In memory of my father's pens

Yes, it takes courage to raise children, perhaps it also takes trust that no matter how complex and uphill the task looks, there is always a valley of tranquillity hidden in these hills.

My father’s penmanship was well recognized in both his personal and professional groups. He also had a collection of beautiful fountain-pens that he had bought after much deliberation. Some were gifts for tasks well done and others from visits to unusual places. So precious was this collection to my father that he kept it well protected in a cupboard away from our prying eyes.

Children are special creatures. They are attracted to the very things they are told to keep away from. I was no exception. I was drawn again and again to the pens kept in the cupboard. My mother would tell me how dear they were to my father and that he might share them with me when I got older. But, like any other child, the notion of delayed gratification didn’t sit well with me. Time flew, but not quite fast enough. In grade 6, we were allowed to write with fountain pens!

Now was my chance— I asked my father if I could use a pen from his collection and reluctantly he conceded to give one to me. The pens were fancy and delicate and not ideal for an eleven-year-old. Even before I could quite get a hold of how to use it, it broke. After all, what is childhood if we tried to understand the ramifications of our actions? I quickly found a way to get another pen from my father’s collection when he was away. Eventually, I managed to wreck quite a few.

Imagine my father’s anguish when he found out that I had ruined a good number of pens from his collection. He said nothing. With what looked like resignation, he took out the other pens in his collection and gave them all to me. “There is no point in keeping them for later when you so obviously require them now,” was all he said. The love in this gesture signified was then lost to me. There are places in one’s heart that are truly reserved for children. I might not have realized it then, but in retrospect I’ve come to understand that it is only the selfless and occasionally unappreciated love of a parent that allows for forbearances and sacrifices both big and small.

All my adult life, whenever I’ve come across a really good fountain pen I’ve thought of my father. And more often than not I either send it to him or keep it safe with me so that he can
use it when he visits. Letting go of his prized possessions must have been hard for him, but he made it extremely easy for me to understand what unconditional love can look like and what it can do. Coming back to the analogy of the hills and valleys, Gilbert K Chesterton once said, “one sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.”

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