Fountain pen brothers from different mothers

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There are broadly four kinds of people who buy fountain pens. I know that I am about to commit an unpardonable sin by writing what I have set out to write in this piece, for I will be generalising things to a point where it will be rankling at the least to some, but what the hell? This is just the rambling of an insane fountain pen lover trying to throw light on a community of which I myself am an integral part. From this angle, what I am about to write is at best self-deprecating, for am I not a bit of all this, and worse?

Like I was saying, there are broadly four kinds of people who buy fountain pens.

First there are those who carry obscenely expensive pens in their shirt pockets (or handbags, on their selves, that is). These are typically the men (and women) who occupy the corner offices in ivory towers. The snow-capped peak that peers out, ever so discretely, is there because it Is part of the halo that is supposed to accompany them. They seldom need to use their writing instruments, as there are always the minions whose lives depend on addressing the needs of these women and men, even before they themselves, actually realise such needs. The point to be noted here is, that there is some kind of co-relation between the cost of a fountain pen and its actual usage. The higher the price of a pen, the lesser is the likelihood that it will actually be used for the purpose for which it was created.

There are two sub-classes here – one that pulls out the pen to doodle carelessly as you speak to drive home your insignificance and the other that pulls out the pen and deliberately tap-taps the bottom on the table with practiced nonchalance that heightens the contempt with which you are being treated.

Fountain pen

Then, there are always the wannabes. People – women and men who try to carry the same logo pens to announce their arrival. The very fact that you have to use a fountain pen to let the world know your pedigree (or status, or whatever) is self-defeating, but don’t ever try to tell them that – they are as unctuous as they are impetuous. In this category are also people who use ball point pens by the same makers, hoping to kill two mocking birds with the same shot, but let us not even consider them. They wont even make it to the footnotes of our consciousness. Think about it, this is the segment most likely to carry Chinese knock-off’s, seeking to pass off their replica pens as originals, which only go to underline their desperation to be noticed and it is but natural that they are heaped with the kind of scorn that the world dumps them with. There is a fringe of nouveau riche who buy those ugly door-handle type metal pens replete with Gods, Goddesses and mythological characters that cannot be written with and try to flaunt them as pieces of art, but that is another story.

Then there are those who use their pens to sign, and at times to write notes. These are mostly genuine people, though stuck in the middle rungs of life, who however much they may enjoy the act of writing with a fountain pen, just cannot get down to do the actual writing. They know their pens though. And they also have the monies to buy the exotic pens – pens that may not enjoy the recall that a snow-capped peak may, but are in no way inferior. They are the largest users of Italian and Japanese fountain pens, are highly knowledgeable, connoisseurs in the real sense of the term.

Fountain pen

Now we come to another strange class of fountain pen warriors. These who are regular writers. In terms of sheer numbers, they are bigger than the rest of the fountain pen carriers put together, but in terms of visibility they are in the lowest rung. For, the silent majority, is as always, the least vocal. They (we) are the writers, mostly eking out a living, scraping the bottom of the barrel, the dry inkpot of life. And like the proverb, we are no choosers – to us a good pen is one that writes well, feels good in the hand, is long lasting, reasonably priced and visually appealing (mostly in that order). Oh yes, we are not particularly interested in the brands. Yes, we do understand and appreciate that generally speaking a branded, pricy fountain pen is more likely to have all their boxes ticked, but they are almost always just beyond our collective grasp condemned to entice us for an eternity, ever alluding, for ever a chimera.

Finally, we come to those who seldom write, except for testing their nibs or inks, are collectors and know everything that one can possibly know about the pens. This is the most vocal, most visible part of our community, who infest the social media, often writing their names (and misquotes, don’t forget the misquotes) with exaggerated flourishes just to post the same in their public profiles. The knowledge that these people have, the lengths to which they go to dig up even the most inconsequential detail, and the vainglorious vindictiveness with which they take sides in meaningless arguments, is simply phenomenal. And needless to say, most are almost always on a very short fuse, ready to explode.

Suppose, for example, one writes “the Queen is dead. Long live the Queen. She was a Parker 51 user”. It will immediately elicit a million replies. “No way, she was a lifelong user of Conway Stewart pens (or Onoto or Waterman or whatever)!” And it would drag on with everyone, from Tom and Dick to Hari slipping in their two bits for whatever they are worth.

For every genuine collector, or lover of fountain pens with an academic bent of mind, there are n number of newbies who, armed with the anonymity and access that the internet provides them with, are somehow compelled to make everything from their sheer lack of knowledge to complete ignorance public in the top of their voices. While it is a free country and everyone is entitled to voice their opinions, what these people (often unwittingly, innocently) end up doing, is irreparably harmful to the reputation of manufacturers and brands. Yes, it is very difficult to separate the fools and dolts from the mischief makers and the malicious offenders. I hear that there is a conscious effort on the part of some brands to come together to address this common issue as most are now pushed to the precipice where they are sick of the proverbial monkeys wielding swords (no, not pens, but swords). But then again, that too is a different story.


9 Replies to “Fountain pen brothers from different mothers”

  1. This is vintage Chawm Ganguly i love.. Exploring territories that put salt on some and a fun to read for others

  2. Very beautifully categorised! However I wanted to humbly add to the aforementioned categories a unique type: ‘Vocal for Local’ type. Those who use and or collect only indigenously made or assembled fountain pens. They would happily pay the price of say a latest Japanese FP just to get hold of a rare NOS vintage indigenous FP! They evidently can’t stand Chinese knock-offs and avoid imported pens and are extremely vocal for local thereby crossing the threshold of patriotism and entering the realm of jingoism…

  3. hee hee. naughty guy you are chawm ganguly. wish you were less tongue in cheek, less oblique and more direct in your approach… but then again, perhaps that would kill the fun of guessing…

  4. Mr. Ganguly, although late in this but loved every bit of your classification of fountain pen collector/flaunter/aggregator & user!
    Excellent writing!
    Best regards.


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