Pencil wood is not always to be blamed it might be the quality of the sharpener
Mahwish Haider Dar
In which the pencils all relate their experiences observations and short stories.
The first story begins as all are settled. Dame Redhood had invited all for this special session which she had wanted to hold for many pencil years.The season was pencil ripe’ the setting was special too. Pencileeze Hall had a new extension…a room with large bay windows which opened towards the nearby old thick dense forest most of which was unexplored as yet
Dame Redhood stood in the new Hall of the Pencileeze extended new quarters where she would be introducing and giving the special prologue to potential story tellers. ‘The art of story telling’ what is it?Dame Redhood had to work day and night to get the requisite knowledge for her fellow dwellers of the great family, and for all she invited to attend and learn.This was the main objective as she herself was a keen learner and educationist trying her pencil utmost to spread The Light of Lead’ as she called it now and for that objective she needed to be prepared herself.Her pencil House of Information was growing day by day and the collection of books and reference material had increased.She was expecting another large van of books to be delivered soon.’Van ‘ made her a little afraid that it may not be carrying some secret mission as well, but…
Now the Art of Story Telling that she wished to impart was defined as…by Garvie, ‘story in the widest sense is the carrier of life’s message and has I believe a vital part to play in the education of the young child’particularly in the development of language’ 1991:56.
’Further more a story can be loaded with different aspects of language teaching such as vocabulary building and structures which need to be taught’ There is a rich culture and repertoire of stories and fables in the ‘Masnavi of Maulana Rumi and Attar’s Ilahi Nama’
Dame Redhood had really got the most famous of story tellers from the regional story tellers of Asia, where as there were others from the colder regions as Grimms, Hans Christian, and others….but I would like to share a strange word group with you’
The four types of Word Group Experts and they are ‘ A Verbivore, Informavore, Logolept, and Wordaholic “Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words.”
We are living to be verbivores all of us…so the art of story telling involves the language the arrangement, the idea, the lesson and the expression for entertainment and effects’
Now have you got your stories ready? Who will begin shall we say Madam Purple Head please…come forward with your story…
Dame Redhood had a vast collection of quotes and here she got a very effective and lesson based one …
One that would have the fruit must climb the tree.
Thomas Fuller says if you wish to succeed then you must work hard’
There Are Eyes in the Mountains’ is the name of the story we are about to hear’
And so madam…Dame turquoise began….
Nature Speaks to us-I believe, Messages, silently to perceive
Time to pray and not to grieve, begin The Gratitude and Receive
‘I hope the firestone doesn’t come flying in and burn us up, we are going to die anyways’
‘Oh no, I am not ready to die yet’ she almost glared at Nisa a thin frail young girl feeling afraid all the time. Afraid of stones,, storms and cold wind. She just had a thin malmal chaddar to cover herself, her arms folded tightly around her slowly dragging herself onwards…fifteen tender years of her life…what had she seen of this world? Or her close friend, thirteen year old Farah, more positive in her joyful mood, springing and humming along, skipping a little after a step or two.
‘stop doing that and what are you so happy about?’
O I am happy that I am…’
I am I’
‘What do you mean I am I?
‘I am skipping and I like it , I can do it see…and she skipped again’
‘no don’t do that, you will hurt yourself and more so in a couple of years, you will be holding your back and crying’
‘O come on what do you mean?
‘Walk straight and see straight’ you know there are eyes in the mountains’
Does the mountain see from so high up?
Yes the mountain can not only see but can also hear …
Farah stopped and looked up, putting her hand on the forehead as if to shade her eyes,
‘I can’t see the ears’
‘You will never see the ears or the eyes’ but I know they are there’
Hey hurry up we are still a long way from our home’
No No wait I want to see the ears of the mountain’
What’s got into your head today anyway ‘ are you coming?
Farah and Nisa would come and go together to the local school. The walk on the narrow track was lined by a stone wall. The stones were stacked about three feet high.
