It’s been a while that I penned down my thoughts. Which reminds me of the time when for the first time I got hear of the phrase “pen down”.
I joined boarding school. There were no landline phones for students’ use, the only mail we had heard was male and female and mobile phones were unheard of. The only way to communicate one’s well being to parents was through letters.
Writing letters was still undiscovered by most new joinees. We thought, to help us, most of the letter update was either dictated or actually chalked on the blackboard, starting from “Dear” and ending with “Yours Lovingly”. It was only later that we found out that infact, letters to parents had a format and no one could afford to write one extra bit over and above the prescribed news to publish. For this, every Friday there were two periods dedicated to letter writing. Friday was a good day as it was weekend. Boys and girls had to give the entire week’s news to their parents and make them feel proud.
So, first Friday in school, the teacher starts dictating my news to my parents which was exactly the same news all my batch mates experienced over the first week. I suspect the first letter written to parents in the week of joining may have had one extra line on us have “settled down”. Anyhow, somewhere among “I am hale and hearty” and “by the grace of Almighty” and , “sailing in the same boat”, I drowned in the moment. I had stopped writing and had started day dreaming of being with my parents and telling them what is happening in school rather than writing my experiences. When I regained senses, I could hear “pen down” by the teacher. Since, it seemed I had spent hours fantasizing, I feared the letter is about to end and I put my pen down. I also feared this phrase had to be a part of the letter. I did manage to finish my letter on my own, could not manage to fit in the phrase anywhere though. I folded the letter, inserted it in the envelope and acted as if “I am hale and hearty” and all my batch mates are “sailing in the same boat”. I don’t know why, but the phrase stuck to my mind.
Next Friday, when letter writing period started, all I wanted was not to miss the phrase in my letter. I started with “Dear”, went onto “hale and hearty”, made my parents “sail in the same boat” and took Almighty’s grace too. Then came weather update and Sunday movie exhibit too. My excitement was growing by the minute and with every line. Every full stop made by heart beat stop.
Once my teacher had dictated all my news to my parents to me and I had scribbled all, there was a pause. Probably, my teacher was still unsure if we have “settled down” as there could have been one new student in the class who joined late and was not a part of the first experience in letter writing. That pause was the longest I had held my breath out of water. Finally, she said, “OK, now you may pen down your name”. This is it, I rejuvenated. But I could only hear “pen down” as that is all I wanted to hear. So, I created my sentence. I started with wrote the usual end as formatted, “Rest all is fine” and then gave my spin, “since there is nothing more to add, I pen down here”!!
I still remember the tight slap smacked across my face by the Headmistress who did sample checks of student letters to parents and I was the lucky one. Lucky since if that letter was not caught that evening, I would not be penning down my thoughts but would have pen down here.
– Kanishka Mallick (1996 Batch)
1990s Correspondence Kanishka Mallick Letters