Since childhood, I was drawn to calligraphy – the art of handwriting. However, I was living in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and did not have any mentor to teach me how to do it. If I had a mentor, I would have become a calligrapher, for sure, because I loved writing with a bamboo pen and ink. I wonder if kids these days even know what a bamboo pen is!
Anyhow, as far as I am concerned, I did not let my limitations get in my way and wrote thousands of pages, never mind my handwriting. I would buy white sheets of paper from the provision store near my house, bind them and use them as notebooks. I must have been in the third or the fourth grade then, so it’s been a long, long time now. Luckily, I still have some of those notebooks back at home, well-preserved and safe. Later, when I grew up and had put in considerable effort to improve my handwriting, I started writing with different pens, including ball pens – which kids mostly use these days.
Crazy as it may sound, I still spend a lot of time to look for beautiful and classic pens online, on Amazon, in shops. Anywhere in the world I travel, I buy pens. I have odd interests you might think. “Collecting pens, who does that?” you might say – but that’s the way it is. I love pens and I love to write with them.
A couple of years ago when I returned to Kandahar, I came across an old classmate of mine. He was kind enough to invite me over for a cup of green tea. The following day, during our conversation, I asked him about our other classmates and their whereabouts. My friend smiled at me and picked up his phone.
“There is one that I know of. Let’s call him,” he said to me.
I was slightly confused, not knowing which classmate he was referring to?
Meanwhile, my friend handed me the phone and asked me to introduce myself to one, Hasham; he was my classmate in Grade four.
I became excited. Eagerly, I snatched the phone from this friend and said “Hello!” to Hasham. I asked him if he remembered me. Notably, there were a lot of kids in my school (and class) who had the same name as I had.
There was a long pause from the other side and after that Hasham said, “Are you Syed Rahim with that beautiful handwriting?”
Needless to say, I couldn’t control my laughter and said, “Yes, yes, it’s me.”
After that phone conversation, Hasham and I met face to face and shared many child memories, including our mutual love of participating in school handwriting competitions. He had a good handwriting, too, and loved to write. He doesn’t write anymore, though, like most of us. Financial constraints pushed him to leave his education and take up the job of an electrician.
Anyhow, because of my handwriting, I received a lot of appreciation from my teachers. An elder brother gave me a big bottle of shiny red ink – it literally made my handwriting glitter. I don’t know where he got it from but it made me very happy. My letter writing hobby did much for me. Here, I’ll narrate an incident that got me a show on the All India Radio Pashto Service.
That was in Kandahar – around the eighties, if we have to be specific. There were none of these modern ways of entertainment, except the radio. At that time Afghanistan was still suffering from war during the Russian invasion. Needless to say, I loved listening to the radio. The Kabul Radio and the All India Radio Pashto Service were my favorites. Since I love Hindi music, I used to listen to AIR Pashto Service which played the latest Hindi songs for the Afghan audience. Interestingly, they had a programme called: ‘Your Letter and Your Song’.
I think I wrote approximately one hundred letters to this show requesting my favorite songs. I became a popular listener because I wrote to them a lot. I remember AIR Pashto dedicated one full show to my name. It was all because of my letters – one of which I wrote in many colours and it was praised a lot by the radio hosts. In this particular letter, I had requested a song from the movie ‘Roti’, starring the late Rajesh Khanna. The song was: ‘Nach meri bulbul’. Do you remember it? Wasn’t it a beautiful song? I was very happy that day and I told all my classmates about it.
Trust me, years later, my love of letter writing remains the same. I still love writing letters and I still love my pen! However, I do stop to wonder why people don’t write letters anymore? Are you also one of them?