Monochrome – a Zebra story

The sun was hovering over the horizon. A herd of zebras was grazing their last meal of the day. However, one little zebra was distracted from food. He was gazing intently at the yellow disc in the sky. Every evening he would watch the sun hide behind the earth, and today he was determined to find out where it went. 

He ran to his father, thrilled at sharing an adventure with him. They would gallop together to the edge of land and watch the sun go to sleep. Just the two of them: a father-son escapade. But his father was not as enthusiastic. He looked away and told him that they would go some other day. When the little zebra insisted, the father flew into a rage. Looking at him gravely, the older zebra warned his son never to leave the herd. “Never venture out alone!” “Don’t waste your time!” These admonishments echoed in the young zebra’s ears as he retreated from his father’s presence.

The young zebra kicked the earth in annoyance. Why was his father so afraid? Surely, he did not know how to have fun. He looked at his father, who was chewing grass slowly. All around him were zebras, munching lazily and looking into the distance. No, this would not be the young zebra’s future. He was the youngest in the herd; he would set a different trend.  

With this rebellious thought, the young zebra trotted off in the direction of the sun. His departure met with many quizzical stares, but he was not deterred. The sun was sinking quickly, and he had a long journey to the edge of the earth. The little zebra broke into a gallop, but his sprint was short. He had run into a herd of wildebeests. 

The little zebra found himself in a tangle of horns and manes. He had often seen them from afar—the wildebeests usually grazed next to the zebras—but he had never been lost in a wildebeest herd. The little zebra could no longer spot the sun, nor did he know in which direction lay home. All he could see was a brown mass of wildebeests. 

As the sun set, the herd of wildebeests plunged into a hurry to get home. The little zebra did not know what to do. He had not found the sun’s secret, and now he may never see his home again. He imagined how angry his father must be, and rightly so. Look what he had done! Paralyzed with sorrow and fear, the young zebra wished he had listened to his father. Every second a wildebeest pushed past him; none stopped to help him. The little zebra was lonely, jostled by the crowd. 

Amidst the push and pull of strangers, the little zebra felt a familiar tap on his head. It was his father! He had followed his son silently, but he had lost his tracks amidst the herd of wildebeests. As the herd thinned out, he was able to spot his son. He was poised to deliver a magnificent reprimand to his truant son. However, the little zebra forgot to wait for a scolding. He snuggled gratefully with his father. Overcome by relief, the father’s anger melted. 

As he felt his father pat him gently on the head, the little zebra’s eyes turned towards the setting sun. He realized that there was no mystery to the sun. It was only a bright, daily reminder of the passage of time. Every day it reminded them of the few, short hours that they had with each other. In that brief moment, the young zebra understood the wisdom of his father. Time was little, and they had too much love to share. Their black-and-white stripes united them into a tapestry of love that was much more brilliant than the sun. Counting the myriad hues of this monochrome would take them a lifetime. Touched by this thought, the zebra looked with affection at his father. The older zebra returned his love manifold. Both realized that this fleeting moment of togetherness was the best use of their time. 

Photography: Jignesh Minaxi

Location: Masai Mara National Reserve

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