The Pen – A Story of Faith & Perseverance

This story was related to me by my friend, Rev. Manir Din. Manir is a very fine gentleman and a very good friend. He loves people and likes to share his life’s experiences with them. Manir has spent the early years of his professional life as a teacher in Edwards High School, Peshawar, a pioneer educational institution of Pakistan. After working as an educationist for over fifteen years, he resigned as the Vice principal of the School. He migrated to Canada where he worked as a pastor for many years. As a very senior and respectable educationist of the province of KPK (formerly known as NWFP), Manir was a well-known figure of the town. Whenever we sit together, it’s a joy to listen to his stories based upon his personal experiences. There is a lot of adventure, charisma and fun in his stories. What I like best is his ‘style of narrating his tales’. Here is one his stories which I would like to share with you. Please note that I have taken his permission in narrating this story to public.

Manir had a friend named Bashir Mirza. This happened in the days when Manir was working at Edwards High School, Peshawar. Bashir was a health worker at the Lady Reading Hospital, the only government hospital of the town besides Afghan Mission Hospital (Church Managed). One day, Bashir met Manir in the market. During their meeting they talked about some health issues. Manir asked Bashir for the name of a medicine and gave his pen and note-pad to him to write the medicine’s name. Manir, as a professional educationist, always carried a pen and a small note-pad with him.

In those days, there was no concept of ball pens. People used fountain pens with a metal nib (writing tip) and a rubber tube inside the outer cover which was made of metal or plastic. The rubber tube was filled with liquefied ink available in glass bottles. I remember that we had to visit a stationer in order to get the rubber tube or the nib replaced in case of a problem with the fountain pen. Some professionals used to carry very expensive and good quality fountain pens. There were some very famous names such as Parker and Sheaffer, manufacturers of very superior and flawless pens. Looking at Manir’s personality and profession, I believe that he also carried good quality pens.

Bashir wrote down the required information and handed over the note-pad to Manir. He forgot to return the pen, however. It is usually a common habit of people to put the pen in pocket immediately after writing, totally forgetting to return it to its owner. Losing or receiving a pen is a common experience of people who lend or borrow pens at a public place such as post office. Manir, as per the common habit, forgot to take the pen back from Bashir and Bashir forgot to return it to Manir. When Manir reached home, he found out that the pen was not in his pocket and recalled that it was none other than Bashir who took his pen with him. There were no cell phones in those days, nor was there any home telephone facility available at every house. So, Manir waited till the time he got the opportunity to meet Bashir personally. It looked as if the pen was very dear to Manir because he was very disturbed and worried at the loss. He visited Bashir’s house at the first available opportunity in order to get his pen back. Fortunately, he found Bashir present in his house. The first thing Manir asked him was about his pen. Bashir was very sorry that he forgot to return the pen and put it in his pocket instead. He said that the pen was not with him. He took it to Rawalpindi when he went there to visit his sister on the weekend. His sister borrowed it from him and he forgot to take it back. He said he would return the pen to Manir the next week.

Bashir used to visit his sister on weekends. Rawalpindi is another city about three or four hours journey by bus from Peshawar. Bashir apologized for all that happened regarding the pen. Nevertheless, he assured Manir that he would visit Rawalpindi on the coming weekend and would bring the pen back. Manir, although very sad and disappointed about Bashir’s attitude and carelessness, returned home with the confidence and faith that he would get his pen back. The weekend passed. Manir visited Bashir again. But the pen was not returned because Bashir forgot it. Since Bashir used to visit his sister every weekend, Manir’s hopes of getting his pen back remained alive. Weekends kept passing; Manir kept visiting Bashir’s house regularly and Bashir kept promising that he would bring it the next time. An entire year passed in this process. The pen was not returned to its owner.

But Manir’s confidence and faith never dwindled. He decided to take a trip to Rawalpindi to retrieve his pen. He told Bashir that he would accompany him to Rawalpindi for the pen. Despite Bashir’s assurances to convince him regarding the pen’s return, Manir did not budge from his plan to travel to Rawalpindi. The travel from one city to another was not an easy thing in those days. Manir had to hire a rickshaw or taxi to the bus stop which was far away from his house. He had to wait for the bus and pay for the trip. Manir waited at the bus terminal for a long time in the sweltering weather. There was heat, there was dust and there was noise of lorries, cars, rickshaws, animal or man-drawn carriages and carts. It seemed that all the odds were against Manir’s plan of travelling to Rawalpindi. Despite all these odds and challenges Manir stood firm in his determination. The bus came on the stand; Manir and Bashir boarded the bus. Bashir could read the tense face of Manir and tried to keep him happy by talking on various matters of common interest. But Manir was not interested in anything. He was just concentrating on his goal i.e. to get his pen back. Halfway through the journey, the bus stopped for a half hour rest at a place called Kund. It is a small town on the bank of River Kabul. Bashir got down to sip a hot cup of tea in a roadside tea-shop at the river’s bank. Kund is a very scenic place with rugged and barren mountains on one side of the road sloping down into River Kabul. It is also a place where River Kabul joins the famous River Sindh, the longest river of Pakistan. The roadside tea-shops make really very traditional Pakistani tea by boiling tea, milk and sugar in blue enameled tea-pots on very hot charcoal fire. But Manir kept sitting inside the bus. He was not at all interested in anything other than his pen. The bus left Kund and finally reached Rawalpindi after a long and tiring journey. For Manir it was even more tiring and longer from the psychological perspective. Both friends got into a taxi and arrived at Bashir’s sister’s residence. Manir, after exchanging formal greetings with Bashir’s sister, sat down for a cup of tea which she had prepared. During the tea time, Manir asked Bashir to bring the pen. Before Bashir got up, his sister went inside and brought the pen. She said that she knew the story and used to remind Bashir every time to take the pen back. Forgetful as Bashir usually is, every time he forgot it. She, however, kept the pen in her custody so that it could be returned to its owner. As soon as Manir got hold of his pen, he took a sigh of great relief. His heart was full of gratitude for Bashir’s sister and God. After the tea was over, he begged leave from Bashir and his sister despite their insistence that he should spend the night with them. Manir took a taxi, and boarded the first available bus to Peshawar, full of joy and gratitude. He had learnt his lesson very well: “Always keep your eyes on your pen whenever you lend it to someone!” Hats off to Manir’s faith and perseverance!

By Mumtaz Shah