Saturday, February 11, 2006

The forgotten world

When was the last time you actually WROTE a letter to a loved one ? Ok let me rephrase my question. When was the last time you wrote ANYTHING substantial on paper ? For me it was hmmm….a year back…no actually a couple…or maybe more…when I was in college, although it was restricted to my never ending notebook graffiti during class and the pointless ramblings in my blue books (used in my internals!). Most times, my writing instrument used to be borrowed or bought at the last micro second before the exam. You know the old sprint to the college stationary mart, to get the 5-buck-Reynolds that would last all of 2 term papers. Let me tell you, I was not alone in this mad rush… :)

Looking back even further to my high school days, although I can't trust my squishy neurons with long term memory, I know that things weren’t too different. Against all odds, I remember middle school for one amongst a lot of things. Middle school was when we actually switched from the boring pencil to the mystical fountain pen. Back then, it was something that really excited me. I never understood how something as simple as a pen could have so many parts intricately designed and fitted together. I was fascinated to see all those expensive pens on store windows with their beautifully crafted nibs in various shapes and sizes. I was disallowed from using one in my primary school days for fear of spoiling my handwriting. How that could happen is beyond me. So, I waited like an obedient kid with all eagerness to get to 4th grade so I could start writing with my own fountain pen. Now it almost seems like a joke, when I think of the things that would satisfy me as a kid! :)

When I actually got into 4th grade , I freaked out . I started using my fountain pen to write in school, at home, on novels, on the walls, on newspapers, postits, charts, on my hand, on graphs , even on plastered limbs. I used to love the smell of fresh ink. Having to top up my fountain pen on a nightly basis for the many writing miles ahead, the sheer beauty in the design of the nib, the fact that you had to clean the pen every week or so….there was something classical and authoritative about the fountain pen.

By the time I was in my 7th grade I had collected fountain pens of all sizes and shapes. I had a collection of nearly 300 pens which included Parkers, Sheaffers and my prized possession – a Mont Blanc which was handcrafted and plated with gold! Its an irony that I have never used it, but that’s how it goes with any collector’s item. :)

Zooming into the present I can see that things have changed quite drastically! People hardly write nowadays. The advent of Notepad and MSWord has ensured that people prefer them anyday to the old fashioned pen and paper. No one has the time or energy to write on paper, leave alone use a fountain pen which has to be cared for like a 20 year old vintage car. I actually know people who can type faster than write and prefer to do so anyday…My collection of fountain pens is nearly completely donated to charity except for a prized few of course….

However I still know a few people, who stick like glue to the forgotten world of old fashioned writing. The long heritage of craftsmanship and innovation associated with a fountain pen will never cease to amaze me. Like all things fashionable, I am confident that very soon it will be back in vogue to write with a fountain pen. It will be cool to be seen with an expensive one in yr shirt pocket… until then my prized Mont Blanc shalt wait!

Note: The pic is taken from one of Leonardo da Vinci's original notes. It depicts his design for an airplane. This was written on parchment using a feather and plant dye for ink.