Saturday, July 9, 2011

I have always loved pens. As a toddler I was never allowed near one. So just like anything forbidden, pens, among other things like cigarettes and knives became an object of fascination. In rural Kerala of my days, there was much emphasis on handwriting and the steel pen (as opposed to a quill pen?) or dip pen was considered to be the ultimate instrument for improving one's handwriting. I too started with these anachronistic relics. They were mostly very simple affairs. A long tapering handle made of wood turned in a lathe with a holder at the broad end to hold a steel nib in place. The nib itself had odd shapes and were rather long for my tiny hands. What I fondly remember of the 'steel pen era' of my life, however was the ink holder and the process of DIY ink making.
The glass ink holder had an ingenious design with double walls that trapped the ink if the bottle happen to roll to the side, as it would often considering the lack of dexterity of its young users. Ink was mostly home made. There were small tablets of the size of an Anacin tablet which was solid ink. It had to be dissolved in water and diluted to the correct strength to ensure the proper colour, its fastness and viscosity. Not many could master the art. It was like gourmet cooking.
From Middle School ( Classes 5 to 7) it was compulsory to use fountain pens. Probably, looking back, it may not have been compulsion, but sheer convenience that prompted many to use a fountain pen. The other option being lugging along an ink pot and a steel pen.
Ink stained fingers were common identification marks of students. The larger the stain on fingers and deeper the color, the more studious the person. It's another matter that many who chose to bunk classes would also apply ink on the index and middle fingers, but they could fool no one but their illiterate parents.
So it was in class 5 at the Government Upper Primary School in a remote village in Kerala, the southern State of India that my love affair with pens started. An affair that has not only stayed, but has strengthened over the passage of time and flourishes even today.
This blog is the journal of that love.
And yes. I suffer from Pen Envy!

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