Fountain Pen FAQs – points to ponder.

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Well, let me begin this one with a confession – I am not an expert. I do not have any academic qualification to make such claims, nor do I have the inclination of being a self-styled one, someone who acts like a know-it-all, foot firmly in the mouth. Collecting fountain pens, and related writing accessories, including ink bottles, has been my hobby and you can certainly congratulate me for having stuck with it for so many years. But nothing more than that. And no, by virtue of using fountain pens for more than three decades now, I have not become an “expert” and neither the fact that I have recorded my thoughts about my pens in my blog and a YouTube channel to which many of you have showered your affection nor that I have chosen to mould myself as an evangelist for the fountain pen and ink, make me an expert. Perish the thought.

Yet, so many of you ask me questions. Questions that are addressed to me as an “expert”. Well, I am humbled, and truth be told, it does feel good when one is showered with platitudes that one does not deserve. The point, however, is that it is just not correct and I feel that I should make my position clear, unequivocally so. This is why I have tried to compile the most frequently asked questions and have answered them here in the attached video.

I will also take this opportunity to clear a few points which many of us, are guilty of, mostly unwittingly. The first point that needs to be driven home is that loving a fountain pen – loving anything for that matter – is hugely subjective. You know, that “love is blind” thing. You might find the object of my desire to be unworthy, vulgar even, and vice versa. There is no yardstick to measure things, and no set rules either. Thus, to be honest, I feel that questions like “which one, between X and Y is a better pen” should be avoided for what you may like is not what I or someone else may like. I guess it is best to leave it at that. Yes, I do sometimes get drawn into controversies, but what the heck? We are all humans, that too with all faults, after all.

Fountain Pen FAQs - Chawm

A corollary to that is about comparisons – comparing a tribute pen, or a replica with the original for example. Again, it is something that I would not normally do. However, you will notice a couple of videos in this genre which I have been forced to do by the SEO guys who insist on absolute terms that I do them as they apparently grab the maximum number of eyeballs. A replica fountain pen can be a very good standalone pen, and some replicas that I possess are indeed excellent performers, but it is a completely different thing when they are compared to the originals. I personally do not feel that it is even right to compare chalk and cheese – the fake with the one that inspired it and try to be as tongue-in-cheek as possible when doing these videos, but I guess, passionate as I am I fail. Apologies.

Now for another type of question that keeps coming – these relate to the make/year/model number etcetera. Whatever even makes you think that I have the answers? I cannot recall most of these numbers or names offhand and normally look them up after the questions are asked. Not something that I particularly cherish as it takes a lot of time that I can ill afford. Point is, the name, the make, the year of manufacture (caste, creed, colour, sex) et all, are less important to me than the look and feel and the story behind the particular fountain pen. Often a pen that has been mended in a particular way or has been force-fitted with a visibly wrong cap or nib is of more importance to me than a perfect one of its genre. Why? I do not know. It is just my quirk. Else, the debate will be unending.

Another thing. Again, my personal feeling. Just because someone is acknowledged as a fountain pen lover, does not make him/her obligated to open their collection for public scrutiny. Collecting pens to many is about a very private pleasure – displaying their favorite possessions, often to the faithless, is not something that they may particularly like. Why can’t we respect their choice? Why should there be an unwritten rule that collectors must cater to your voyeuristic demands, however imbecilic? Can’t boundaries be respected? Do we have to invade private spaces? Ogle at, with impunity and paw fountain pens that may be priceless to the possessor, often without even seeking permission? This is another reason why these so-called pen meets so often turn into pain meets.

Here let me say another thing that will most certainly be objected to by vested interests. The ones showing off their collections in all probability are sellers in the garb of collectors. At least, that is what has been my experience – apologies in advance if I hurt sentiments, it is purely unwitting. A real collector feels no compulsion to parade his beauties in public, where agnostics and philistines outnumber the faithful and the connoisseurs, leaving the field so that the faithless and the faith healers can continue enjoying their embrace to eternity.

Fountain Pen FAQs - Chawm

Before I sign off. I am not into nib swaps and grinding and stuff like that. I prefer the factory-fitted, standard nibs and feeds in my fountain pens, mostly accepting pens as they were meant to be by the respective makers. If God had intended us to wear spectacles, he would have made us wear them from the womb, wouldn’t He? I do not like to play God, insignificant as I am and seldom try to better what comes out of the box. Hint, hint!

Now for the pricing bit. There is a difference between value and price. And this too is highly subjective. What I value as a collectible may not be what you may find valuable, and this is almost always, irrespective of the price. I value so-called cheap, moulded Indian pens from the 1970’s and 1980’s for they represent, among other things, the age and the socio-economic state that we were in then. They had cost a pittance then, and still cost a trifle now. Do you value them? Perhaps no. Do I value them? Hell, yes. There is another point, cliched beyond repair already that I want to slip in here – it is not, almost never ever, the price that determines the desirability of a pen. At least, not to me.

So, like I was saying – I am not an expert. Hope you like the video though.

Take a look at the video:


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