Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Pen for Mr Biswas

Moti did not belong to the village. He was a small worried-looking man with grey hair and bad teeth. He was dressed in a dingy clerkish way. His dirty shirt sat neatly on him and the creases on his trousers could just be seen. In his shirt pocket he carried a fountain pen, a stunted pencil and pieces of soiled paper, the equipment and badge of the rural literate.

At Hanuman House they were three children among many; at Ajodha's there were no other children. ... At Prasad's they were again the only children and lived in a mud hut, which they thought quaint: it was like a large doll's house. Prasad didn't give money, but a thick red exercise book, a Shirley Temple fountain pen and a bottle of Waterman's ink.

The examination was on a Saturday. ... He was given Mr Biswas's pen, in case his own should fail. He was given a large new bottle of ink, in case the examiners didn't provide enough. He was given many blotters, many Sentinel pencils, a pencil sharpener, a ruler, and two erasers, one for pencil, one for ink. He said, "Anybody would believe I am going to this place to get married."
The pen Mr Biswas has lent him, just in case, had leaked in his shirt pocket and left a large wet stain: it was though his heart had bled ink. His hair was disordered, his lips black and moustached with ink, his cheeks and forehead smudged. His face was drawn; he looked dejected, exhausted and irritable. ... "Here. Take back your pen."Mr Biswas took back his pen. It dripped with ink.

V.S. Naipaul, A House for Mr Biswas, 1961

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