Fifty Shades Of Blue

(Originally Written For & Published In Tamarind Rice ) From what I can remember of being 10 years old, and mind that my memory is e...

(Originally Written For & Published In Tamarind Rice)


From what I can remember of being 10 years old, and mind that my memory is elephantine, I particularly recall looking forward to Std V, term 3, with the same excitement most kids that age associated with getting free ice cream.
You see, the third term of fifth standard was when we could start using pens to write. Pens! Those magical instruments that glided on paper in a wondrous shade of blue, and not those shabby, eternally breaking sticks that we called pencils. In case it didn’t seem obvious already, when I was 10, pens were as alien to me as humans were to Martians. I had been given crayons and pencils of all shades growing up, and even the odd sketch pen, but it was during one of my many Treasure Hunter (an extraordinarily entertaining game for one which basically involves raiding your parents’ dresser drawers) games the previous year that I first truly discovered these magical things.
It was a very heavy ink pen, and I remember thinking how ugly it looked, but the moment I let the coppery-gold nib touch paper it became a thing of beauty, of perfection. I had never seen anything like it before! It didn’t break like my pencils, or become coarse. It was just continuously smooth. The pen wrote in the shade of midnight, a blue which made even my doodle look like carefully thought out art. I scrawled until all the ink in the pen had been transferred to my paper, my hands, my clothes and my face. I ended up getting a dressing down from my mother that day for colouring myself beyond recognition.
But it was worth it.
Discovering the pen that day had changed my life, and while I waited for term 3, I started smuggling all the pens in the household. The more I wrote with them, the more I fell in love with the instrument. I wrote quickest with the ball point pen, but the interrupted flow of ink was something that I found annoying. I really liked the lighter, more turquoise ink of the gel pen and adored the smooth white shell of the “Pilot” pens.
My absolute favourite though, remained the ink pen. The steel nib with the miniscule engravings, the little compartment for the ink, the heaviness of a newly filled pen, the odd leak which flowed on to your hands as you wrote – for me, the ink pen was an instrument of joy. My first ink pen for school had been a Camlin, a maroon pen with steel accents and a wide barrel. It was hideous, but in the most glorious way possible. Every day I’d come back home from school with blue fingers (and some times, a blue nose) and spots on my uniform, but despite the inconveniences it gave my mother I adored my maroon Camlin. It was the only pen I carried that year. Eventually, I ended up losing the pen and predictably, moved on to it’s gel ink cousins for the sake of convenience and a stain free uniform. I did occasionally buy ink pens, but they stayed in my bag as remembrances of my former obsession with them as opposed to a functional writing instrument.
I’ve always believed that writing with a new ink pen is much like making a new friend. There are some pens with which you form a connection instantly, those pens where you just know exactly what it takes to bring out its best side the moment you come in contact with them. Those pens will last to be your favourites, the ones that you conveniently ‘lose’ in the depths of your bag every time anyone asks to borrow it, the ones that you’ll take time to clean every weekend in hot water, and the ones that will write out your most important exams, and your greatest secrets. There are some other pens that will take a little longer for you to like. They misbehave most of the time but occasionally show a good side so that you don’t give up on them; they teach you patience. And finally, those ink pens which, no matter how much time you spend on them, will never yield to you and like difficult people, are best left alone.
The last time I had used an ink pen was roughly seven years ago. I had stopped using them because they were very difficult when you were writing harshly timed exams. I became fully dependent on the keyboard and stopped using pens altogether when I cleared my Chartered Accountancy exams a year ago. Yesterday, I found an old ink pen while cleaning out my drawers – it was one of those relatively fuss free ink pens that operated on cartridges, and this one’s particular cartridge had been half full. I couldn’t help but try writing with it again – Half hour later, I had a paper filled with illegible squiggles that once used to be my beautiful handwriting, odd splats of ink, blue fingers and a blue nose.
But it was worth it.

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26 comments

  1. :)

    nice one!

    and better to know that there are more people who like using ink pens!!
    shifted back to them an year ago after being in the office since last 6 years and it stills feel amazing!!

    and the best part .. in the office.. even if some one borrows your pen .. the moment they open the lid, they return it back to you ... as not everyone is used to of fountain pens nowadays!!

    so there is no chance of losing one now in office!!

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  2. I always envied those who had beautiful handwriting. Unfortunately my relationships with pens (all writing instruments for that matter) was horrible. I smuggled pens to class when I was 7. I always had a terrible handwriting due to the extraordinary pressure I used to apply on paper (obviously I was never good at drawing). I switched to ball pens. I always chose my pens carefully, the ones that flowed smoothly allowed me to write more. Exams were a nightmare because my fingers would ache with all the pressure. Over time I learned to write less and convey more. In some of the exams I even put bullet points with highlight of my answer before going into longer narrative.
    I also loved collecting Ink pens, even though I could never use it properly. I wish I had beautiful handwriting and could write more on paper, but since I can't, I am happy that I can use a keyboard or my phone.

