Issue#7 Fountain Pen Journeys

Pilots, Lamy 2000, Pelikan Hubs

Issue 7 | 25 June 2023

Hello folks and welcome to Issue#7!

Each of us has our own special fountain pen journeys - and today Arpit writes about his journey with Pilots. This inspired me to write a little bit about a part of my own journey.

Like most folks who grew up in the 1980s, I was forced to use fountain pens at school. From the fourth standard onwards, all schoolwork was done with fountain pens, and there was no exemption to this. We traipsed through our childhoods were with ink-stained fingers and school clothes, much to the chagrin of our parents. We wouldn’t stop at that - if you got a bit of ink on your fingers, the schoolboy way of taking care of it was to wipe it off on our hair - this was an advantage of having dark black hair!

If someone ran out of ink, you would help them out by transfering some ink from your pen to theirs. Since all of us used cheap plastic eyedropper pens, but none of us carried eyedroppers to school, this was accomplished by pouring ink from one barrel into another. The results of boisterous schoolboys holding an open fountain pen barrel in either hand and trying to transfer ink from one to the other was often spectacularly colourful - and not in a good way.

We survived all this and got to tenth standard, that all important time in our lives when we wrote our first board exams. Usually this meant an upgrade in our pens - many of us got our first Hero pens at this point. Not me - I was notorious for losing pretty much anything I took to school. Comic books, tiffin carriers, water bottles, cash that had to be paid for a school trip, pens, pencils, erasers, sharpeners - I had managed to lose multiple items of all these. So, in a move clearly driven by good economic sense, I was steadfastly refused a Hero pen.

All changed however when it came time to write the revision exams just prior to the board exams. My dad took the pen from his pocket and gave it to me saying I could use it for my exams, as using a good pen would help me do better in my exams. Now this was a life-level event for me. The pen had been hitherto off-limits to everyone except my dad. This was the equivalent of the Monkey King casually handing off the Jingu Bang to his son saying, “Here, take this - you’ll do better with it,” or Shiva handing his trident to Murugan saying, “Here, take this - it has three points.” At least in my head it was!

I don’t remember what pen it was, except that it was a Parker. It had a broader nib than I was used and wrote smooth and wet. I could write faster than with any of my previous pens - which was a blessing as I was a notoriously slow writer with a handwriting that my mother referred to very kindly as a chicken scrawl. This pen allowed me to write faster and a bit more legibly, but maybe I am just remembering it that way. Nevertheless, it was one of those moments in time when you realize that your parents are more than just obstacles in your life and are actually helping you.

Of course all of this narrative has been assembled decades after the fact with the help of hindsight and the realizations you have as you grow older. This represents what I now see as the first time I really came to appreciate and like a fountain pen. I carried that pen through school, college and university - I wrote all my exams with that pen. Sadly, I no longer remember where or when I lost it.

My Pilot Journey

Arpit Pangasa | @arpitpangasa

I moved to Gurgaon in 2017 and that was when my love for fountain pens was rekindled, courtesy a senior colleague who used to sit right across from me. Seeing the different Parker Duofolds (I did not know the names of those pens then), I asked him where he bought these pens from and what all pens he had in his collection.

The next weekend, I made a pilgrimage to that shop and told the owner about how I had come to know about their existence. (I think I did that so as to subtly indicate that he can extend similar generous offers as he would have extended to him but anyways.)

We got down to chatting about different brands and he showed me tray after tray of pre-loved classic (I borrow this term from Mr Sudhir Kalyanikar, a pen enthusiast and nibmeister) and vintage fountain pens. He did not ask me my budget and did not shy away from showing me all these pens, introducing me to a new world, telling me different model names, their year of manufacture, nib types and so on. After having gone through 4 trays, I picked out few pens (after having asked their price and seen to it that my budget doesn't go haywire) and I was ready to make the payment and bid adieu.

It was at this moment when he asked me to try 2 more pens. One was a Pilot Custom 74 and another a Pilot Vanishing Point. He told me both these models were highly recommended. I inquired about their price and was shocked to hear the same. My mind immediately went back to the Pilots we used in our school days, those 25-rupee pens and comparing those to these, I thought I would be a fool to pay so much for that same brand. Well in hindsight, a fool I surely was, but for different reasons. I politely refused, stating that I did not like them much. (Of course I liked them. But I wouldn't mention my wariness at paying that amount to the shop owner. What would he think? There would be that condescending nod. Would he show me so many pens the next time I went there? Over-analysis leading to paralysis was never more applicable.)

Fast forward to today when I have been lucky to add so many of these gorgeous Pilots to my collection and along with Sailor, they have become my favourite brand of pen to have. The Pilot Custom 74 was the first Pilot with a gold nib that I added (which I later sold, albeit with a heavy heart, to fund a different pen). I love the smoothness of the nibs. The ones with soft nibs are my most used Pilots. I have a desire to have one Pilot from each nib size in my collection. Few Pilots like the Myu and 823 Clear are in transit. With those added, I would be aiming to add one with #10 sized nib (PC 742 or 912) and hopefully one with their #20 sized nib. The Emperor with #50 sized nib is a dream so far, but I keep my fingers crossed that I am able to get one someday.

Everyday FPness

This was a hectic week at work, and standing steadfastly by my side was my trusty Lamy 2000. It’s been inked up with Herbin Vert Empire for a while now. This is a perfect work combination for me - making quick notes during meetings or writing more deliberately during slower planning sessions.

FP Happenings

This weekend we have the monthly meeting of the Hyderabad Fountain Pen Club. We meet on the last Sunday of every month at 12 noon at Lamakaan. If you see this in time, do drop by and meet us!

Pelikan Hubs preparations are underway in full swing. Many of us have got our confirmations for the event, and some hubmasters have been confirmed as well. At Hyderabad, we are still awaiting confirmation of our hubmaster. All confirmed cities can be seen on the Pelikan Hubs website.

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