in the Assembly Hall, an old professor of linguistics in the most famous university of the country, who is in fact one hundred years old or more, and who can neither see what is going on before him, nor hear what others say and who really speaks slowly and with some difficulty, waits to present some of his comments in his intervention.

He suggests, in tranquility and in a voice that looks to be very low and practically suffocated and oppressed, that each member of the Circle should being out his tongue out of his mouth and after that he should utter one or two words, any words that do not have any significance or meaning. After that he proposes that each member should close his mouth and try to speak even by means of his nose.

After that the professor keeps silent and does not utter any more words. Then this professor of linguistics looks around and fixes his eyes on each of his colleagues, the members of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals. His looking around is mainly interrogative and for the main purpose of scrutinizing what goes on in the spirit of his colleagues.

The professor of linguistics becomes totally surprised when he finds out that all his friends and colleagues without any exception are really asleep. The professor becomes more and more bewildered and even stunned to discover that a number of his colleagues who are asleep have started to snore. He realizes that others are uttering some words without meaning as if they are having at that time some exciting dreams.

The head of the meeting, the President of the Circle, raises his right hand and makes some gestures which indicate that the President of the Circle is absolutely displeased and dissatisfied with the funny and the comic proposal of the professor of linguistics.

The professor in seeing the negative reactions of the president concerning his proposals commences to take out his tongue and to show it to the President of the Circle, Ashams.

All the members of the Circle sitting around the table continue their deep sleep after the presentation of the proposal of the professor of linguistics. Even some of them put their heads on the table or on the shoulders of their friends.

Of course, the ex-consul, and the new member, cannot be considered as an exception. He sleeps also by putting his head on the table. He also snores like others while he sleeps. The snoring of Amr is much higher than that of the others.

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In seeing the situation, as it is, funny and bizarre, the head of the meeting of the retired intellectuals wishes sincerely to wake up all the members of the Circle. The president of the Circle coughs several times in a very weak, feeble and ineffective manner. Unfortunately and to the surprise of the President of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals nobody awakes. On the contrary, all the members continue snoring in a loud manner as if nobody hears the coughing of the President.

Confronted with this tragic and embarrassing situation, the chief asks the two bearers standing in his both sides to do something for waking up the members who are sleeping in the Assembly Hall. The two bearers bray like two donkeys and for several minutes.

But unfortunately, and to the surprise of the President, nobody wakes up. However, the two bearers change their strategy and begin to bark like two enraged and ferocious dogs. Unfortunately, all the members of the Circle remain asleep. Nobody wakes up. The President thinks that all the members of the Circle are really hypnotized.

Finally, the two bearers are obliged to wake each member individually. Naturally, as a result of the new approach to wake up all individually, all the members are now awake and all of them cannot give a single word for the explanation of their deep sleep.

Another member of the group around the oblong table makes his intervention, his contribution in the intellectual discussion. This retired old man was a senior government high official in the Ministry of Culture and Information. This very old man who looks like a robot is toothless and bald-headed. Since his retirement he never shaved his face. Therefore, he has now a very long white beard which almost touches his chest. Equally, it is obvious and very clear that the nails of his fingers have never been cut since several years.

On the other hand, his age is completely unknown. Yet, his age could be estimated to be about eighty years. When he is seated behind the table his beard touches the table.

Because of some trouble in his throat he finds some difficulty to talk and express, so raises his hand in order to have the permission to talk and to make a kind of presentation. He wants the permission to express himself. It takes about five minutes until the President of the Circle notices that a hand is raised and that somebody asks permission to speak.

The chief of the meeting, Ashams, makes a certain gesture by his right hand indicating his permission to talk for the one who asks for it. The ex-high Government official becomes very happy in seeing the President of the Circle giving him his permission. Before he speaks he spits several times on the floor of the Hall and then coughs seven times in looking around him.

Of course, all the members of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals wait for the intervention of the high senior Government official. But this senior official says nothing and does not say anything and keeps silent. Nevertheless, he looks at his friends around the table looking for something.

