My first writing started with the help of “Kalam.”
Handcrafted from a solid dry twig, with one end slightly chiselled and shaped like a nib. And the stem was smoothed to hold the Kalam.
For each word or few words to write, the Kalam received its ink while dipped into an inkpot. Together the pair was called “Kalam-dawaat,” that I used to carry with me to primary school. Often my school bag and my clothing got stains of the black ink.
My writing palette was a “Takhti,” a wooden oblong-shaped plank about the size of a regular kitchen cutting board, and with the same thickness.
At the school, the class teacher respectfully addressed “Masterji,” assigned the writing exercise on the “takhti.” There was no tolerance from him for any spelling mistake. Very carefully and gently, the writing was like painting on the wooden board. But the entire assignment had to be washed down and cleaned after school.
Showered with plain water, let it dry and then giving it a coating and massage of a unique clay called “Gachi” on both sides, were the daily treatment that my little “Takhti” needed.
I remember, when the “Takhti” was not completely dry, I used to wave it up and down facing the Sun while singing the line: “suraj-e suraj-e Patti suka..”, a little sort of prayer, meaning O’ Sun, dry my palette. It often worked before reaching school.
As I got older and getting into higher grades, “Kalam-dawaat” was replaced by “Kagaz” and pen, meaning paper and pen. The latter itself was an assembly of few parts. It used to be reloaded with fresh ink every day. Much later, the ballpoint pens came on the horizon. Now fingers have taken over to work on the keypad.
But the Kalam of my primary school time carries a nostalgic mark from where I started my first writing.
-By Promod Puri