‘Rolling rounders would be no more, soon, as the widening of the road had begun. The first thing that they did was to bring down the loose stone wall.
‘Walls are so protective’ they should keep them’
I like to look over them, see like this and she stopped and raised her toes to see across the fields on the other side.
‘well, what is it?
O nothing special I just like to see , something might come some day’ some new object landing from the moon perhaps or another star’ or from the unknown world of fairies and witches and…perhaps angels…
‘All you will ever see is a scarecrow ‘
You and your imagination’ dreams never come true dreams…ugh…
She looked up a little as she walked on the narrow dusty uneven small stony trek, it had become a monotonous routine, putting on the headcover’ tying the scarf, slipping on the almost worn out half slippers, holding the few books folded in a cloth piece, close to heart,
‘What is this world that we live in? The fields the mountains the open skies sometimes filled with birds, a strange tune singing in the wind, and we walking all the way …it is our land our village, lucky we to have one, many people long for a village of their own’ but what makes me uneasy, I …I …am scared …’her thoughts would march along with her steps all the way.
What is behind these mountains? Nisa would think. She had a thinking mind .The mountain looked at her angrily she felt one day…’She had not wished her Mother farewell’ but had hurriedly gone out of the door’ .She heard her call but ignored it , the reason she herself did not know…
O the mountain is angry with me today Farah’
Farah as usual was skipping a little,
‘Did you finish your home work? Is it about homework?
No I could not as last night I had to make more than the usual ‘roti’
There were some guests, they came suddenly, they were quiet and talked in low voices.I could not understand what they were saying’ Mother was busy and I did not get time.
My hands and arms were paining and I was awake till late. Then I saw a dream
‘O will you tell me?
‘well…I saw this mountain’ and…I saw that it was rising as if trying to stand even higher and then I saw it had a face, a soft half smiling face , the eyes were brown and shining brightly, and then I heard it say something, at first I did not understand but then slowly I got some meaning…
What …what…did it say?
‘It said …that…I had to go to the blue gate …blue gate…’I wonder where the blue gate there I will see a white wagon which will be parked on the side…I will step inside and it would take me for a ride’ I will go alone.
‘O I know the blue gate, I saw it two days ago when we were coming home. It is a house on the side. It had a blue gate. I think it was painted.
Why was it painted blue? Blue means the sky and blue means freedom’ blue is the color of the peace makers remember our Teacher was saying that the green caps and blue caps will come ‘
‘Who are the blue caps and the green caps ‘
I don’t know the bell rang and the class ended before Teacher could tell us’
‘When do you have the next class?
We don’t know when ever the teacher wishes she tells us about them…
May be she made them up or had a dream about them…
Nisa and Farah’s stories questions and answers continued everyday on their way to and back from school, the mountain would look at them and they at it. Nisa felt that it spoke, looked at her and was trying to tell her something. Farah had her fears which she would not share. The blue and green caps haunted her and now the blue gate of her dream…
Tonight I will pray before going to bed. I will ask Him to tell me’
Who will tell you?
He? Him? I don’t get it –
You don’t need to you will not understand now’ Nisa was firm in this decision
I believe He lives in the mountains and …
Are you sure’?
Well’ The road is straight, it is green on the sides of the road and the trees are always green all the year round’ isn’t that a clear sign? The Green means that ‘life is there always’ Life continues’ Life is more than what we feel or know about’ life is…
Yea,yea, life is going walking’ every day, sitting on the floor’ doing things for the teacher, cleaning the mats and sometimes sweeping the floor’ and ‘blacking the writing board ‘making all our hands black with ink for days’ bringing water, and then learning…
You are not happy? You should be thankful
I am I, see, I am happy but not really. The Teacher is …is…
Don’t say anything about the Teacher; she does come to school doesn’t she?
She comes with a large shopper’ bag’ but she never…
Now that’s not a good thing to talk about when someone is not present’
Oh OK I am I’ let me be a little ….
