Sunday, 22 March 2020

How I fell in love with fountain pens

(Originally published in the Lifestyle section of Times of India, web edition; July 11, 2019)
I clearly remember the first time I received command from my class teacher to switch from a pencil to a Fountain Pen. I must have been in standard sixth at that time. “Strictly a fountain pen of nib size ‘Medium’ filled with Royal-Blue ink,” she had insisted. Her instructions were precise and clear. Besides, studying in a Convent meant absolutely no deviations from the rules once set by the Sisters of the Institute. Some students went ecstatic with the decision as if they had been waiting to overthrow the couth of sharpening graphite lead ever since they learnt writing while some like me, who had mastered the art of committing endless errors and erasing them away cleverly, now feared the horror of getting caught. “Once written in ink can never be rubbed away!” along came the teacher’s reprimand which sounded more like a forewarning.
I refused the idea of liking to write with a fountain pen right away. The days of doodling in the last pages or scribbling a thread of chat in each others’ school notebooks which could neatly be erased later was soon going to become a thing of the past. What else could be more disheartening for us, the naughty backbenchers?
However, there was to be no respite! In a matter of a week, we found ourselves complying with the school order, fiddling with the mess created while writing with the good ol’ fountain pen. It must have taken me a hundred days to figure out the most appropriate angle at which the nib of the pen must be tilted to ensure ink’s best flow and another few weeks to learn how to write without staining the fingers blue.

My pencil box would no longer have fragrant erasers but pieces of calcium smelling chalks (you know it if you have used it) to absorb ink blots which I couldn’t manage but spill all around my work-desk. I remember shaking the pen enough every time I would use it, just to resume free flow from the dried nib. The only ink blots which looked good were the ones staining a perfectly white school uniform of the best friend in dotted blues. Thinking of it still brings me a smile.
That is how my rendezvous with the mighty fountain pen had started in school. Messy, unmanageable, staining, cumbersome and bringing my handwriting speed to an all time low!
But little had I realized that the royalty of the Fountain Pen was all set to have me enchanted and make me fall with its classiness in the times to come.
Just as true love gradually grows, I began feeling the grandeur of nib on paper, the eloquent strokes of ink gliding on paper with emotions and the rich legacy behind history of fountain pens. I began cherishing the beauty of holding it, sometimes between the fingers (literally) and sometimes close to heart.
I started seeing subtle shades of blue-black in my handwriting like never before. Azure, temporary royal blue, permanent blue-black, deep black, dark grey, turquoise blue, bright violet, mauve, emerald green, I felt a spectrum of colours even in the pages of dry notes.
I played with the nib sizes to doodle even better. Anfanger, stub, needlepoint, extra fine, medium, bold, zoom and ROM; While most of it I learnt from my grandfather and father, under their tutelage the rough pages of my diary now jazzed with colourful caricatures and penmanship. How funny I even began creating my own Rorschach Tests with blots of ink folded between blank pages to make patterns and interpret stories!
Once school got over and college began, I tried my best not to let go of the habit of writing only with the fountain pen. But economics of the new global market as well as our budget constraints had most of us switch to, what they called, a new-age Ball Pen. This newest suitor in town made more promises. It gave the similar ease of writing at almost one-tenth of the cost of fountain pen, was less messier, did not have to be occasionally flushed out for cleaning, hardly stained clothes-fingers-bags and was easily available (no puns intended) at every second stationery shop in the street.
The cost benefit analysis hinted that it was time I must give a try to the most feasible option. And hence, I carefully packed away all of my fountain pens keeping in safe in a boxed treasure, bringing it out only once in a while but promising never to let it go forever. It was no longer just a writing instrument for me. It was sheer delight contained in a barrel of ink.
Time passed by and saw us grow up, find a place, new beginning and settle down.
Getting the financial liberty to choose and spend on the most desirable of things, I decided to fulfill my long lost love. I now have a collection. An enviable collection of fountain pens! And there is a reason I like to believe my collection is precious. I have in my treasure a 1976 Sheaffer Fountain Pen that belonged to my father when he was a student at Arizona State University. Despite done and dusted in decades, it still glows with the pride of having churned innumerous unwritten pages into gold. Other keeps include Lamy, Pelikan, Montblanc, Faber Castell, Cross and Parker gifted to me by family and friends just so they knew what would fetch me a smile most (apart from books, of course). Even dearer are ink bottles of Waterman, Quink and sweet ol’ Chelpark that gush up my senses the moment bottle is uncapped. Even today, there is a pleasure in manual refilling of ink barrel that readymade ink cartridge can never bring.
But closest to heart are the fountain pens I used during my school days, scribbling away my dreams on blank pages without the fear of erasing them ever.
Fountain pens have made me learn that mistakes committed need not be erased away from the memory but rewritten to a new glory.
If that isn’t precious, what is!

