I was 9 years old when I used my first fountain pen. We called it by different names – fountain pen, ink pen, cartridge pen, but it was the same for all of us – a writing implement, except for me. In my school, we were allowed to write with pens from the 5th grade onwards. But to get us accustomed to writing with an object that cannot be erased easily, we could start using it towards the end of 4th grade. I was particularly excited about this prospect because 5th grade meant a lot of possibilities. For one, I would be turning 10 which was a very grown up thing and another, I would be using pens, like a grown up. Now when I think about it, almost half my life ago, it seems sort of childish. But the feeling of holding that pen now is not so different from when I wrote my first words with it.
Fixing a cartridge for the ink or filling the ink from an ink bottle – it all seemed like magic. And suddenly from ratty handwriting with a pencil to beautiful flowing handwriting with this extraordinary pen. More so since I had dreams of writing best-selling and acclaimed novels with a fountain pen, like the olden day writers would have done, continuously dipping their pens in ink bottles (or was that quills that they wrote with?) As I grew older, my handwriting changed with each pen I wrote with – gel pens, ball point pens (my nemesis) and even a sort of cross between these two type pens. But I never forgot my first true love – the fountain pen.
As my exams were nearing in each case (most if not all), I remember scrambling to buy boxes of cartridges or ink bottles which my father would groan about because they are not that cheap. “Why can’t you use ball pens like the rest of us do?” he would moan while paying in the stationery store. But I couldn’t risk fracturing my hand simply because it cost my father a couple bucks less. My friends would stare in awe at my notes, not because of how copious they were, but because of my handwriting and how it changed from a cheap pen to a superior ink pen. I loved writing with it and would sometimes get transfixed as to how easily I was able to finish while writing my exams. I would yearn for the opportunity to write something down in class for the sake of holding the pen between my fingers.
And this feeling didn’t change when I actually grew up and joined college. Here, the attitude about stationery was far too cavalier for me and I was known as the go-to person for stationery. If one should peek into my pencil box, one would find spare pens and pencils and even a couple of rulers, just for the sake of lending to other people. But I become like a lioness protecting her cubs when it comes to my ink pen. It makes finishing exams all the more easier and I now realise how expensive and valuable that type of pen is.
But recently, in preparing for my end semester exams, I discovered a harsh truth – While 10 years ago, my father would easily find 10 different stores where cartridges and ink bottles were available, now I’m hard pressed to find even 1. In this mad scramble, not only did this conundrum give me an idea for a blog post, it also woke me up to a jolting fact – Have we become so dependent on our computers and laptops that we have forgotten the joys of writing with one of the first ever writing implements to be invented?