As I started to write, (no….. to type) a few lines for posting in social media or publishing in e-paper, there sat on the big centre table an old discarded coffee mug with a few biros, a knife and a couple of pencils ready for use. There was an old Perumal Chetty pencil which I unearthed a few days ago from an old trunk box which was brought by my grandfather from Burma (today's Myanmar) during the beginning of the First World War.
Yes, when I looked for my old philatelic album and numismatic collection, I could get a free flash back into that black and white era during which I started writing with pencil on the two line and four line copy books after graduating from the chalk pencils on Cudappah stone slates with wooden frames……!
When I was in the Elementary school, I got the small pieces of lead pencils discarded by my elder brothers as the six inches long full pencil was said to be too big for me to handle….! Then one day, my dad got a box full of Perumal Chetty pencils containing a dozen of them. As recommended by my mother, I got one new full pencil for the first time for my exclusive use. My happiness knew no bounds on that day. The joy was short lived since the sharp long tip of the pencil broke as the pencil rolled down the desk during the first period in the school. Though I remember vividly about the first full pencil I started using in my life, I have lost count how many new ones I would have handled, used and thrown away during my college days and later on. But during school days, the next fascination connected with writing was the pencil box. The box in which my dad brought pencils was naturally grabbed by my elder brother. But a few years later when I accompanied my father to a known stationery shop, the shopkeeper asked whether I would like to have an empty pencil box.
The second dose of joy connected with the pencil was when I got an empty Venus pencil box. That was one Saturday on which I brought that pencil box home and kept it deep inside my school bag. That was the first (and may be last ) time I wished that there were no Sunday in between Saturday and Monday…..
Should I confess that the first thing I did after reaching the classroom was to display the Venus pencil box on the desk (evidently for others to see and appreciate or envy). My aim was achieved partially. But our middle aged Hindi teacher who came to see the picture on the box asked me to keep the box within the bag. Later she called me to the teachers' room and reprimanded me against bringing the box again in the coed class. Let me confess that I did take the pencil box on days when there was no Hindi period.
The other writing materials used during student days were an array of pens. When a couple of classmates belonging to very well to do families used Japan Pilot pens and Hero pens, I had to be satisfied with President pens. The Burma box which I opened the other day had a small empty Saibal cream container with at least ten to fifteen nibs kept by my grandfather for the posterity. He used the ink pot and quill pen while in the school and later when he served for the local court…..
But when I got employed, I started using ball point pens. For the first time, in the Bank, I started using the pens with red and blue refills fitted on either side. As I grew up the ladder in the bank I started getting costly pens as Diwali gifts which I could hardly refuse. Initially to display a gold plated Cross pen within the front pocket of the shirt was a fancy. The collection of such costly pens grew as and when I got opportunities to attend AGMs and board meetings.
When I wore a suit at the office and for meetings, sporting a Montblanc pen with the six white petals on top of the cap popping out of the left pocket of the jacket, it was with a sense of pride whether I used it for signing or not.
It is more than nine years since I retired. The old discarded coffee mug stared at me from the centre table holding one or two pencils, three 'use n throw' ball pens each costing less than three rupees and a couple of things like a paper knife and a pair of scissors.
My writing job is now restricted to making a shopping list, noting a telephone number or a pin number of a rail ticket to name a few….the three rupee ball pen is more than sufficient and reliable to do so.
Cross pens with a few micrograms of gold covering them (and old leaking refills within because of long years of disuse) and a couple of Montblanc pens (within sleeves costing more than rupees seven per piece) were sleeping within the steel cupboards in the bedroom reminding one of a bygone era. This was after giving away quite a few to junior colleagues before retirement. I thought of presenting the leftovers to my son-in-law when he came from the USA the other day. He said he hardly uses any pen or pencil. In their company they use only the lap top for every form of work. Perhaps the giant brands should now think of developing some branded finger tips for smooth and precise use on the lap tops, smart phones and key pads…..!
Left to myself, from slate pencils and Perumal chetty days to 'use n throw' ball pens with a peak of Cartier and Montblanc limited edition numbers, it has been a real parabolic journey over my lifetime……...worth remembering…….and sharing…..