The joy of a fountain pen

Our earliest introduction to writing was with the humble pencil - Natraj for boys and Apsara Flora for girls.
The joy of a fountain pen

BENGALURU: Our earliest introduction to writing was with the humble pencil - Natraj for boys and Apsara Flora for girls. But pencils needed to be accompanied with sharpeners and erasers. The crueller teachers in my school would place the pencil in between our fingers and squeeze our hands, resulting in a quick shift to pencils with smooth, rounded edges. The pencil also caused in me a constant anxiety of ‘Is it sharp enough?’, often coming in the way of my imbibing important concepts like ‘A for apple’.

Since I sharpened my pencils until they resembled spears in the Mahabharata, my pencils often shrunk at the pace of the Zimbabwean dollar. The introduction of pens therefore, was a paradigm shift. Our school had strange rules around pens – we were only allowed to use fountain pens, and never allowed to share our pens with others. We were told that using a fountain pen improves handwriting, and inculcates discipline and responsibility. I side with the latter reasoning, for filling your fountain pen was akin to walking to a well to fill vessels of water. Fountain pens came with unique problems.

The constant leaks resulted in the blue patch of shame appearing on one’s shirt pockets during ‘assembly’. Our first introduction to Bluetooth was having ink on our teeth. The leaks would result in a ‘c’ looking like an ‘e’; and if your pen was old, the ‘e’ could drip down further to become a ‘g’. Then there was the shady business of underlining important concepts in red to score a few grace marks for neatness. But if you only had one pen, the red and blue inks would mix to form a purple, resulting in further thrashing. The ink pens and ink pots were stored in the bag, which then resulted in a large blue splotch right in the middle of Mickey Mouse’s face.

With all the leaking, I often wonder why they were called fountain pens and not faucet pens. As life went on, fountain pens were replaced by ball-point pens. The humble fountain pens struggled to compete with ball-point pens impressively named ‘Hero Pen’ and ‘Pilot Pen’. Ball-point pens required no manual refilling - simply fling the refill till it finds its way to a turtle’s dinner. The process of writing itself became a rarity, until I found myself as a writer and stand-up comedian years later. I like writing my ideas out on paper first, and the process of picking the ideal pen is a constant torment.

Believe me when I say that I spend more time on stationery sites than dating apps. Imagine my surprise then, when I stumbled upon fountain pens in the stationery section, tucked away behind the Hulks and the Spidermen. While smartphones and Snapchat have transformed our lives, fountain pens have gone through a quiet transformation of their own. They now come with cartridges. So now when you run out of ink, instead of a lowly plumber, you feel like Rambo.

The nibs have also gotten smoother. A few days with the fountain pen made me discover something else that was unique about fountain pens. Upon consistent use, the nib smoothens out according to your handwriting and grip - until the pen seems to be gliding over the paper magically. The next time you’re in the supermarket, pick a fountain pen. I’m no historian, but I assume the quote ‘Pen is mightier than sword’ was coined along with the invention of the fountain pen. I know not if my pen is mightier than a sword, but it is certainly a smooth, singleedged sword.

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The New Indian Express