Technology hardly erases glory of fountain pens

Still in vogue: Servicing a fountain pen is like reviving a past glory, say shop-owners. A man repairing a pen at a shop. — Photo: K. Pichumani

Still in vogue: Servicing a fountain pen is like reviving a past glory, say shop-owners. A man repairing a pen at a shop. — Photo: K. Pichumani  

There are reasons why those repairing pens are sought-after

: Pens might have lost their significance in today's technology-driven world where the keyboard or text messages are becoming essential. But not for many keen writers, for whom fountain pens are still a popular instrument and getting it repaired is like reviving a past glory.

After holding on to a Montblanc for close to a year, businessman V.K. Ramesh found the time and a store that could repair the pen, given by his friend, with a broken cap.

“It costs Rs.450 for the service, but that is fine as far as I get a replacement, considering the original cost of the pen,” says Mr. Ramesh.

However, Mustafa wasn't lucky to find a body for the 25-year-old fountain pen used by his uncle based in Salem. From sentiments attached to being a collector's pride, there are a host of reasons why those repairing pens are still sought-after.

Gem & Co, one of the oldest pen repair stores located in Parry's Corner, receives around 10 customers a day. The complaints range from replacing a damaged nib, tightening a loose cap, repairing the ink filler or a broken frame.

The servicing becomes challenging for an antique pen as getting the spares is difficult.

“The number of clients we get today is much less compared to the nearly 100 customers we used to get daily 10 years ago. But, it gives us pleasure to see people come from far-away places to give life to a pen or see a parent convince his child to buy a fountain pen,” says M. Pratap Kumar, the third generation of the family running the store.

With use-and-throw ball pens everywhere and not many schools particular that students use ink pens, stores that undertake repairs have little to talk about their profits. While some have diversified to other businesses, a few continue to remain in the field restoring and sale of old pens.

“A majority of my clients are aged above 50 who have a collection or love for good handwriting. Reviving a Waterman or Sheaffer is as much a thrill for them as it is for us,” says Ajit Jain, who runs Collector's Paradise pen serving centre in Spencer Plaza.

But servicing need not always lead to the desirable results, especially when the job involves antique fountain pens. “It is 50:50, matching the colour and blend is difficult. There were so many models those days,” says Mr. Kumar, adding that it takes 10-15 days to repair such pens.

Rasi Pen Repair in Adyar and a couple of stores in T.Nagar also undertake repairs. Store-owners say it is a dying art as there is little awareness and mending fountain pens requires extra time, effort and money. Gel pens are a closer substitute to fountain pens, they say.

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