‘No no, keep walking straight and you will be fine, where did you see the blue gate?
‘Oh, looking around Farah could not remember where she saw the blue gate?
‘It must not be real, how come you saw the same color as in my dream?
We are friends aren’t we? People who are close can read each others thoughts and understand their feelings and emotions ’hmmn I know what you like; do you know what I like?
I like to be free and happy ‘and I like to walk fast,fast,fast, almost run a little and skip a little’
No walk slowly with grace you are quite tall now –though a baby at heart’
And you are a Grand Maa…Maaji ! Maaji ! ‘what does your mountain say now’
It says you have to follow rules and stay straight’ Straight straight all the way’
He does not even move and he frightens everyone’
He is powerful in his non movement style that is he stays in his place and stays strong’
I would like to see it closely someday’ let’s go up and see’
That is not possible, we have work and now be quiet we are almost home, you take care and finish your work.
Another day, another evening and soon it would be dark. She wondered when they would put up these poles, they had been lying here for more than a year now, probably another year will go by…things were never completed there…
The same routine followed but at least there were no guests that night’
Morning dawned ominous. Heavy clouds had overcast the sky during the night. Both friends huddled their few books against their bodies and started their walk to the learning center’ The sky was not visible. As Nisa looked up she understood the message
The Blue Gate! It was the sky’ The Sky ‘the Sky’ The Sky’
But the white wagon? Where was it? She looked around trembling and shivering a little’
But kept moving on…Farah would always be a step ahead, then would wait a little for Nisa to catch up and …’Lets go up the mountain today’ we will come back quickly
Please, please, just this one time, today I want to see the eyes
‘Nisa could not resist…
The mountain seemed to smile.The breeze felt cool. ‘Change had entered ‘only the mountain was a witness’, only the mountain saw it.
.At first nothing was odd, just stones mud and grass and hard rocks came in the way. They kept climbing, finding stable patches, holding small branches and fixing their feet on small natural step like flat spaces, sometimes creating one. On and on they went.
O Mother I wish I had listened to her’ I will say sorry when I get back’ Nisa was feeling heavy’ She had not answered in her hurry to leave in time.Now the ‘sorry’ would have to wait…
After a while a vast blue screen started to emerge ‘New Life’ New horizons , new skies, new scenes, something far beyond was almost within reach.
Freedom with Fear, moments of joy, silence so holy…Mountains or cultures, moments or traditions, nature or destiny, life or mortality’
There is only One Power ‘O Almighty, Beautiful is your world, so fresh and free, up here, but down there…? People make it difficult…and so dirty…how I wish we could stay in this free cool air…
A slow rumbling began to sound. It grew louder
The mountain moved, shook and started to break away. It started to sink.
It had looked so strong, powerful and immovable’ so high and grand’ so appealing’ what…why…
Nisa ! Farah ! Farah ! Nisa ! Farah !
Earthquake. E A R T H Q U A K E…Farah and Nisa lost their foothold and sank with the stones. They had desired to be on the top. They reached the top and then…
‘did you notice the darkness that came over? A solemn voice asked. “O I did it was so frightening but then the blue gate opened’ ‘Blue Gate?’ O yes, I mean the sky’ it looked like a gate opening wide and spacious. It was strange and striking.’
They were the best in the learning center.’ The best always go early’ No one knows why?
‘Going straight was her rule all the time’ keeping to the point was her principle, and being responsible was her method.
Was it the real freedom, leading to the enlightened beautiful world? Through the clear blue gate, along with the flying and gliding birds, large and small, singing and whistling, was that the real world they had wishes for and dreamed about?
The mountain was quiet now. Clouds had vanished, but the sun was hazy. How soon beauty fades away, innocence is crushed, tenderness scraped and smiles erased. The joy of beauty stilled.
Who will make the world down there as beautiful as on the top?
The white wagon was waiting for the white covered bodies.