Pens, Pestilence and Penance…

The following is a reprint of a blog by Suvobrata Ganguly (Chawm) from Kolkata, India on, kindly reproduced with his permission.

Pens, Pestilence and Penance for the Pendulous and the Pensive in Painful Penitentiary!

These are trying times. Just when we were beginning to think that mankind has triumphed over the two biggest adversaries that has challenged its existence since the dawn of civilization – war and pestilence, the world has been hit with a pandemic of such proportions that we have nothing in living memory that we can even compare it with.

Like everyone else out there, it is extremely trying for us, fountain pen lovers as well. Yes, I admit, with our manic obsession for fountain pens and inks and paper, we are, to put things mildly, weird. We are certainly not among the most socially active, we are mostly introverts (except in FP forums where we are often at our vocal best), loners even. To the world at large, read our immediate family and friends, this “lockdown” would hardly make a difference, as they feel, we would just while it all away drooling over our pens and doodling the desperate times away! God, forgive them, for they know not, how wrong they are.

What about my weekly pilgrimage to the inking hole – the vintage shop from where I get my fix of pre-used fountain pens of yesteryears? What about the sixteen packages of pens and ink that I ordered from around the world (even China) that have not been delivered? Is my fear of running out of ink any less scary than my wife’s fear of running out of food grains? What about the pen meets that could have been but stand cancelled just because the world has to maintain social distancing? Nah, its not easy being a fountain pen lover in these days of the pandemic.

To alleviate the suffering just that bit, we posed three questions to some of the revered names in the community and hope that their responses will keep you engaged for some time at least. Feel free to write in the comments section at the bottom of the blog so that the threads become longer and provide more gist to the reading mill.

Pens, Pestilence and Penance: fountain pen community elders on how to beat the pandemic!

Gary Lehrer

Q1. As one of the pillars of the fountain pen community, what is your message to the aficionados in these trying times when they are locked indoors with their fountain pens?

Gary Lehrer: We need to have faith, in God to protect us, in our governments to do whatever it takes to keep us safe, and in the medical community to find a cure and vaccine. These are scary times and we are all nervous, especially those of us in the elder most susceptible group. But we cannot lose our confidence or succumb to lack of hope or depression. (you can read more about Gary Lehrer here: )

Yusuf Mansoor: I am a firm believer that almost all the fountain Pen user are reasonable people who can analyse their surroundings rationally. Here I would quote a German proverb that “there is no problem, we only need to find a solution”. The least we can contribute is to follow the experts and maintain social distancing and creating ease for our loved ones. (You can read more about Yusuf mansoor here: )

Leena Shrestha-Menon: We want to thank our customers and other fountain pen enthusiasts for being civically-minded in these trying times by staying indoors to flatten the curve. The sacrifices you’re making are saving lives, and we appreciate your commitment to the greater good. By social distancing, maintaining proper hand-washing and germ etiquette, and observing COVID-19 related cancellations, we can help keep at-risk members of the population safe and reduce the impact this virus has on all of us. (You can read more about Leena Shrestha-Menon here: )

Soumitra Sanyal: First of all, a time with our fountain pens is something we normally do not get. Must not waste one day. (You can read more about Soumitra Sanyal here: )

Pens, Pestilence and Penance: fountain pen community elders on how to beat the pandemic!

Yusuf Mansoor in a pen meet

Q2. How can fountain pen lovers better utilise the lockdown to care for their loved pens? Any tip?

Gary Lehrer: We can research the pens we have and those we want. We can catalogue what we have (how many of us have wanted to do this for years, but never got to it). We can learn some restoration skills. Plenty of knowledge and resources on the Internet for us.

Yusuf Mansoor: Every fountain pen user is multi-faceted. This is best time to explore your potential, attempt to sail on all frontiers. You can try different aspects of script writing, sketching or even giving soul to your thoughts, use your pen to express yourself and let your imagination be the only constraint.

Leena Shrestha-Menon: All this downtime is an excellent opportunity to care for your pens. The most obvious way to boost your pens’ performance is a deep clean. Flush the pen in question until it runs clear, then soak in warm, slightly soapy water for around 12 hours. If you see any color in the water, repeat the process until you can soak for 12 hours with no ink. Afterward, rinse the feed-in non-soapy water and dry. In any pen with an accumulation of dried-out ink due to an extended period without routine rinsing, this will improve ink flow and the writing experience.

A slightly more ambitious project to improve pen performance while you’re stuck inside is rudimentary nib tuning for your bad nibs. It’s not uncommon to buy a pen and find that its nib is less than smooth, and fixing said nibs is often a relatively straightforward process. Online tutorials for nib tuning abound, and all the equipment you could conceivably need (such as micromesh and shim stock) is available online even when brick and mortar businesses are closed.

Of course, with such abundant free time, the easiest way to advance a fountain pen collection is to research future purchases. There are a lot of pens out there, and the more time you invest in learning about your options, the more likely you are to find pens you love.

Soumitra Sanyal: Forget tinkering with the pens in name of care, you do that on normal days as you do not have the mind-frame to write. Clean and play with pens if and when usual times come back. For now, please write.

Pens, Pestilence and Penance: fountain pen community elders on how to beat the pandemic!

Leena Shrestha-Menon

Q3. Three words from you that will help us all to meet on the other side of the pandemic?

Gary Lehrer: We’re a close-knit community held together by a wonderful common interest. You have friends, so hang in — this will pass.

Yusuf Mansoor: Compassion, hope and faith.

Leena Shrestha-Menon: Have Fun Writing!

Soumitra Sanyal: Corona is prerona (Make Corona your Muse!)

Soumitra Sanyal – Kolkata’s globally celebrated pen turner

And here at the end, my own assessment and suggestions for the nice time we are going through:

Corona : mega changes are coming in us.

Lockdown is really not a lovely thing, more so at the beginning. Five or six days underway, the rush of emotions is however ebbing away. I may say this looking at the social media posts.

Like it or not, lockdown is going to continue, anywhere between four to six months minimum. Best to calm down and adapt, save the energy. Ten days later the thrill would go away.

I expect more and more jobs will be given essential key job status and home confinement would cease for many.

But lockdown would probably continue for the personal and entertainment aspects of our lives.

For sure our general chirpy demeanour, so common with FPL Bongs would change to serious and reserved. The doctors among us would become very tired and reclusive, at least for quite some time.

We would see many changes in all dimensions around us. Many natural behaviours of our people will disappear.

We are surely entering a phase of rapid change where we would become too wary too even look back at the days before. Our memories would be over worked.

A good idea would be to write down everything every now and then. Let each of us write down our locked down day events and feelings.

At a later date, we can read and wonder how fast we all changed. Just write down and document everything.

Admittedly the above is cranky stuff to say the least, but it is a long time since we were so mortally scared.

Keep the good work up and stay blessed.

Soumitra Sanyal

For more on Gary Lehrer:

For More on Yusuf Mansoor:

For More on Leena Shrestha-Menon:

For More on Soumitra Sanyal: greater kolkata pen collectors

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