Nandini Ramchandran on being a woman collector of fountain pens in a man’s world!
As a fountain pen collector and user, who happens to be a woman, I am often asked why there are relatively fewer women pursuing the hobby in India. While I cannot presume to speak for the Ladies (and I am sure they exist in abundance), I believe they fly under the radar and pop up once in a while in discussion groups, mostly dominated by men. Eventually they will come out in the open and take over the World. In order to help the World (mostly India, I guess) to prepare for this new normal, I wish to offer some wholly unsolicited gyaan (pearls of wisdom, for those unfamiliar with the term), based on a highly unscientific study of a sample size of one. The usual disclaimers apply.
Nandini Ramchandran are Indian pen makers listening?
Indian women pen collectors will not buy the oversized, bland, one size fits all fountain pens that are being churned out unfailingly every year. Please make pens in sizes that are easy to hold, ditch the boring ebonites that have been around for years, and offer interesting clip designs, cap bands, preferably in silver. Please be open to working with material and designs provided by customers. Women will be happy to pay for a pen that looks and feels like a premium accessory. Also, please put in place a proper customer service department that actually listens and responds to complaints, suggestions and general feedback. Pen makers till the 70’s understood the need for a separate line for women. Now, it may not be politically correct to offer a “ladies” model of any fountain pen but most pen makers have found a way around by offering the same pen in different sizes, colours and trims. Most, except Indian pen makers.
Nandini Ramchandran a few words for Indian Retailers:
Do not list fountain pens, inks, paper etc under “Accessories for Men”!
Do start providing Ink Samples. It’s a common misconception that only men have a problem committing to long term relationships. And what can be more “long term” than a relationship with an ink bottle? Women do not want to be tied down to a bottle of ink, however beautiful and well behaved, unless they get to know and live with the ink for a while. A few dates are mandatory before committing to a long-term relationship.
Nandini Ramchandran For all ye – Husbands/Sons/Significant Others:
Do gift your Wife/Mom/Girlfriend a quality fountain pen and brightly coloured ink. Do involve her in the process of selection. Do not pass on your used stuff to her and expect her to feel the love. Do not give something that you actually want for yourself. Respect boundaries. Somethings cannot be shared.
Nandini Ramchandran a quick word for C.E O’s/School Principals/Teachers:
Do enlarge your ideas of what constitute ‘acceptable’ inks that are work/school appropriate. Think beyond the Blues and Blacks. All legible and water-resistant inks should be acceptable.
Nandini Ramchandran and finally, Social Media users:
Get a Cat! Fountain pens plus cats guarantee female following.
And, please, no boring “inspirational quotes”. If you absolutely must, do add a cat to your pic.
It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that it is difficult if not impossible to stop an Aunty once the Gyan Giving starts. However, I shall sign off here with best wishes to all for a very happy 2021!
(Nandini Ramchandran is a lawyer who lives in Gurgaon along with her husband, son, dog and an assortment of ginger cats. She mainly collects Vintage Sheaffer Fountain Pens.)