In the final analysis, the old senior Government Civil Servant could not say anything with the exception of one word which he utters with difficulty, "wife" or "my wife". However, his wife gave the last breath of her life since many years. She died since a quarter of a century when she was struck by a lightening in the garden of her house. At that particular moment, her husband was far from her in the kitchen having a cup of coffee.

Probably, he is hallucinating now in remembering his wife who died in such a very horrible way. As a reaction to this strange behavior and peculiar conduct on the part of the Senior Government official, all the members of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals have begun to cry and to shed tears from their half closed eyes. The old man could hardly see the tears of his colleagues.

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Amr, who is seated on the right side of the table of the President of the Circle, is watching with interest and curiosity what goes on in the Assembly Hall. He is only observing; monitoring and witnessing what goes on in front of him without trying at all to contribute to the intellectual discussion or to participate in it.

It seems to him that the discussion and the deliberation are highly intellectual and that he should still watch so as to learn how to contribute to this highly intellectual activity. He considers each intervention of his colleagues as being unique and cannot be classified in any previous categories of intellectual endeavor and activity.

But whatever is the case, Amr wonders whether he could make such interventions as those already presented so far by the friends, the members of the Circle. He contemplates now that he could begin to make contribution to the intellectual discussion and make his intervention during the next week. He should concentrate all his efforts now in watching and in observing how others behave in the Assembly Hall. He would, next week, and especially in his house and during the night, contemplate and prepare himself better for these intellectual discussions session in the Centre of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

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While Amr reflects and contemplates, another member of the Circle expresses his intention to talk and to propose a new idea for discussion. This time, they would be speaker is an ancient officer in the national army. He is now seventy years old and he is in retirement since thirty years.

It is well known that the high officers of the army are put into retirement at the age of forty years. Amongst all the members of the Circle, this old man could be considered as one of the first members of the Circle.

During the thirty years of his retirement he could survive all the lottery drawings which have been carried out so far to choose a member of the Circle, to die, to commit suicide. It is a well known fact that he could have been selected, chosen, by lottery, to die, so as to create a free place for a new member who should join the Circle at the end of every month.

This ancient officer of the army has now always his hands trembling. He finds a lot of difficulty in feeding himself in the three meals of the day and he even faces more difficulties to take off his clothes. He could be considered as semi-paralyzed in his bathroom and cannot take a bath in a tub or a shower or shave himself without the aid of some of his servants. On the other hand, a lot of wrinkles could be seen decorating his forehead and his face. Even, a lot of wrinkles could be seen on his two hands. In addition to all of that, this old man in retirement suffers from some difficulties in his eye-sight and thus he has eye-glasses on his eyes of very thick lenses.

This ancient officer of the army asks the President of the Circle the permission to speak, to make an intervention. For the first time in the history of the intellectual discussion in the general Assembly Hall the President gives his approval orally and not by a gesture of his hand. The chief of the meeting says in a clear voice 'yes'. Then he repeats the word 'yes' several times.

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The ancient officer of the army says, utters some words and tries more than once to speak, to say something. But he remains dumb, speechless and looks at all the members of the Circle sitting around the oval table.

At last, and to the surprise of all the members of the meeting the ancient army officer puts his right hand in the pocket of his pajama and from there he takes out unexpectedly a revolver, a pistol. At this particular strange moment and when the members see the pistol in the hand of the old man, they are stuck by some kind of a panic and complete consternation.

The ancient officer of the army raises his hand that carries the pistol high above his head. The ancient army officer fires a bullet towards the ceiling of the Assembly Hall. In discovering themselves exactly in a battle-field, all the members of the Circle, who are in the Assembly Hall, try to protect themselves by hiding under the table of the Hall.

All the old men in retirement remain there under the table to protect themselves. All of them are more horrified and petrified in their hiding place when they hear another bullet being fired, shot. The target of the ancient officer this time is the wall facing the old man, the ancient army officer.

