Tuesday, April 01, 2008

My gilded pen

Today in class, my trusty ballpoint pen ran out of ink. Since I greatly pride myself on the accuracy and speed of my note-taking, I hurriedly begged around for another and R handed me her fountain pen. Writing with it brought back a whole well of memories. Fountain pens have individual characters, something our modern day ballpoints and rollerballs and technotips sadly lack. In most fountain pens the ink doesn't flow unless you hold the pen just so, and each pen has its own 'just so'. Shake a temperamental fountain pen too violently and it'll leave angry blotches of ink all over your notes.

I remember that we were only ever allowed to write with pencil till the fourth standard in school. From fifth standard, we made the drastic switch to fountain pens. I couldn't wait for the first day of school to start, I had such a beauty of a pen. It was made of a heavy metal and was painted bright gold with engraved geometrical patterns. It had a smooth long golden nib and a cap that closed with a most satisfying click. But its crowning glory was a giant plastic diamond, perched cockily right at the top of the cap. when you unscrewed the bottom, there was a tiny little well into which I would fill indigo blue ink with a dropper. My handwriting never looked better than it did shaped from that gilded pen. All day during class, I would secretly practice different signatures on the back page of my textbook.

When I broke the nib of that pen on the fourth day of fifth standard, I had to bite my lips to stop from crying. Big girls of ten don't cry over fountain pens. Back at home that evening, a comforting mother promptly took me to the stationery store where under my critical gaze, the shopkeeper replaced the nib. But somehow, the pen never seemed the same again. It grew more and more temperamental, spewing unsightly blots of ink at the slightest shake and always scratching the paper when I wrote. Still, I bore it all patiently, so infatuated was I with the pen's appearance.

Then one day, a notebook was returned to me after checking and it didn't contain the usual 'neat' comment from my teacher. If you've ever been in fifth standard in Army School Jammu, you'll know how much that 'neat' meant to us schoolgirls. We would gloat over our notebooks and compare the number of 'neat's and 'good's that we got. Losing one because of a giant blue blot that percolated three pages deep was too much for my loyalty to that pen. So in it went to the deep recesses of my pencil box, while I moved on to the safer and ubiquitous Chinese pens that had tiny pert little nibs that coyly peeked out from a plastic body.

The pen stayed there for several years. The shiny gold paint got scratchy and then wore out, the diamond chipped. Once in a while in a fit of pity, or when all my other pens had run out of ink, I would give this one another try. But it would always hold out for a sentence or so, before starting to scratch paper again.

As I grew up, I turned more impatient. I no longer had time to patiently refill ink in pens every evening, or keep experimenting with a fountain pen till I found its sweet spot. I discovered roller balls and gel pens, which would smoothly release ideal amounts of ink while displaying no personality at all. My relationship with my pens became more and more impersonal. Pens no longer have characters, they're just instruments that you take notes with. But today, holding R's fountain pen in my hand and coaxing rows of neat sentences out of it, it all came back.

12 comments:

crazed_mellow said...

ya i was thinking abt the last time i was senti abt pens and i think mine was abt the boards time.
i eschewed fountain pens from class 5 .

i NEVER got a neat wala remark. :(

Mohan said...

tell me one thing, y do girls have such an attachment towards non living things, especially when they r kids!!! im sure u must be attached to some particular books, maybe a toy or two etc... rite???

Nithya said...

Everyone's attached to things when they're kids- that sweater you insisted on wearing daily for months, the pencil box you carried around even after it broke, the book you asked your mom to read to you over and over again, every night...
I don't think it's just a girl thing.

Mohan said...

i dont know yaar... i mean one is attached obviously, but i think it dies down a little more easily for us, or maybe i am generalizing my personal behavior... and yeh, one was pretty attached to ones sweater :)

SaIk said...

oye awesomely written !!
I had my 8th std china pen till last year.. before it got stolen with my bag in a train :P

Shantanu said...

I object you saying that China Pens are impersonal!! They have their own nakhras and a single master.

Nithya said...

@gangal, I still say they're impersonal for fountain pens because they all look the same. Now my pen was fabulously golden, with a huge plastic diamond:) Find me a Chinese pen like that and I'll eat my words:p

Shantanu said...

@nithya:- By your logic, ppl. shouldn't like Chinese models because they all look the same :p Doesn't quite work that way!!
Also, in keeping with Chinese traditions, they are just as hardworking without having the glamor & opulence. As well as small nibs (cf - small feet)

Nithya said...

Yeah, Chinese models are small and cute, but are they brilliantly individualistic? I don't think so...
Btw, are we still talking of pens here? :)

Kunal said...

great post... brought back a lot of memories from school... was a fan of fountain pens once and didnt use any other type of pens.
btw, i still have my first fountain pen back at home... though i stopped using it about 7 years ago :)

Antariksh Bothale said...

Good one there! And yeah, I agree, it's not just a Girl thing.

Chinese pens never felt good. There tiny tip led to a very thin ink trail, which I found really irritating.

And as far as graduating to balls and gels, I find myself still choosy about my writing instrument. Most ball pens are pathetic. Gels are neat. Mitsubishi Uniball is singularly the best pen I have used.

The sooner Parker stops producing Ball pens and concentrating on rollers, the better.

Nice read.

BC said...

I remember my sisters' fountain pen. I loved the colour of the ink but it was terribly messy for someone who was left handed. The school switched to ballpoint pens before I had a chance.