The recent Vodafone ad featuring two schoolchildren with fountain pens is definitely anachronistic, since today’s children have never seen, let alone used, a fountain pen. But it brings a nostalgic smile to us thirty-somethings, because the fountain pen was such an important part of our growing-up years.
It marked a rite of passage. You passed out of Standard 4 (nearing the end of primary school) and you were handed a fountain pen to write with. No more pencils. No more sharpeners. No more erasers, and the dirty mark they would invariably leave despite ruthless scrubbing! (Now don’t be a spoilsport and remind me that we still needed pencils for science diagrams and maths graphs). We could all be grown-up and proudly clip our pens to our pockets.
I remember having two Artex fountain pens, one green and one maroon (I was an ardent fan of Mohunbagan – the football team in maroon and green). Every week, I would take a dropper and carefully fill them with royal blue ink from Camlin or Chelpark bottles. I can still smell the faint mouri/saunf/aniseed smell which seemed to emanate from Chelpark ink-bottles. ‘Carefully’ – is the operative word (though not always the ‘operational’ word), because we had to be wary of spills and smudges, while filling and while writing. It was this very carefulness which was supposed to have an improving effect on our haywire-handwriting, unlike the more modern, use-and-throw ball-point pens, which spoilt our cursive abilities (or so the fountains of wisdom said).
Being magpie-minded, I preferred gleaming-golden nibs to the staid-steel of my Artex pens. I had a maroon (the pre-neon gel pen manufacturers were rather colour-challenged, weren’t they?) Wilson pen, with a shiny golden cap and a shinier golden nib, ‘made in China’ (when that label still meant exclusivity). It had an in-built ink-filler, so I could just dip the nib and fill it, without any spilling. The precious-pen was gifted to me by a very dear friend and was used only on special occasions and only with extra-special black ink.
One of these special occasions was my tenth standard board exams. After that, in my higher secondary years in college, I switched to ball-point pens with indelible inks (we were pressed for time, and scared that ‘our answers might wash away if it rained and if we wrote with fountain pens, if the examiners left the answersripts out in the open’ – weird logic, but exams were a superstitious time!).
And so ended my association with fountain pens.
DO YOU HAVE ANY PEN-FUL MEMORIES?