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Then it seems that the army officer in retirement decides to stop firing the bullets. It is certain that the small revolver is now hidden in the pocket of the pajama of the army officer. Those who are hiding themselves underneath the table come out from there. Again they sit in their seats.

Slowly, the atmosphere in the Assembly Hall becomes once more calm and serene. The two bearers of the stretcher of the President of the Circle rush to the ancient army officer and ask him to give them the small revolver, the pistol, his arm. However, and at any case, the ancient officer does not understand the words and the order of the two bearers.

He remains without any movement in his seat. Yet, the event of the pistol and the two bullets fired at the ceiling and the wall of the Hall by the ancient army officer ends without any serious grave consequences. The small revolver has been in fact confiscated and the army officer, the hero of the revolver episode, is rebuked and reprehended by all especially by the two bearers of the President's stretcher. Of course, the ancient army officer awaits now the punishment to be pronounced by the President for his misconduct.

After this episode, Amr could not at all understand what goes on in the Assembly Hall in the Centre of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals in the field of intellectual discussion and deliberation.

Up to the incident of the ancient army officer Amr would have witnessed so far five interventions made by men who are extremely rich and who have been occupying during their active life important positions in the community. Still he is very optimist. Still he thinks he is determined to continue attending the general Assembly Hall meetings to learn how to carry out intellectual debates with others and how to make constructive contributions to the general discussion in the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

Amr looks at his Rolex watch and discovers that there is yet one more hour for the end of the intellectual discussion of the morning session. More and more, he has the feeling that he wants to observe and watch the development of the intellectual discussion.

Amr thinks that in all his life he never saw such a cultural and intellectual discussion. After two hours of observation Amr arrives at the conclusion that he should continue observing the development of the discussion until he would feel that he is quite qualified to make his first contribution to the intellectual discussion, his first intervention.

All of a sudden, the little man, the ex-director and the owner of the sweets and the pastry production establishment, the products of which are still in demand in all the region by the young and the old, makes an intervention. However this would not be his first intervention since he joined the Circle long ago. At this particular moment, all his colleagues look at him with astonishment and bewilderment.

"Listen to me all of you. We should not waste our precious time. On the contrary, we should make use of every minute of our life while we are the members of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals. All of us should remember that we are old, very old men, and all of us are in retirement. All of us should remember that we do not have many days to live. Anyone of us might die at any moment. This is why we should not waste our time. As you know, we could see proofs and evidences for that around all of us. All of our children and our relatives are waiting the day in which we die. None of them wishes that we live one more additional day in our life. They, our children and our relatives, wish our death at any moment so as to inherit our fortune and distribute amongst themselves our wealth. Therefore, our time, our days, the days of our life, is extremely limited and precious. Nothing is more precious for us, all of us, than our time. So it is a tragedy if we waste our time."

"Do not forget that our Association is called the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals. All of us, the members of this Circle belong to one quarter, that of the Rich. Look around you. You would not find a single member who belongs to the other quarters, those of the poor. We are all rich, very old rich men in retirement. The majority of the members amongst us are professional doctors, engineers, pharmacists, famous men of thoughts, of business. Above all, some of us are ex-members of the high level civil service system of our country. We have amongst us an ancient prime minister and an ancient commander of the national army. A number of us are personalities whose excellent reputation is not only well established in our country but also abroad and particularly in the neighboring countries. One or two of us have become world known personalities who are applauded and cheered in all the international circles, conferences and forums."

"Of course, and this is expected, very few of us are international criminals who could be arrested at any moment. Look around you in this Assembly Hall. Have a look around you and examine each one who is sitting around this oblong table. What do you see? What do you witness? No doubt you are observing something which could be found nowhere in the whole world, except here. Here you could see that most of those sitting around the table are intellectuals, are examples of excellent and perfect intellectuals. Where in the world and in one place, you could see and meet such a number of intellectuals, of professionals and of free thinkers and men of philosophy and liberal ideas."

