The Fountain pens where Punjabi Baroque meets Bania Gothic

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A Pen-chant for the fountain pen of eternal blessings?

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*no copyright infringement is intended

“But wouldn’t the Earth be better off if you switched to using a stylus” asked the PYT in all seriousness when I tried to impress upon her to switch to a fountain pen the other day in my class. “Don’t you read the messages at the bottom of the emails that say that you shouldn’t print emails as the paper harms the Amazon rain forests? Keying in stuff is cool, as it is green” she said, eyes batting in the punctuation! I did not push it any further, but she insisted on delivering the coup de grace “writing is so last century, it exploits the environment, as it uses paper that leads to the destruction of the forest cover, which creates all those holes in the atmosphere from where the heat sips in, ultimately leading to global warming” irrefutable logic that! “Besides, why even bother to write when you can just take the image with your phone”?

If this is one end of the market for fountain pens, the other end comprises of men (and increasingly women) – the idle rich, who buy “collectors editions” to address their inner feelings of inadequacy, trying to buy the most expensive implements of writing, to gloss over the expansiveness of their lack of the ability to write. A kind of “substitution effect”, like the say in psychology, albeit a poor one, but who cares? Surely Montblanc doesn’t!

Between these two extremes is the market for garishly turned “God” pens – oversized contraptions with nibs and converters that are sought to be passed on as pens. The more convoluted the design, the more heavy and unwieldy it is, the better – the heavier the God, more is the price realisation – seems to be the conventional logic. The marketing gimmick that is used to push these pens too is pedestrian – copy paste mythological mumbo-jumbo from the first site google search throws up to justify “Indian tradition”; talk about imported resins being used (we Indians prefer our Gods to be made up of phoreign stuff); mention imported nibs and converters in passing (Indian tradition sells, Indian components apparently don’t); and finally post the brochures in closed WhatsApp and Facebook groups where minions are ever ready with clap, respect, popping hearts and saliva dripping emogies to do the aggregation. Oh, I forgot, the prices are never mentioned and are always “on request”!

That leads us to the next logical step – a line of Kama-Sutra pens, perhaps? Ones that will have “intricate motifs” replicated from the fabled walls of Khajuraho? Pens that will double up as sex toys, you know: Dildo paagal hai types. Imagine the possibilities – one pen for each position, the writer’s Viagra! And, the oversized girth of the pen will also get justified with ease – just call it the pillow pen! Any phallic references inferred, will be due to the dirt in the beholder’s eyes, not the fault of the creator of the “period” piece.

If a few firangs fall for it, all the better. Our websites are, in any case, in Dollars, so much for raw, jingoistic nationalism! Isn’t all that bluster about “proudly made in India” a rip-off, a bluff that you are pulling on the Motherland, that too with a little “help” from God? But then again, the right to copy is copyright, right?           

Has anyone ever tried writing with one of these so-called fountain pens? They are for religious purposes, you say? Why pray, a fountain pen then? Okay, taste being pretty subjective, I am not even asking, why the horrendous design? Do we always have to create stuff that look straight out of an Indiana Jones Temple of Doom? Indian exotics – be that our deities or our poverty or our erotica for that matter, sells in the west, right? But even then, what good is a fountain pen if it doesn’t write well?

The following lines are from an article written by the man who had originally said it all, the author-architect Gautam Bhatia: “Punjabi baroque was the middle-class break from the past, away from the colourless homogeneity of colonialism: peeling bungalows, monsoon-stained walls, and beige Ambassadors. It spelt the coming of age of people who had no ideas but had the brazen confidence to attempt some serious imitation and mimicry. To take other people’s history—Bavarian castles, French chateaus, Italian villas that sprawled in European country estates—compress them onto small family plots in Greater Kailash, then claim them as their own. Complete and shameless.” (Guest Column in The Week, August 21, 2016)

The terms “Bania Gothic” and “Early Halwai” were also coined by him. I am merely celebrating their entry into the world of fountain pens! 


NOTE: I have no intention of hurting anyone’s sentiments. I have no problems about anyone selling anything for that matter either, it’s a free country after all. What I abhor however, is crass commercialisation that is sought to be packaged with shrill shenanigans of nationalism that aim for the high moral ground. “Bandobast” as a marketing tool is okay, passing off bumkum for content is not. Invoking God to sell products is okay, invoking the same God to palm off trinkets as works of art is not.

India needs a reasonably priced, quality fountain pen that her children can write with – not another “statue” that wastes our scarce resources, that too, to pander to and act as the “penance”, as a pensée in moral penury. Production possibility frontier and all that, you know!

My words are mirthless, they are my way of laughing at my own self. They are not aimed at any one in particular and bear no hidden agendas. Forgive me O defenders of the faith and the keepers of the tradition of the fountain pens for the sacrilege that you may think that I have committed!   


9 Replies to “The Fountain pens where Punjabi Baroque meets Bania Gothic”

  1. You certainly didn’t pull any punches! Fortunately, there are still manufacturers who produce relatively plain pens for everyday use. And, with the market changing to prefer inexpensive pens to the ostentatious, more everyday pens are yet to come.


  2. Dear Chawm,
    Kudos! Kudos! Kudos! what a timely erudite and lucid article that expose the chinks in the armour which have become like gaping holes! Beautiful rendering of facts and there could not be a better ending than “Bavarian Castles, French Chateaus, Italian Villas in European country estates-compress them into small family plots in GK, then claim as their own. Complete and Shameless!” I hope this pierces some thick skinned rhinoceros heads and may nature induce some creativity and innovation into those brains to bring about practical fountain pen designs facilitating good handwriting rather than hide behind the sentimental Indian Exotica to stir emotions and Erotica!

  3. Bravo Sir for putting such a shiny weapon in form of holi colours. Your points are exactly regular pen users and lovers can relate to. It is like having all the volumes of Rabindranath Tagore’s work but read none. And sadly manufacturers target this non readers (non writers here). Flaunting expensive not so good pens are now a daily visual on social media. How is the writing? why bother! we Indians always inclined on foreign made goods. And as you said it goes with fountain pens too…

  4. Well written Dada…!!
    We at Rytol, believe, writing instrument is not only an ornament, but a power packed tool to express our thoughts and ideas flawlessly. Using a fountain pen is the first step to get organise ourselves, nothing can replace a good writing instrument, not even a stylus. Nothing can express our thoughts and emotions like a pen, World is getting squeezed into ‘Emoji’.

  5. Bang on target. Pens are not merely collectible item like any other collection. You can actually do stuff which many hobbies out there. This addiction is special and must be affordable.

  6. Another great article from you. Love how you always state the reality about buying fountain pens here in India without sugar-coating it in any way. The sad thing is many manufacturers here have started to focus more on the looks of the pen rather than making a simple and great-writing pen out of the box.


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