This pen. This pen that each and every single one of us has, is a pen my father did not have, a pen that my father’s father did not have.
We’ve all seen the memes. “when I was your age, I would walk 4km to school barefoot with no breakfast”. Put your hands up ladies and gentlemen if your parents also had a similar trek. Don’t worry, I’ve been hearing it ever since I was born.
Growing up my dad would always tell us his struggle to get to where he was. He would always teach me and my siblings the importance of education. He would tell us the stories of how he grew up, how sometimes there wouldn’t be breakfast or dinner or how he would mix ashes with water to create ink, and use big green palm leaves from his banana tree for paper. How he was the only one in his entire village that would study for hours and hours non-stop.
He was just a village boy, 6 siblings, destined to marry a village girl, work as a farmer for the rest of his life and die in his small little village.
But he refused. He fought destiny.
And if he hadn’t broken the cycle, I would just be another village girl, probably married with one kid by now.
So 14 years later, for the very first time, when I took a trip to a small village in Joshor, Bangladesh, my homeland; the place where my father grew up. I trembled in anticipation to finally see where it had all begun. I witnessed my father’s 4km trek and let me tell you, it was no joke. That day for the very first time in my life, I truly understood what my privilege meant.
I remember growing up, I was never great at my studies, it’s not that I wasn’t intelligent but I never saw the value, I never tried very hard. We all know what it was like, life revolved around trying to fit in, Beyblades, making loombands and Minecraft.
My father, the village boy, fell in love with a city girl, came 12th in his entire state and ran away to Australia to pursue his dreams, a world full of new opportunities.
Today he is a successful university professor & I am not saying this to flex. I am saying this because as cliché as it is, you can be anything you want to be. Its discipline, a vision and good character.
But today I realise, the spoon is literally hovering in our mouth all we have to do is take that bite and swallow. Or has society fooled us to believe that this too, is too difficult? Where has our resilience gone? Why can we barely walk half a kilometre?
Something a wise teacher once told me and it’s something I’ll never forget. The miracle of Islam came down in words. It is words that built nations, changed even the most or ignorant of hearts.
This pen is power. Education is power. Education gives our words their power. This soft organ, the tongue can either be venom or save a life. It can break a family or it can mend one.
Education destroys ignorance, gives us knowledge, our words strength, reliability, confidence, clarity. Words make ideas and ideas are the most powerful force shaping human culture. This pen is our weapon to decide what is to be and what is not. Even as I speak, the world is out to get us. So use this weapon, do not store it in your pocket forever. And if the ink ever runs out. There’s always another pen. To be or not to be, ladies and gentlemen that’s for you to decide.
I know my dad isn’t here to hear to this. But thank you abbu for walking 4km every day to get to school, with no sandal and no lunch. If only I had maybe even 1/10 of your perseverance and determination then just maybe I’ll be able to beat Kamil in this speech.
Thank you abbu, for giving me the gift of this pen. To be, or not to be, that is the question. And that is for you to decide.