"Excuse me to tell you my friends, that even the members of the Circle who are considered as evil doers, scoundrels, rascals, smugglers, villains, criminals, law-breakers and transgressors are all of a rich intellectual origin. They have been chemists and men of thought but later on they became criminals and law-breakers. They sell drugs to the young in order to be rich in a very short time. Nevertheless, the five or six of us who ended their lives by being law-breakers are originally the first intellectuals in our community."

"I myself, I consider myself as an intellectual of the highest level. However, you should not forget that I have only primary education certificate which I got in our ancient quarter. As you already know, I do not hide my formal education background. I have only a primary education certificate. But in spite of all of that, I consider myself, and I do not hide that, as the best intellectual in our quarter and in our community. My articles which I publish in the local literary magazines and reviews of the quarter are all simultaneously published in all the literary reviews and magazines in the neighboring countries and in the region as a whole."

"All of you know the historical background of our honorable and prestigious family and all of you know its fame and reputation in the making of the famous products of sweets and pastry. We have been selling this pastry in our community since six hundred years. As you know, because of my perpetual and continuous contact with our clients and customers, who normally come from all the villages surrounding our city, or who come from the other quarters of our city, I have learnt many things about life and people and their sufferings to the extent that the level of my formal education could be equal to that of a university graduate of even better and higher than that."

Then after the end of the intervention of the little man, another member makes his intervention. This time, the member of the Circle is an engineer of a very high stature and professional reputation.

He has white curly hair on his head and he has green and illuminating eyes and is well shaved and many wrinkles are visible in his face. The nails of his fingers are well cut and most of his teeth give the impression that they are true teeth and not false. The engineer expresses his ideas in a very clear way.

During the years of his youth he was all the time respected and even venerated by all his friends and those who came in contact with him on the professional level and on the social community level. When he speaks all people do nothing but to listen to him attentively. Nobody dares to interrupt him so as to propose for him a question concerning his presentation.

Normally, and in all cases, those who listen to him, to this brilliant engineer, do nothing with the exception of shaking the head as a sign of continuous approval and appreciation. From time to time this distinguished engineer smiles for no reason while he talks to others.

"This little man is a liar. He is nothing but a liar. All his life he has been telling only lies. Do not listen to him and don't let him speak because he knows nothing. He is ignorant and tells lies, rumors, gossips and hearsays all the time. I repeat; this little man is ignorant and completely uninformed. I could say that he is illiterate. In fact, he forgot all what he learnt at the primary school where he stayed for three years only. This man knows neither how to read nor how to write. He never touched in his life a pen, a pencil or a book. This little man has been always against learning and against education in general. I assure you my dear friends that this little man at the age of seventy has forgotten all what he learnt at his three years of schooling and of basic education. Nothing remains in him of his basic education which he got at the primary school."

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"In addition to all of that, when this little old man was a small pupil at the primary school he was well known to be a naughty boy and was indiscipline. Besides, he used to be absent from school so often during the school year. It is only be chance and luck that this little man became in charge of the pastry and sweets enterprise of his family. At last I should tell you that this little man hires a well known writer in one of the poor quarters to write for him the articles which he used to publish under his signature in the local literary review and magazines." declared the engineer to the members of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals while all the time he was looking at the little man.

The head of the meeting, the Ashams and the Shining Sun, listens attentively to the discourse and the dialogue of the engineer and the little man.

While listening to this slanderous, defamatory and calumnious intellectual discussion, the sighs and the moaning of the President of the Circle intensify and increase tremendously. His health worsens and becomes more deteriorated.

Frequently, the President of the Circle, who has been lying all the time, night and day, on the stretcher inside the Centre, coughs and coughs very frequently and produces a loud and irritating noise. While coughing and about to be strangled and lose his life on the stretcher, he makes some movements by his hands as signs of his discontent, his dissatisfaction and his disappointment.

