My Defunct Pen

There is a strong compulsion to write. There isn’t a thought that is insistent on expression, or such a thing, yet. The mind isn’t blank, either: there are the usual what-if thoughts associated with the day’s events. Nothing useful enough to solve a problem or to understand the world around me (or within me, for that matter).

Every time I use my ink pen, I am reminded of school. I recall, a senior, was once questioned by a teacher about the ink-spill on his hands.

Blood of knowledge, he replied instantly.

I remember nothing about him, except his name, and his face at that instant. I am pleasantly surprised that I do.

Leaky pens, misbehaving ink-droppers.
Dinner laid out.
Old rag to clean the hands and the pen’s barrel.
Mother’s automatic assumption: wash your hands before you come for dinner…

I am now attempting to write fast — simulate the feeling of writing an examination paper. History, perhaps, or English. They were ink-intensive. No diagrams, no pencils and compass boxes. I see it almost perfectly as it used to be.

The watch, off the hand, on the desk.
The backup pen(s) laid out.
Click of the clip-board.
The four-page main answer sheet — supplementary sheets to come, if you knew most answers.
Remember to draw margins, while waiting for the question paper.
Get you roll number right.
The purposefulness of answering the questions; solving problems.
Name and roll-number on all supplementary sheets.
Ensuring you get the thread to tie all the supplementary sheets.
Ensure that you number the supplementary sheets correctly.
And even if you are still writing the paper, tie them all up in the last 15 minutes and continue writing. You never know, sometimes they would snatch the paper from you, when the bell went.
Writing fast, yet maintaining a good handwriting.
All this while, ignoring the intense escalating pain in your index finger.

I stopped using the ink pen with advent of the micro-tip pen. Then to the gel-inks and other technological innovations. Perhaps, I wanted to let go of the memory of writing a time-bound examination paper. And then, there was no need to write as fast.

But somewhere (and perhaps, even, therefore), with the ink pen, the purposefulness of answering questions was also lost. Sentences started becoming phrases, phrases became keywords. And because t was only keywords, why write at all — not too difficult to remember keywords. Not surprisingly, very soon, I lost my handwriting to the keyboard.

Slowly but surely, there was more typing and a micro-tip pen lasted more than any pen I ever owned. In the ink pens, the ink dried and sad flakes clung to the inside of the barrel.

The ink pen now became an object of romance — a something to help you go back — in the hope that the determined nature of answering questions, will be ours again. Rather than being the sword that drips the blood of knowledge, it became an accessory. The branded clip or the monogrammed head of the pen’s cap, on display.

Heck, most forms today insist on using a ball-point pen.

Sometimes, it is good to just go back and get your Camlin, Cruiser, or Hero pen out of the shoe-box of school memories and write with determined aimlessness. It not only reminds you how you used to answer questions; solve problems — it gives answers; solves problems.


17 thoughts on “My Defunct Pen

  1. A tumult of memories come flooding back
    Whole generations reminded because of a few lines
    The metallic smell of ink
    The lonely fear of not knowing the answers
    The relief of the last exam bell
    The ruthless indifference of time

    Nice stuff


  2. Wow. You made me nostalgic. Somehow i miss ‘writing’ itself. Life is stuck in these keyboards now.

    It’s true, ink pens have become an object of romance. Somehow i feel writing with an ink pen ignited your creativity… words would flow so easily.


  3. ==Girish:
    Welcome to Gaizabonts!

    Thank ye! Well said yourself. It’s nice to know that people still do relate with this stuff!

    Welcome back, been a while!

    Oh yes, it did @ writing with an ink pen. I seem to have these instances where i just have get hold of my Camlin and write incessantly. It doesn’t matter what. Just write. The ink fuels thoughts, I guess, that’s where teh answers come from.


  4. I use the pen/pencil to write long hand still. But it’s so true – I am a bit out of practice thanks to the keyboard.

    A beautiful post.

    The best phrase was “sad flakes.” I spend so much time avoiding anthropomorphisms in my line of work that I treasure each one that I come by.

    The best sentence was the sign off line – “It not only reminds you how you used to answer questions; solve problems — it gives answers; solves problems.” A very well-constructed sentence.

