I don’t know how many of us are still fascinated with fountain pens, but there was a time when I had only two options, either pencil or fountain pen as writing instruments. Dip pen or a ball point pen was not a preferred instrument then for me.
But like other children of my age, I used to enjoy all the pen related activities to the hilt.
A fountain pen uses a metal nib to apply a water-based ink to paper. The most important part of a pen is its nib that ends in a round point of various sizes, e.g. extra fine, fine, medium or broad. The nib usually has a tapering slit cut down its centre to pass the ink down the nib by capillary action. Nib plating and nib tipping used to be an added attraction of a pen for a curious child like me.
While buying a new nib from the shop, we would set it in the pen and then sprinkle a few drops of ink on the paper and put the nib on those fallen ink drops to measure its ability to absorb the ink. This used to give the feeling of a budding young scientist.
But the more interesting part was the ink for refilling fountain pens. Then Camel, Camlin, Sulekha and Chelpark brands of ink were always available in every household, though some would have big bottles or would make bottles of ink using ink tablets. Apart from royal blue ink, I used to prefer pink and turquoise colours for my artistic writing.
And the role of a dropper for transferring ink from inkpot to fountain pen was not less important. It was also a distinguished work in itself.
As a fountain pen releases more ink onto the page, it’s capable of creating more vivid and expressive lines, as also for improving handwriting. Some of us used to write with the nib upside down to give calligraphic effects.
Pilot, Hero, Lamy and Parker pens were considered to be the prestigious possessions then. But irrespective of brands, almost every week we used to open it for servicing by putting all the parts in hot water. We had also developed an expertise to take out the garbage collected in the middle of the nib with a blade, whenever the pen would stop working smoothly.
And despite all safety and precautionary measures, if the pen didn’t work, then we would spray the ink on the people sitting nearby in the process of giving blows to the pen.
But ink was a great source of friendship and cooperation too, as we learnt the process of ink donation, equivalent to blood donation.
There were also some colleagues of mine, who were not studious, but before going home, they would put ink in their fingers, and sprinkle it on their pants so that the family could see and feel that the child had really worked very hard in school.
But the most innovative use of fountain pens used to be during days of Holi festival, when fountain pens fully loaded with ink would become mini pichkaris (colour guns) for sprinkling colours on one another.
Time passes, people reminiscent of that time are also forgotten in due course, but the memories remain vivid, waiting for us and even for those who helped create those memories at some point of time. Nothing is lost, if we continue to remember those moments as live ones.