My mother made this comment about how no one uses ink pens anymore last night, as we were watching my favourite BBC comedy. This sent me on a nostalgia trip to my Standard V classroom. Standard V was a milestone in our scholastic careers...you entered the high school building in Standard V, you had different teachers for different subjects in Standard V and you finally gave up HB pencils and started using ink pens in Standard V. The use of a ball point pen (also called the dot pen) was strictly frowned upon by the austere nuns at our school. They had spent five years teaching us cursive writing and they were not letting some coarse, pelebian writing instrument lay that to waste. But unlike the regular ball point which could be used for writing 4000 pages without refilling, an ink pen needed to refilled ever so often. So for school you needed two pens. Everynight before going to bed, I would clean the nibs of my pens, fill them with up with an ink dropper. Wipe them clean and pack them in my box.
A lot of folks might remember that were three types of pens - the fat barrel ones, the chinese ones and the Pilot pens (with the fat one being the cheapest and pilot the most expensive). If you were really nice you would get a Chinese ink pen with chinese inscriptions and a shiny gold cap. The barrel on these pens had a pinching mechanism which eliminated the need for a ink dropper. On the flip side, they did not hold too much ink and had to be refilled very frequently. At one point I had accquired two of these pens (just in case you did not get it, I was a good kid) and had to take an ink bottle to school. But after one rather unfortunate incident involving a smashed bottle and a vicious class mate my Mom made sure I only got the fat barrel pens to take to school. And fat barrel pens tended to leak and needed an ink cloth ....a little rag that you kept in your box to wipe up leaks. Since I was doomed to use the leaky barrel type pens I used up quite a few of these. Ink pens also needed their own erasers - the ugly hard pink ones. Out went the scented white erasers of nursery and middle school.
But by far, the biggest problem with ink pens was their fragility. Unlike ball point pens (or Reynolds as they were later called) , the ink pen nib would get twisted out of shape after a mere fall from the table. This meant either a new pen or a new nib. But if you regularly came home with broken pens sooner or later your mom would take you to the pen shop. The pen shop was run by this really cute guy called Salim or something (we were hormonally unbalanced 13 year olds remember) who would fix the nib for less than 1/20 th of the cost of a new pen. Soon we were making numerous trips to the pen shop with broken pens.
After two years our visits to that shop ceased.Wonder if that shop is still there!!. We were now in Standard VIII . We were writing in notebooks with 30 lines to a page and filling them up quickly. The teacher was not writing everything on the blackboard and the English Teacher was not telling stories but explaining Keats, Yeats and Shelley. Yes, we had really grown up and were officially in high school. Speed had finally overtaken beauty as far as hand writing was concerned.