Officially, they are past their prime. Some geriatric, some senile, some plain outliving their utility. Some have been shunted out to old-age homes never to return, while others are barely tolerated in what they once considered as their homes, even as they too prepare to meet their maker. They have seen in all – from the hey days when they were the chosen ones, to the pits of becoming redundant and cast aside. They have literally been there, done it all – created history, written poems, professed love, signed million-dollar cheques, enforced surrenders – only to find themselves in some dusty and cobwebbed, forgotten drawer of life, behind heaps of things that too, are inconsequential.
Yes, I am talking about the senior citizens. The ones in your family. The legacy fountain pens.
A people that do not respect its past, does not honour its elders is doomed forever. Are we? Aren’t we?
We replaced them when we were taken in by the convenience offered by the dot pens, only to move on to the key board. And now, even that is becoming laid off as our spoken words, careless whispers and barked commands will be translated into words by our ubiquitous devices. Forget the fountain pens, isn’t the very act of writing, the art of expressing one’s feelings that is now threatened? The Nazis had only burnt the books they had found “disturbing”, are we not committing sins that way far graver? Are we not consigning the written word itself – and everything that comes with it – to the gas chamber of our collective apathy? If their pogrom was in-human, what do we call what we are doing? Anti-thought? Word-shredder? Extermination of intelligentsia? Purging of our finer feelings?
No this is not an appeal to do a Robin Hood. I am not requesting you to use the keyboard for work, to earn money and then use the money – at least a fraction – to buy the fountain pens that have been put up for adoption and are unable to find a home. I know it sounds politically incorrect, but pets are one thing, parents and pens, something else.
All I am urging you is to spend some quality time with them? Yes, the ones that are family – at least, used to be family. Give them a wash, fill them up with ink (even sticking a cartridge is okay), and go ahead, put the nib on paper. Try it. Its like talking to your grand-dad. Do it the first time for the sake of the old man. The pleasure that you derive out of the exercise will compel you to do it again and again and again.
And hopefully, someday it will become a habit, a hobby. A passion, even an obsession. An obsession of writing with a fountain pen, of collecting them. An obsession of hearing your thoughts being scratched on paper, of seeing your words dry.
Physical torture is largely bearable. Loneliness is not. Bodily pain one can cope up with, but rejection, that too by the near and dear ones is unbearable. Of all the ignominy we heap on our elderly, the feeling of being unwanted, of being ignored, of being treated as a pariah that we give them, is perhaps the one that hurts them the most, hurting to the quick. Our fountain pens too must feel the same, cast away as they are in the dank, forgotten recesses of time. Bastards in a family reunion.
Oh, there is one more aspect to it.
They say, an antique is something that your grand-father had bought as nouveau, your father had thrown out as junk that you buy back as décor. For, if you don’t, your son will have to pay a fortune to acquire it as an antique. Well, fountain pens you can still buy, even the ones that were used by your father and his father. But Grand Pop will never be available off the shelf. And if it is too late already, look for his pen.