This piece was first published in Hindustan Times.
It was through a fountain pen that I recently discovered my moment of peace. The long, sinuous lines it created on paper were pure bliss, carrying none of the boorishness of the ball pen or the detachment of the keyboard. They seemed patient and honest, and utterly, utterly personal.
For most friends of my generation, fountain pens incite long-lost memories of school days with inky fingers, smudged notebooks and ruined shirt pockets. But they are also the stuff of good luck at examinations, graduation gifts and among the first signs of turning adults.
Why, my first memory of joining the honorary list of grown-ups at school is directly linked to a fountain pen. “No more pencils, the teacher says we are big enough to use the pen now,” I had announced at home with great pride as I fussed over entering the sixth grade.
Out my father emerged from his room carrying an elegant silver box, and opened it to reveal a sparkling silver-and-black fountain pen. To me, the delicately engraved marvel placed over a lustrous black fabric seemed a piece of art, displayed like jewellery in an adorned case. It was a treasured item, a wedding gift from a dear uncle. My father seemed both proud and apprehensive when handing over the responsibility to me. He would inquire about the pen’s well being several times in the coming months.
Those were the days when a talent to write beautifully attracted admirers. And I was often in demand when a need to elegantly write on cards or invitations arose. Writing with the pen brought me artistic fulfillment and kept a check on my rhythm and consistency. The ritual involved in filling the pens with ink tamed me; it even transported me to a momentary Zen-like state.
Then came a remorseless rival in the form of ballpoint pen that, despite its annoying habit to leave pasty blobs of ink here and there in the text, won hands down for its sheer pace and productivity. For the price at which they came, losing ’em wasn’t a big deal. One couldn’t part with a pricey fountain pen that easily; one had to be careful and responsible.
Just as the fountain pens began to prepare for the technological graveyard, the advent of email and other electronic messaging types ruthlessly shook the very existence of manual writing. Today, doing the little writing on paper forms in government offices gives us a shiver.
But while one may expect that email and the ballpoint pen have killed the fountain pen, they have survived. Transformed from an archaic working to an accessory, a bulky Montblanc or a shining Parker is a treasured item for many.
So, after nearby a decade, as I scribbled away with such as a borrowed treasure, the experience left me nostalgic and calm.
This week has been hectic and, to beat stress, I plan to gift myself a fountain pen.