Equally, Amr is absolutely shocked by the unexpected development and the surprising unfolding of events in the Assembly Hall especially regarding the intellectual discussion between the members of the Circle.

This is the first time in all his life that he witnesses such an intellectual confrontation and showdown. It seems, and it is obvious, that this session has given him the shocking and the unpleasant impression regarding the aggressive and the hostile behavior and the belligerent conduct of man, of men.

He discovers even from this first intellectual discussion session that life inside the Circle is a challenge and a provocation, a battle and a deplorable experience. In one session of the intellectual discussion he is able to see very clearly and distinctly how the retired old man behaves in an unbelievable, ridiculous and comical manner.

Amr decides to be extremely patient, tolerant and forbearing. He looks at his watch and discovers that he has still half an hour to finish the present intellectual discussion session. For this reason he should be tolerant and indulgent. What is going on before him is an event with no precedent in his memory. With no doubt, Amr learns a plenty of things from this meeting of the retired intellectuals.

However, and to the surprise of all, the fight between the old cocks of the Circle, the little man and the famous engineer, does not stop to aggravate and to intensify. The two famous cocks resume their relentless and desperate fight.

"You are really hallucinating. It is very easy for you to accuse the others, the innocent, with so many things which are not true while the accuser himself is the guilty, the criminal and the evil doer. This man, the engineer, forgets that it is my family and nobody else that provided him with the necessary financial aid which helped him, enabled him, made it possible for him to continue his higher education and become a well known man, human being, in his professional field as an engineer. This man whom you see before you is a symbol of a person who is ungrateful and who forgets quickly those who have helped him to achieve his goals in his life. Listen to me all of you. If this ungrateful man had not received the financial aid and support of my family he would not have been able to finish his technical studies."

"This man, sitting before you, has been living all his years of technical studies on the financial aid of my family. This man, who smiles in front of you like a chimpanzee, is a symbol of ungratefulness." the little man reacted while looking fixedly at the face of the engineer who is in fact sitting in front of him at the other side of the oval table.

"It is really you and not I who is hallucinating and saying nonsense. You say lies and you should know that I received nothing of financial aid from your family. You just imagine things that never happened in this life. We, the members of my family, are richer than your family. You are only business men who sell sweets, bonbons and pastry to be consumed by children, while us, the members of our family, we are the owners of big plantations of wheat and corn as well as uncountable trees of well known fruits such as the apples and the ranges. There is no scope to compare your family with my family. You could be considered poor and we could be considered the real rich people in the Quarter of the Rich." answered the engineer in a tone which is defensive but at the same time firm and convincing.

The President of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals, the head of the session of the Intellectual discussion, raises his right hand and he coughs several times as a sign for the two members who are fighting each other to stop the shameful and the detestable dialogue which nobody appreciated.

The two enemies, the little man and the engineer, stop talking at once and without any hesitation and become calm and silent. They stop saying anything at all. But, nevertheless, they continue to look at each other savagely and ferociously and were ready to resume their talk and their personal attack.

But all of a sudden, the big and impressive wall clock gives the alarm about the end of the session of the intellectual discussion that has been going on for the last four hours in few minutes time. Actually, this would be the end of the morning session. It is now midday, and every member of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals should be ready to go to the library and after that to the contemplation and reflection rooms. As for Amr, he decides to follow the little man wherever he goes. The little man and Amr are room-mates in Room six.

At exactly six o'clock in the evening, and after having spent the required time in both the library and the contemplation room, Amr, the new member if the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals leaves the Centre in order to go to his house.

