I am a Pen Widow. Yes, I lost my husband to a fountain pen. Many fountain pens to be precise. But I guess, the numbers do not really matter – for if, losing one’s love is bad enough, losing it to an inanimate object with a belly-full of ink and a nib to scratch on paper is much worse than that. Does wonders to your self-esteem, you know.
Well, not that I wasn’t warned. He had told me while we were courting, about his hobby of collecting fountain pens. He had used terms like “passion” and “obsession” as well, but I hadn’t paid heed, telling myself, that everyone does have a hobby as a kid, don’t they? Hobbies that they “grow” out of. But little did I know what I was bargaining for.
The first storm clouds had covered the sunny sky of out “happily married for ever and after” life during our honeymoon itself, when he would leave his lovelorn wife in the hotel room and vanish for hours at an end. Curious, I had followed him the third time it happened, only to see him gesticulate inanimately to the pavement peddler selling Montblanc knock-off’s. The triumph on hubbie-darling’s face, when he emerged victorious, after what seemed like a marathon bargaining session was strangely relaxing, comforting even, for me – it was a pen, not a woman! How little did I know about them, little vixens! (It was only much later that I came to know that he had chosen Bangkok for our honeymoon sojourn only because he wanted to buy those Chinese replica pens from the Sukumvit sidewalks!)
Well, I really don’t have any complaints against the man – he is loving and caring and all that, though he’d rather spend time with his pens than do anything else. In the rare cases when he finally acquiesces, he spoils the outing, lapsing back to his monologues about pens, their individual quirks and stuff, with such passion that one is forced to believe that somehow, we do not really feature in his scheme of things.
I am resigned to my fate and bear with it, but the fact remains, strangers, including family and friends, find it downright weird when he starts referring to Parker 51’s as his “beaus” or when he uses terms of endearments about pens that are best whispered carelessly into a lover’s ears. If even that is suffered in silence, him lapsing into another lecture about “baby’s bottoms” while the rest of us lesser mortals try to concentrate on the food, is as unbearable as it can get.
I don’t let him collect the cheque in restaurants – least he makes the same fuss about flashing out whichever fountain pen he is carrying and singing paeans about its ability to sign without blotching or railroading to a startled waiter.
Hearing your husband profess his undying love to a Montblanc Bohème is not exactly a thing any woman would tolerate for long and when I had finally broached the topic, after detailed discussions with my counsellor (and any friend who would listen), I was confronted with logic that was irrefutable – he apparently loved his Sailor 1911 and Parker Duofold Classic Big Red even more! And to rub salt on my wounds, he left the conversation with a smug smile on his face – content in having kindled in my philistine soul a desire to know about Fountain Pens – that is, after telling me the significance of the numbers 4810 and 1911 etched on nibs.
I had resigned. And had even started accepting being likened to a Lamy 2000 every time I wore my favourite black cocktail dress. I did not object when he named our son Omas and our daughter Urushi either. I did not bother him when I had to feed them and change their diapers, even as he spent all his free time changing nibs and doodling aimlessly on paper to dry out his pens so that he could refill them with his newly acquired bottle of burnt sienna.
Oh, I had learnt early on in my marriage that even saying things like “another fountain pen?” or “why do you want another pen?” or, “but you don’t really write with a pen?” or even mentioning that “you already have 367 of them” are extremely injurious to the relationship and are capable of escalating tensions to an immediate stand-off and a thaw in the eye-ball to eye-ball situation can be worked out only with UN intervention. That too, only after a cooling period when a multi-national peace keeping force is deployed.
But even they – our children, our parents, his friends and my friends – couldn’t help when he en-cashed our savings to acquire a Visconti, a homage to the evolution of homo sapiens. “Some specimen of homo sapiens I am saddled with”, I had muttered under my breath, packed my bags and left. Guess what cooled me down and made me go back?
A handwritten note. That too, on a page torn from his favourite Rhodia notebook. A note that just said “Come back, I love you” in his best calligraphy and in his more-precious-than-life Caran d’Ache ink.
Thank heavens I had not turned that piece of paper before going back home. For, on its back he had thought fully added “more than my Conway Stewart Churchill”!
(all paintings are by Sudeb Bhattacharjee)