Each morning, my father would wake up at 5 a.m. and pace in and out of the kitchen reciting poems. We didn’t know what the poems meant and it was a bit annoying for us, as we couldn’t sleep when he would do this.

Once we asked him what he was reciting every morning.

“These are poems by Hafiz, the great Persian poet,” he proclaimed.

“But I didn’t know you spoke Farsi,” I replied.

“Indeed. I don’t understand Farsi.”

I was puzzled.

He continued: “When I was a kid I was sent to the madrasa. I was one among many other disciples taught by the mullah. Over four years the mullah would teach a group of kids the whole book of Hafiz’s writing. Only after all of the poems were learned by heart, the mullah would teach his disciples the meaning of the words.

“We were the only group with bad luck. We learned the whole book by heart, but then the mullah died. So among all the students, ours was the only group who knew all the poems without understanding them.”