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The weather outside, and as usual, is very fine. The Sun is now in the western side of the sky and is about to disappear behind the horizon. The heat of this evening sun is moderate and does not cause any irritating effects on the people who are seen outside in the way to their homes.

es/ Whimsical Strides
Above artwork is by the author's son... See more!
© 1980-2024 All Rights Reserved

At this time of the day, the streets and the narrow paths and passages of the Quarter of the Rich do not have many citizens walking in them. Children could be seen in the Quarter playing either inside or outside of their homes after they have come back from their schools some time ago. Many of the children, after finishing their schools, sit in front of the television sets in order to watch and see their preferred amusement programs.

es/ Another Pot On Another Tabletop
Above artwork is by the author's son... See more!
© 1980-2024 All Rights Reserved

Also very few cars can be seen rolling in the streets while Amr, in his car, is going to his house, towards his villa. Before his arrival to his residence, Amr decides to go to visit his cousin, Sari, the famous constructor of magnificent edifices, in his villa. However, when he arrives there in his cousin's residence, he discovers that Sari is still in his office located in the centre of the Quarter of the Rich.

Saba, the gentle wife of his cousin informs him that Sari is very busy these days to supervise the construction of the most magnificent mausoleum in the history of the country. It seems that an important man is extremely sick and that he is about to die in one of the coming days. The identity of this man for whom the tomb is being constructed by Sari, the cousin of Amr, is not yet revealed. Even it is said that the identity of the sick man is being kept a secret by the State. In other words, the name of the sick man for whom the mausoleum is being constructed nearby the Cemetery is kept a state secret. Thus nobody can talk in the public about it.

Amr does not want to enter into the house of his cousin to avoid wasting his time after a long and tiring day in the Centre of the Circle. He reminds himself that he has spent all the time of the day in undergoing various strange experiences in the Centre of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals. Therefore, Amr decides to go directly to his house in order to prepare himself for his supper which the maid- cook has already prepared for him.

As it is mentioned elsewhere, lunch is not served in the Centre of the Circle at all. Therefore Amr has to adapt himself to the system of daily life in which only two meals would be taken, the breakfast and the supper. These two meals are being taken by Amr in his house.

The days in the life of Amr, the ex-consul, pass slowly. The retired consul sticks to his membership in the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals. He goes every day in the morning to the Centre of the Circle and comes back to his house in the evening.

His life during the day time in the Centre of the Circle becomes regular and systematic. He has become a full member of the Circle physically, morally, spiritually and intellectually. Day after day, Amr becomes more and more faithful to the principles and objectives of the Circle. He becomes charmed by the system of life inside the Centre and by its activities.

Amr comes to the conclusion that life in the Centre of the Circle is something honorable, sublime, noble, dignified, magnificent and majestic.

Every day, the ex-consul, observes and witnesses with astonishment and admiration some new aspects of the life of the retired old men in the Centre of the Circle. Every day he discovers new things which he could not see before me.

The activities which he admires and appreciates most are obviously the intellectual debate and discussion that takes place daily in the Assembly Hall of the Centre of the Circle. Every day and without any exception a new aspect of the human life and behavior is revealed and unfolded to the retired Consul.

Up to this day, he has already passed three weeks of his life as a full member of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals. Nonetheless, he does not have up till now the necessary courage to make an intervention and to participate actively in the intellectual debate and discussion which takes place daily in the Assembly Hall.

Yet Amr continues to learn every day new things concerning the intellectual discussion. From now on and from one day to another, and in a gradual manner, he feels that he is becoming richer and richer in the field of intellectual growth and development. Every day he feels that he is richer than the day before in the field of intellectual progress and maturity. The Ex-Consul feels that wisdom, common sense and perspicacity are becoming an integral part of his personality and his behavior and his daily conduct, attitude and comportment.

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More and more and day after day and with the passing of time, the ex-consul becomes an indisputable admirer of the little man, his companion in the contemplation and the reflection Room six. He admires his courage and his eloquence. Gradually, Amr gets possessed by the charming personality of the little man.

The ex-Consul and day after day, is believing, and with no doubt at all, that the engineer, the enemy of the little man, and who does not get tired in making daily intellectual fights with the little man, is really a swindler, an imposter and a hypocrite.

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The Circle of the Retired Intellectuals

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