Articles Comments

Peace Watch » Kashmir-Talk » Dreaming of Rumi’s Quill

Dreaming of Rumi’s Quill

Dreaming Of Rumi’s Quill

Quill pen! Oh! I always dreamt of having one. It was a dream. I was reminded of this dream on reading these lines from some little known poet: “Everyone asks, who inspires your hand? My quill pen,  fellow poet.”
 I vividly remember when I started dreaming of having a quill pen. I was in class five; the class we started reading English premier. The artwork and the alphabets in this premier 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 Ama Lala, our neighbour.  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 classroom. The tick-tock noise from the moving shuttles fell on our tender brains like Goshapar– the wooden mallet on freshly cut tender meat on a chiselled limestone for making goshtaba.   
After crying to the full strength of my vocal cords,   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 inkpot on a small desk. And I started dreaming; I would own a quill pen one day. My imagination ran as wild as that of a damsel for her bridegroom. In my imagination, I started chasing a black kite in the skies and pulling out the flight feather from her wings and making a pen out of it.  I had learnt the art of catching birds like bulbuls, common hoopoes and rock pigeons, but it was a wild goose chase, even thinking of netting a kite and pulling out the longest flight feather from her wings for making a pen.
 I was mortally afraid of kites that we often call 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 sabre jet speed and snatching the bag containing mutton from the person.  Sometimes they would also hurt the person carrying the mutton bag. There was a story about a one-eyed carpenter Mohammad Amin Najar in our locality who had lost his eye to an attack by a black kite. His story had kept me away from chasing them even after seeing them sitting lazily with their wings spread basking in the sun on a stark naked brown boulder of mount Koh-a-Maran.
I was not the only child who dreamt of having a quill pen; many other friends had yearned for having feather pens. The flight feather of the kite was not only long and intense but had its 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 robust primary flight feather discarded by kites during their annual moult on the lawns of the martyrs’ graveyard near my home was, for some time, 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 the 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 writing some numerical on small bits of paper for burning with some incense for warding off evil spirits.   Whenever 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 Muhammad Rumi and Firdausi. Despite Persian having lost its throne in the 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, particularly the Sufi Poets, continued to be sung along with Kashmiri poetry. Whether mystic or otherwise,  most of the mahfils started with a couplet or two by some great Persian poet. Persian continued to be popular with the older generation elite in our childhood.
 I don’t remember seeing a picture of Milton or Marlow during my childhood, but the photos of the great Persian poets had left indelible imprints on my mind. Most of the works of these great masters were sold outsides by small-time book vendors even trinket and bangle sellers sold them along with cheap jewellery. Most of the literary works carried the poet’s picture reclining against a bolster with a quill pen in his hand, an inkpot and half-written parchment spread on the writing desk in the middle.
My fascination for quill pens was also for these cover pictures. Sadly, despite my best efforts,  I could not make a good quill pen for learning cursive writing. ( From My Book Downtown Boy)

Filed under: Kashmir-Talk

Comments are closed.