An endangered class

We were sitting next to each other in a meeting. May I request you to picture a corporate meeting in a fancy hotel. Fattening food. Fumbling thoughts. Supposedly full minds. The conversations can be about the Sun. And the moon. Sometimes beyond too.

It is in one of those breaks, that I notice the pen in his pocket. Being a big sucker for fountain pens, I am curious. But before that, let me state the commonly known and do a super quick tracing back of the history of pens.

Many moons ago there was an era when the fountain pens beat the wind out of the humble quill to become the default writing instrument. What the humble quill upstaged to become the preferred writing instrument, is a matter of conjecture to me. I would request some education from readers.

In the name of ‘progress’ and such else came the ball point pen. A no mess ‘use and throw’ pen, which incidentally was banned in school for a large part of our growing up years. Ofcourse, no one threw away the pen. For that matter, in that time, no one threw away anything until they had put it to atleast five and a half different uses long after the main use that it was bought for was done. Which is a sidestory that we will sidestep for now.

For most parts of my growing years if I pictured one grand battle over which the world would come to an end, it was the battle between the Fountain Pens and the Ball point pens. Quite obviously, I was on the side of the ball point pens. The reasoning was simple : All teachers used fountain pens. And ball point pens were banned for students!

Many of you would empathise when I say, that I took to ball point pens with a relentless vengeance, when I took to working. So I thought the ball point pens had won that grand battle.

Little did I think that there would soon come a time when writing per se was at risk of being obliterated by the keyboard. And just as the keyboard was rising a flag of victory over what appeared to be a new frontier, tablets and touch screen is stretching it even further. How long the ‘touch screen’ would last is left to anybodys guess. Or a lazy swipe of the index finger.

Ah, pardon the detour. Getting back to the tea break, discarding propriety or whatever, I ask the gentleman, if I could see his pen. A trifle surprised, he hands it over. And says, ‘my dad gifted me this pen when I cleared my 8th standard exam’.

‘Eigth standard ?’

After some pronounced flexing of the non-existant math muscle in the brain, I figured that was 32 years back!

It was a Parker. It carried with it the distinct smell of several years of leaving imprints on notebooks, exam papers and many papers of significance. Not to forget empty artistic doodles in conferences perhaps.

Ofcourse, within it resided some fresh blue ink, that distinctly held the smell of school. Quite obviously opening the floodgates of my memory and grand vision of that time, that the world would come to war over the mighty pen.

I wonder how many kids of the present day world would grow to romance the fine art of writing with a fountain pen. Which is when the missus points out that writing in itself is at risk.

Which is true. Romantic lover letters, I am told, have been replaced by abbreviated text. ‘Yours in ever lasting love’ or something to that effect has become ‘Lv’ in the text message driven writing of the modern times.

Thank You has become TanQ or TY ! ‘Congratulations’ has become ‘Congo’. Happy Birthday is better written as ‘HBD’. Even the ‘Many many happy returns’ is elaborately written as ‘MMHR’ !

Will cursive writing still be taught in school or will using the index finger to lazily swipe on a glazed surface become the new and only norm?

I am not sure if it will happen anytime soon. Until then, lets celebrate the likes of the gentleman who preserves and writes with a pen that’s 32 years old. Just because a father gave it to him. For sailing through class eight !

Such folks are at a different class. An endangered class.

9 thoughts on “An endangered class

  1. Neha says:

    Fountain pens – I remember those. And how clumsy I was. I always managed to stain my hands and uniform each time I used those. In school, we had to use fountain pens, ball point pens were not allowed; until the gel pens came. I remember cello coming out with its gel pen back in 95 or 96 for Rs. 25. You couldn’t replace the refill in it. Throwing away a pen you bought for 25 Rs after using it for a month was not a sound option at all. But just to have one in collection, I had bought it.

    Preserving a pen for 32 years? Wow!

  2. Varsh says:

    I so agree with you here Kavi.I really miss the personal touch that any hand-written note had or that beautiful card that my friends gave me on b’days(e-cards ruin the thought behind it).
    Honestly, though I was clumsy with them, I loved using fountain pens. They were a little heavy so I managed to somehow write well with it. My hand-writing looked better in it.
    Never thought of preserving any of those though. Guess a Parker deserves that treatment! 🙂

  3. SG says:

    Ah! You made me feel nostalgic with this piece. I remember I switched to writing in ink from pencil when I moved to class 5th. And yeah, fountain pen it was… royal blue ink was prescribed. Ball pens were a strict no-no. How I loved the feel of ink on paper! How I still love it!

  4. Jeevan says:

    That gentleman is writing history with his pen. Obviously your experience with fountain pen is similar to everyone’s and until 2 year back I used to write with ink pen daily. Perhaps the laziness and hardship float away writing with pen… wonder how long these fountain pens gonna last, may be sometime in museum. I wish such situation doesn’t exist.

    Here is my poem on ink pen written sometime before:

    A ballpoint dies soon ink goes dry
    but the fountain
    sprinkle letters forever we flow ink.

  5. Ah Kavi, This gives me hope. My own boy, just ten, has a longing for the fountain pen. He “grew up” on them in Italy and not, longs to use it again. But the students here do not write, the teachers are poor of eyesight… lazy… overworked… and type is so much cleaner.

    Ah, but writing produces something artistic, beautiful, and real.

  6. Sriram says:

    Lovely post 🙂 Brought back many memories of my own. There is a charm with ink pens. I so miss my Hero pen now.

    And..I can put up with those abbreviations but not the txt language! I h8 it whn ppl ryte lyk tis.

  7. radha says:

    Fountain pens. The chore of having to fill in the ink each day in the morning before leaving for school. Pieces of chalk and blotting paper in the pencil box. Those were the days. I still have my dad’s Sheaffer pen.

  8. mahabore says:

    I just noticed that a comment that I had made sometime last week has not yet appeared here. It probably is either stuck in your queue for moderation or Google just decided to eat it up for good for whatever reason 🙂 In any case, here goes the comment again…

    Wonderful post, brought back way too many memories and reflected a lot of my thoughts around pens, writing, the whole SMS lingo used by people nowadays, and a whole gamut of other memories and emotions.

    I have some good and some bad (read ink stained) memories of most of the fountain pens used. The Hero Pen stories of middle and high school, the stupid attempts at trying to continue to use fountain pens through college where I was too busy even to refill the ink the in pen, the number of good shirts I have damaged due to the ink leaking out of cheap Chinese rip offs of the Hero pens, the technique of knowing how to identify a genuine nib of a fountain pen, the memories go on and on and on.

    This post brought back a flood of memories of all the funny fountain pen stories that most of us born in the late 70s and early 80s have.


  9. Anonymous says:

    A fountain pen filled with chelpark ink is one delightful item. Anything that reminds of the school days is worth keeping.

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