    Apart from this, I am not nostalgic. Exams were intensely dislikeable blobs of time in my life, which I am very happy to forget. I think schools and colleges should do away with exams and have a series of assignments, seminars and projects to decide on grades. I really loved and enjoyed doing the assignments and seminars. And moreover I learned a lot from them.


  5. Wow Atul, wonderfully written. Maybe you’ve captured a slice of life of an entire generation of young indians in this post of yours. Really!

    Sometimes it takes an everyday object to trigger off long lost memories. And an accidental read in a blog triggers many precious memories–precious enough not to be forgotten, yet…



  6. 🙂 Just today morning i bought a hand writing book, don’t ask me why,i was there,buying something and there is this kit, school kit,with pens,pencils, erasers and a hand writing notebook,i just bought it, husband is almost pulling his hair and amma feels i lost it, well, i have a good hand writing, all those years of writing and that too with a ink pen made it good but then just like you ,i lost it to the key board. but i still carry my ink pen, i still fill the ink every fortnight, and i still buy my royal blue ink bottle every year and religiously use a rag to clean it up and yes,any excess ink is rubbed into the hair, i did it as a child:) and i just continue… wish it were not just the pen and ink,if only i could keep intact that innocence of the childhood too:)


  7. the last few posts of mine, i have actually penned down on scraps of paper, to later type it down. thats because i don’t have a comp to spare at all times, and i don’t – unlike you – moblog either 🙂 i have realised it is fun. there used to be writing letters – i used to romance letters so much that when i was in my first year at college, i used to write at least one everyday, to just about anybody!

    the world inside of us – is as vast, perhaps more, and is as important to discover, perhaps more – than that outside.

    beautiful thoughts, as always, great being here 🙂


  8. oh, and the hero pen brought back memories. i was always allowed only camlin – the ones with the transparent bit in the middle to let u know if u were running out of ink. dad never got me a hero – according to him, then, it was ‘too expensive’ and ‘elitist’. i think he was right, i grew up easier 🙂


  9. ==EU:
    Yes, the loss of handwriting is change of character, almost! You’re welcome! 🙂

    Thank ye!

    I can so relate @ avoiding the anthros! Perhaps its bets, then, that we have other places where we can write?

    No one usually likes exams, I’d believe, just that the ink-pen brought back memories of exam time 🙂


    Thank you, that’s a lot to have captured, but thank you, really. Thank God, for blogs then?

    Welcome back! Been a while. I would like to that myself @ get myself a “Sulekha Stencil” (That’s what they called it I suppose), and play with it a bit myself.


    Ditto, except that I tend to use a pencil @ drafts on paper. I do miss that @ writing letters, I do.

    Good anecdote @ hero pen, triggers more memories for me! 🙂

    Thank you for continuing to come back!


  10. I’m a wanderer in the blogosphere and reached here from Southwestsun’s blog.

    I could totally relate to every single word that you have written. The meaningful words conjured up familiar scenes from the distant past.

    ‘Blood of knowledge’ – what a realistic expression!

    Fumbling with the ink bottle while trying to fill the pen. Pouring the ink on the hand instead of into the pen. The ink dripping on the floor and creating pools of royal blue. Wiping it all with a large piece of rag or any cloth that is readily available, and finally make a big mess of everything. Who doesn’t have these memories!

    Aargghhh….I never liked exams, too. Though I somehow managed to be in the top league most of the times. And, pardon me for that.


  11. ==Anamika:
    Welcome to Gaizabonts!

    Thank you for you comment! Truly glad, you could relate.

    Nothing to be pardoned, life’s full of exams they say; every waking day, I only wish they prepared us better for the exam format that life has to offer. Else, I guess, if we are living well, we clear the “exams”. 🙂


  12. took me back to the classroom with amazing precision. the compulsion to tie the thread with the 15 min. warning bell, the last chance to ask for any extra supplementary…

    I never used an ink-pen. For this reason, I always looked upon those who could manage to write with one. (Just got too messy for me)

    ur post made for a wonderful read..


  13. Pingback: Paper & Me | Gaizabonts

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