A Doctor, a daughter and a fountain pen (sorry, many fountain pens)
The joy of touching a pen to paper is, in my humble opinion, a sorely underappreciated one. Every drop of ink holds the power to change the world – or someone’s world, at the very least. I was introduced to this joy at a very early age thanks to Baba.
I remember gazing in awe at the velvet-lined blue box with narrow compartments, each containing a weapon mightier than the sword. My crayon-wielding self, used to wonder, why they were special enough to have a box to live in while my colourful tools were piled into a bowl. Then, one day, Baba gave me one of those pens. It was a Pilot Elite – small and white, clean and bright – and what is more, it did look happy, to meet me. I fell in love with it. It was just the right size for me to hold.
As time went by, I developed the habit of hovering near Baba during the process of choosing a fountain pen to purchase. Baba would hand me a pen, tell me to try it, and solemnly ask what I thought of it. Six-year-old me, gratified at being consulted on such an important matter, would try to say something intelligent about each pen. Baba always kept the box of pens on the study table within my reach. At school, we used pencils; however, in class 3, we were asked to use a pen for ‘number work’. I was overjoyed. While my classmates delighted in gel pens emblazoned with cartoon characters, my homework was handed in in Waterman ink, usually from a Sheaffer or a Sailor.
Although I did try to take a fountain pen to school, I was paranoid about carrying something so precious, and constantly worried about its wellbeing hidden in the depths of my pencil case. After a few days of this, Baba and I decided to keep the fountain pens at home. Physics formulae resplendent in green, violet and magenta lay scattered across the pages of my notebooks.
Even now, most evenings will find Baba and myself sitting at his desk, frowning at a fountain pen, trying to find the correct angle to allow it to perform at its best. On Sundays, we clean our pens. The two once-white cotton handkerchiefs reserved for the purpose have never seen the insides of the washing machine; they are lovingly washed by hand. Regardless of the plethora of coloured splotches decorating them, the only colour they yield when washed is violet.
From Montblanc and Pelikan to Parker and Sheaffer, Waterman and Pilot to Sailor and Eversharp, our collection has grown, much like our shared love for these vessels of unimaginable potential. Nestled in Baba’s desk drawer sits our collection of bottled rainbows. The same pen is used for prescriptions and notes on Shakespeare’s sonnets, connecting father and daughter – two people who revere with all their hearts the music of the tines.
Dr Sougata Halder is a leading city based Ophthalmic Surgeon who did his schooling from St Lawrence High School, Kolkata. “I grew up seeing the Jesuit Fathers writing with Parker Vac’s” he says, “Fathers who were living examples. Naturally, how the obsession for the fountain pen got ingrained into my value system or when it became an all-pervading passion, I cannot tell. All I can do is use this opportunity to put on record my gratitude to the Fathers who gave me my all.”
This piece has been penned by Shromona Halder who has just finished her schooling from La Martiniere for Girls School, Kolkata, with awe inspiring grades and has joined the St. Xavier’s College to pursue her love for the English language. She was the Chief of the Editorial Board in school and wants to pursue a career in Academics. If there is a patron Saint for the Fountain Pen, I am sure that His blessings will continue to be showered on the young lady.