BENGALURU: If you ever come across a group of fountain pen lovers, make sure you keep your rollerball pen far, far away. This reporter wasn’t so mindful and was playfully chided with comments like, ‘Please throw that pen away’, ‘Did you say rollerball pen? Sorry, we don’t utter those words. Ever’ and ‘I burned my hand just by touching that pen.’ Welcome to the Bengaluru edition of the Pelikan Hub 2019, where pen enthusiasts from the city come together to celebrate and discuss their one true love: The fountain pen.
Organised by German pen manufacturers Pelikan, the meetups take place all over the world at local time 6.30 pm on September 20. The Bengaluru edition, which saw 20 participants, was organised by this year’s hub master, KC Janardhan, a researcher and trainer in handwriting and calligraphy, at J’s La Quill, a museum of handwriting, lettering, calligraphy and writing instruments.
Two long tables take up most of the space in the room, where pens, beautifully hand-lettered notebooks and bottles of ink lay scattered all over. The participants – some seasoned hobbyists, some newcomers – are busy in conversation as they compare each other’s writing tools, some like Shubho Kundu even using a magnifying instrument to carefully study the nib.
They say the pen is mightier than the sword but what is it about the fountain pen that these enthusiasts love? Sanjay Ramaswamy, a project manager, explains: “It’s the feeling you get while writing.” He goes on to demonstrate this by using one fountain pen to illustrate different strokes and adds, “Personally, I love tinkering. And these pens let me do just that, from making a nib to filling in the ink into the pen.” Ramaswamy even makes his own flex nibs (a type of nib that can create different line widths) and takes 15 days to do so.
For Kundu, a global master trainer at LG Electronics, who is also a collector of over 500 pens, the fascination lies in fixing old pens. He, in fact, often asks friends and families to hand over any old fountain pens they come across. “There’s a lot of value in these pens. Sometimes to the tunes of tens of thousands. But besides monetary value, it’s also about the sentiment attached to them,” he says.
While some love these pens for their mechanism and writing style, Jit Banerjee loves the ink they use more. “Three base colours can give you so many different combinations. And they all come out differently on different kinds of paper,” says the collector of 200 pens and 350 bottles of ink, adding that the chain of thought while writing is clearer. “You take more time to write and pay attention to your thoughts before putting it down. You don’t get that while typing something.” One might wonder if the thought of not being able to erase a mistake is off-putting but Banerjee disagrees. “You may have to cross it out but it’s a feeling that’s closer to heart,” he says.
Agreed Mahesh Manickham, a CA from Trichy who was also a part of the event, and says he always has at least 18 to 25 fountain pens with him at all times. “I use different nib variants and colours while working. Sometimes they help you get the right ‘click’ you need. It also adds some entertainment in my profession,” he says.
But are these pens fighting a losing battle in a world that is completely turning towards the taps and clicks of digital mediums? Not really, says Janardhan, adding that at least one in 10 collectors is an IT professional. Besides a higher disposable income, they also turn towards this hobby to slow down and take a breather from their stressful professional lives. Or as Janardhan says, “Because when you write, your head thinks, your heart feels and then your hand translates those thoughts and feelings.”