Friday, 6 July 2018

Tilismi Lota: Theatre Review

Tilismi Lota: A quick review of the comedy play

When? June-July 2018 (Premier shows at Sangeet Natak Academy and Bharatendu Natya Academy, Lucknow).

What is it? A comedy play put up by a talented group of rising theatre stars from Lucknow.

Genre? Sweet comedy, slight political satires

Sparkle Meter :-
(I'd have given them a 8/10, to be honest. But they earn an extra point for the huge risk taken to stage a comedy play in Awadhi and how!)

In a long, long while comes a play which is scripted totally in the local, colloquial dialect. This one is a local rendition of Awadhi. It is a neat, sweet comedy, packed with musical notes, stellar performances and so much laughter that it will get you rolling on the floor.

If ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ would ever be put up on stage as a comedy of errors, it would be this, with each character of the play etching for the viewer an unforgettable image.

Story Sketch

In a village called Ruknapur, Punai and Machetu are best friends who want to become richer the short-cut way. They’re both hopelessly useless, unhygienic and crass, yet come across as sweet and kind human beings. Jugadhu Pradhan is a criminal from the village, contesting election for the post of Pradhan. His power, not only muscle but also filthy money, helps him tame the entire village out of fear. Machetu mocks God night after night with satirical (and musical) prayers until one fine night Lord Krishna himself appears before him to grant a wish. Machetu is blessed with a ‘Tilismi Lota’ that would change his life forever after. What follows next is how Punai and Machetu get back at Jugadhu Pradhan contesting against him in the elections, how Machetu’s love story with Pradhan’s only daughter grows, how Tilismi Lota changes his luck and how multiple plots get interwoven in a common thread that leave them with a lesson they’ll remember a lifetime.

What Is Good About The Play?

      1. Awadhi Language
Not often does one get to watch a play scripted totally in a local dialect, like this one which is partially in Awadhi and partially in Allahabadi. Quite often, the directors are sceptical running the risk of limited viewership or the plot isn’t powerful enough to hold the play in local language for a wider audience. Tilismi Lota, fortunately, is a blend of both elements. It’s a must watch for every Uttar Pradeshi. And those who are ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ fans would die for it.

      2. Acting Prowess
Remarkable performances by the cast, especially, actors playing Machetu, Punai and Jugadhu. They leave behind unforgettable characters that stay with you for long.

      3. Comedy Timing
None of the funny liners or sarcasms fall flat. Actors pick up dialogues spot on and emphasise with just the right diction. Even the Bollywood songs that have been choreographed have hilarious dance moves, particularly typical ‘baraati dance’ that leave audience laughing with tears.

What Is Not So Good About The Play?

1. Slangs and Cuss Words
Although used in undertones and in limited scope, there certainly are portions in the play where local slangs and cuss words have been unapologetically used. It does not hurt the ears though. You may want to be cautious with taking little children along.

      2. The Opening
The play does not have a powerful opening which misses making a connection with the audience right away. It is with Jugadhu’s first appearance on stage that a strong hook with the plot is established.

      3. Poor promotion
Despite a powerful performance prepared with much hardwork and diligence, not much has been done for the promotion of the play. Posters, invites, banners and flyers are not eye-catching enough. The only promotion play gets is by word of mouth. But then, I’m sure we understand how difficult it is to build a brand with lack of sufficient resources for budding theatre artists, don’t we?

Directed by              :           Tushar Bajpeyi
Written by                :           Aashish Pandey
Cast                             :           Tushar Bajpeyi (Punai), Aashish Pandey (Machetu)
                                                Jugdhu (Abhishek Singh) with Bhavya Dwivedi, Ahman 
                                                Raza Khan, Anushka Saxena, Altamash azmi, Ali Khan, 
                                                Naman Shukla

Tickets :-
Rs. 200 for adults and Rs. 100 for children (The one which we watched had tickets sold out at these rates for a full house. However, there are passes available for sponsored shows also).

The theatre troop may be contacted for a repeat show of Tilismi Lota at 07906475223.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Tilismi Lota: Comedy Play Review
In a long, long while comes a play which is scripted totally in the local, colloquial dialect. This one is a local rendition of Awadhi......Read more 

Green orchards, a warm sunrise encapsulating soft dewy breeze, trees laden with ripe fruits, humming of birds and a fragrance that fills up the senses with delectable ecstasy. This is the world of mangoes every summer morning!.....Read more

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