I was watching my daughter arrange her school bag. As she carefully arranged her box of pens, my mind was transported to my school days. Today kids use gel pens. Ours was an era of fountain pens. Till I was in the fourth grade, I used pencils to write at school and home alike. In the summer break before we started fifth grade, we were asked to buy a fountain pen and practice writing at home with it. I remember the splatters of ink on my hands from the leaking pens.
A fountain pen requires a lot of dedicated upkeep and accessories. For one, you need a pot of ink handy to replenish the pen as when the ink gets over in the pen. Next is an ink dropper. There was always a debate if a plastic ink dropper was better than a glass one and vice versa. As we got used to a fountain pen, many of us received one, which had a built in pumping device and didn’t need a dropper. The nib had to be kept clean to get an even and smooth writing. Even then there was no guaranteeing the pen’s wayward ways, and one often landed having a big blob of ink staring up at you, from an otherwise spotless page. That is where the blotting paper stepped in. I remember it being available in a silly pink colour. The sort of shade, which pushes you to doodle hearts on it with the said fountain pen. And then don’t forget the ‘ink-eraser’, in that unidentifiable shade of blue, which was supposed to erase ink markings. It managed to make a nice little hole in the paper but didn’t do anything to the ink.
The most stressful part about using a fountain pen was the availability of ink. There were three school-goers in our household and one deed, which no one owned up to, was who had used up the last bit of ink from the communal ink pot? There used to be frequent squabbles regarding the same. Ultimately each of us kept a pot exclusively for our own use.
In school, our class teacher had come up with an arrangement, which actually made us all more alert about refilling our pens at home. There was an inkpot bought by our teacher and kept on her table. If any one of us had an empty pen, we were allowed to refill it from that bottle, but at a price. We had to pay a token amount of money (I cant recall exactly how much). The money collected thus was used to buy a new bottle. Since we all had very limited pocket money, all of us were loath to use it on something as mundane as fountain pen ink. So we made it a point to check and refill our pens at home itself.
I remember all of us having ink marks on our hands, especially the index finger. Our uniforms too were recipients of similar splattering. But we also could boast of beautiful handwriting, which only comes with the flow of a fountain pen. A Parker fountain pen was the incentive for many a test result. Today I rarely see anyone using one, and some sport it as an expensive accessory.