Dreaming of Quill Pen

My fascination for quill pen was limitless


Quill pen! Oh! It was a dream. I always dreamt of having one. I was reminded of this dream the other day on reading these lines from some little known poet: “Everyone asks, who inspires your hand? My quill pen,  fellow poet.”
 I very vividly remember the day, when I started dreaming of having a quill pen. I was in class five; the class we started reading English premier. It was the artwork than the alphabets in this premier that caught my imagination.  The alphabets, to me were as inanimate and lifeless as rotting logs of wood in the Ramzan Khan’s timber shop that had eaten into the cherry trees of our neighbor.  The illustrations were vibrant, vivacious and pulsating, every moment I looked at them they came to life as Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Scooby in today’s animated cartoon films. I still remember we cried full throat in chorus  C A T ma-nay Billi, R  A T ma-nay chouhi , ‘the cat is on the mat’ billi chatay par hai  and  the ‘rat is in the trap’ chouhi pahanday main hai- we cried so loud and hoarse that it drowned the ferocious noise of the shuttles of hand and power looms in the back lanes of our school. There were many ruffle making factories around our school but dangerously noisy was barely ten feet from our class room. The tick tock noise from the moving shuttles fell on our tender brains like Goshapar on freshly cut tender meat on chiseled limestone for making goshtaba.   
After crying to the full strength of my vocal chords,   Q U I L L ma-nay par ki kalam, I often suddenly stopped and looked at the illustration on my book;  a quill pen dipped in the ink-pot on a small desk. And I started dreaming; if one day I would actually own a quill pen. My imagination ran as wild as that of a damsel for her bridegroom. In my imagination, I started chasing black kite in the skies and pulling out the flight feather from her wings and making a pen out of it.  I had learnt art of catching birds like bulbuls, common hoopoes and rock pigeons but it was really wild goose chase even thinking of netting  a kite and pulling out longest flight feather from her wings for making a pen.
 I was mortally afraid of   kites that we often call as Eagles.  Many a time, I had seen kites perching on the minarets of the hospice or atop towering Chinars on spotting someone buying meat from the butchers shop making fierce flights and diving at saber jet speed   and snatching the bag containing mutton from the person.  Sometimes they would also hurt the person carrying the mutton bag. There was story about a one-eyed carpenter in our locality that he had lost his eye to an attack by a black kite while. This story had kept me away from chasing them even after seeing them   lousily sitting with their wings spread basking in the sun on stark naked brown boulder of mount Koh-a-Maran.
I was not only child that dreamt of having a quill pen; many other friends of mine had yearned for having    feather pens. The flight feather of kite was not only long and strong but had its own grandeur. The dark brown feather with light   streaks and strong hollow white shaft that acted as ink reservoir made it also aesthetically beautiful.
 Looking for a strong primary flight feather discarded by kites during their annual molt on the lawns of the martyrs’ grave yard near my home was   for sometime my regular pastime. I remember the hunt for a long feather for making a pen would continue on the lawns of the Jamia Masjid even during zuhar prayer break. On picking up a naturally shed quill from the green turf of the mosque graced by white daisies I felt as excited as discovering gold dust. I often adorned the feather in my hair- for a minute I felt- I am the king- a Mogul in my own right.
I did not know how to make an efficient   pen out of it that would match one used by Mama Peer for writing verses from the holy book on cups and saucers. I have written about the tradition of drinking water from cups scrabbled with verses in black ink on the day of examinations and also of writing some numerical on small bits of paper for burning with some incense for warding off evil spirits.   Every time I found a flight feather of a kite, I experimented with making a pen out of it for writing on my mashaq as takhtee (wooden board) was called in Kashmiri.  After making a quill pen, I believed that I was as big a maestro as Sheikh Saadi, Jala ad-Din Muhmmad Rumi and Firduasi. Despite Persian having lost its throne its throne literary world of Kashmir during our childhood it still reigned as supremely as during the period of the Sultan in the mosques, the hospice and the shrines. It dominated all mystic discourses and was seen as the language of spirituality and mysticism. Persian poetry more particularly the Sufi Poets continued to be sung along with Kashmiri poetry. Most of the  mahfils whether mystic or otherwise  started with a couplet or two by some great Persian poet. In our childhood Persian continued to be popular with older generation elite.
 I don’t remember having seen picture of Milton or Marlow during my childhood but the pictures of the great Persian poets had left indelible imprints on my mind. Most of the works of these great masters were sold outsides by smalltime book vendors even basaties, as trinket and bangle sellers were called along sold them along with cheap jeweler. Most of the works carried picture of the poet reclining against a bolster  a with quill pen in his hand, an inkpot and half written parchment spread on the writing desk in the middle.
My fascination for quill pen was also for these cover pictures.  It is sad that despite my best efforts I could not make a good quill pen for writing  the mashaq or page- and had to continue writing on mashaq  the eight by twelve inches  wooden polished wooden plank with Narakan Qalam (pen made out of reed)… graduating from reed to holder in itself is phenomenon.

Feedback at zahidgm@greaterkashmir.com)

Lastupdate on : Sat, 23 Apr 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 23 Apr 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 24 Apr 2011 00:00:00 IST

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