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  3. You have kindled my 'HERO' pen memories :)

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  4. Ms. Lavanya, Good one! Brought back memories.

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  5. Ms. Lavanya, Good one! Brought back memories.

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  6. A lovely trip down memory lane. Fifth standard was an adventure with writing instruments. I had a 'gloriously hideous' (as you put it) turquoise bodied plastic ink pen. In a few months it had a chewed head as I transferred my pencil chewing to the new instrument. Plastic, unlike wooden pencils didn't flake in my mouth. But as I discovered a little later, when I bit right through to the cheap inner shell, it turned my lips and tongue blue. :-p

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  8. Lavanya.. I am just getting to remember, my dad would have spent a decent fortune buying those clumsy stuff (you call it the ink pen) patiently as I used to get the nib broken in max 2 days.. nice flow all appreciated but u just can't leave it on the table, somebody around would ensure it crashed nib-on.. simple 50p pens were a miracle Becos couple of them continued to stay over 6 yrs before Reynolds took over..

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  9. I dont know. Never had felt them ink pens friendly to my sensibilities. Right from when i was 10 until i finished college, i was like fuck pens!all the way.

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  10. Oh this was so beautifully written.

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  11. Girl, you scored big time. This is really beautiful writing.

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  12. I know the feeling. My first ink pen was a dark green Hero pen with a built-in filler and ink filling was a daily morning ritual. I refused to move on to gel or ball point pens until I finished school and then more or less gave up pens altogether.

    Great post!

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  13. I got mine at the start of my PhD and use it to write illegible equations for my research, scratches, overwrites, doodles all fill my research notebook - and miraculously I have had it for the last three and a half years and have curiously never misplaced it.

    Ha, some of my colleagues have never used a fountain pen so they don't borrow it from me! :D

    Going back, I think I spent more money on buying pens than buying books. I would go to the corner store near my house every week and see if they have a new pen that I'd never had before. And when I would break the nib, or there would be a particularly nasty leaky pen I would never throw it in the dustbin but it would just be added on to my penstand :D Aaaaand, there was a phase when I would carry them on airplanes and wonder why on earth my handbag was full of blue ink until I realized I must empty the cartridge before air travel :) I never found a solution about finding ink at the destination, so I eventually moved to a cartridge pen so that I can carry fresh cartridges!

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  14. ^ correction: I got my current one at the start of my PhD

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  15. I hated the ink pen, for all the reasons you have mentioned above :P But I loved the pilot pen - No long nibs, no need for ink-filler, no leaking (ok, some leaking), thin lines and just worst (from worsest of the worst) handwriting.

    I got my first pilot pen in a trans-atlantic school business deal where I exchanged my whole stamps book (which I didn't want to possess anymore) with the pilot pen. Yeah, it was a huge loss but I liked the pen so much :)

    BTW, you should enable follow by email option. One more way to make people waste their precious time :P

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  16. It was a really great article... Reminded me of the times in my fifth standard... And my teacher in fifth who insisted that all of us use only ink pens, ball pens or gel pens were promptly confiscated.. :P Of course, her actions ensured that I fell in love with the ink pen, and keep using it to this day, almost sixteen years after I finished my fifth class.. :D
    The smooth flow of the ink on the paper is enough to face all the inconveniences that using the ink pen entails..

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  17. Loved this post! finding the right ink pen that would move smoothly with the right amount of ink flow was like finding Mr. perfect:)there always used to be this thing of 'oh dont right with a ball point pen then your handwriting will be spoilt'. So for a long time, ball point pens were looked down upon. Oh and those 'Hero' pens. a person having a hero pen was posh man!

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  19. wow! just amazing! i love the way you can write about stuff like ink pens and still make someone want to read more!
    And also its awesome how you personified the pens :)

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  20. Reminds me of my blue floral ink pen and the royal blue which would flow out smooth. Great nostalgic read , Lavanya. Thank you for taking me back to those inky days :):)

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  21. personally believe my handwriting only got better because of pencil to ink pen transition..beautiful article..

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  22. personally believe my handwriting only got better because of pencil to ink pen transition..beautiful article..

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  24. I carry all my ink pens from my first to the last...

    Loved this one. And congrats

    ReplyDelete
  25. I carry all my ink pens from my first to the last...

    Loved this one. And congrats

    ReplyDelete

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