Summer and winter vacations during my childhood meant a lot. It meant we were going to my maternal grandpa’s house to spend the holidays with much fun and frolic. Hardworking for two or three days to get my holiday homework finished and I was as free as a bird. Romping around the garden, playing hide and seek with my cousins in the nearby park, gamboling in the spacious terrace and what not! But the most attractive part was the story session of Dadu (grandpa) after sundown. Dadu being a doctor had seen so many things in his life, had experienced so much that never was he tired of weaving stories out of his real life experiences.
One summer evening as I entered Dadu’s study room, he was busy writing something in his notebook. He smiled at me and asked me to wait for a few minutes. Then he finished writing and opened an oak chest. He was about to put his pen in the chest when my eyes got attracted to it. “OH! Dadu! What a beautiful pen you’ve”! I said excitedly. Truly, I had never seen such a fountain pen before. The sleek, shimmering black body of the pen contrasted by the glittering golden fine nib …..it looked not just like a pen but a prized possession. Dadu smiled again and said, “This is indeed an iconic writing instrument. A gift from one of my patients who lives abroad”. Then he handed me the pen and said,”Can you read the name engraved on the cap?”
“Yes, it is ‘mont blank’ …” I pronounced loudly.
He laughed and said,”No dear, look at the spelling, though it’s “Montblanc” but the correct pronunciation of the name of this world famous German company is “mo(n) blaw(n). The nib of the pen is handcrafted and made of gold, very delicate indeed. It’s priceless to me”. He put the beautiful pen inside the chest and locked it.
He started his story, but I couldn’t concentrate. My whole attention was shifted towards that Montblanc pen. I wanted to hold and write with it. But I knew that Dadu was not going to allow that. Though I always used to get extreme indulgence from him but he could be very stubborn in some cases.
One afternoon after a few days, I sneaked into Dadu’s study room. Everybody was busy and no one was there to keep an eye on me. I knew exactly where Dadu kept his chest keys. My hands were trembling vigorously as I moved the key. Noiselessly the oak chest opened itself before me and there was THE PEN! What a beauty! I forgot everything I had read in Moral Science books….that whenever you take anything which belongs to others without seeking their permission, it is called stealing. I surreptitiously took out a notepad and started to scribble, nothing, in particular, just for the sake of writing with that pen.
Suddenly I heard footsteps outside. Startled, I was about to put the pen back in place but I slipped it….it fell on the ground. Almost crying I took it up and checked the nib. There was a subtle crack. I tried to write again, but it had lost its former smoothness. Nothing could be done now. I put everything in place and came out. Fortunately, no one was there to notice me this time too.
The commotion started next morning. On Dadu’s query everybody said that he or she had not even entered the room, let alone touching that pen. I was pretending to be asleep, but I could hear everything from my room. Finally, that dreadful moment arrived. Dadu called me up. He just asked me whether I had any idea about who had done it. I simply said, “no”.
I lost my appetite. I lost my happiness and peace of mind. Something inside me was pricking me continuously. “Why can’t you tell the truth?” I asked myself. “You might get reprimanded for your misdeed, but you’ll get back your happiness, you will again be able to enjoy everything around you, gather your strength and courage and confess the truth”.
That evening I again entered Dadu’s study room. Dadu was sitting alone. I put my hands on Dadu’s lap and said,”Dadu, I did it, I took your pen and slipped it off stupidly…please Dadu I’m sorry, forgive me”.
He caressed my hands and said,”I knew it from the very beginning, You forgot to hide the notepad on which you were writing. I just wanted you to come up with the truth. I wanted your conscience to make you confess…..never be afraid of truth in your life, child. Truth will make you a stronger and purer person”.
I can still visualize that picture. A little 11-year-old girl is sobbing uncontrollably and a septuagenarian is consoling her with all his wisdom and love.