The world of collectors, if you look around, is largely male-dominated; which is to say that those who show off watches or rare editions of books or stamps accumulated over the years are invariably men.
That is why Sukla Roy stands out. This homemaker from Kolkata not only boasts of a collection of over 500 fountain pens but is also the moderator of a Facebook page that brings together people who still like to write the old-fashioned way, and is part of WhatsApp groups formed by those sharing the interest.
“My parents used to tell me that during my rice-feeding ceremony [the first feeding of solids to a baby], I picked up the fountain pen while ignoring everything else placed around me. When I was in primary school, I used to wonder when I would get to write with a fountain pen. Finally, from the age of 12 or 13, I began collecting fountain pens — I would use my tiffin money to buy them. Whenever people wanted to give me presents, I asked for fountain pens,” Ms. Roy told The Hindu.
Vintage pens — belonging to another era and no longer in production — form a large part of her collection. “I collect vintage pens mainly for two reasons: one, you get renowned brands at a relatively low price; two, the thrill in wondering who could have been its previous owner — it could have been held by a famous personality, who knows! What’s more satisfying is the knowledge that these models are no longer manufactured and therefore not easily available,” said Ms. Roy.
“Having said that,” she added, “each pen in my collection is precious, even an Artex that would have cost me only ₹5. They are all priceless to me.” A pen-lover would find her collection indeed priceless because they include obsolete — but in perfect working condition — models of Mont Blanc, Pelikan, Parker, Sheaffer, Eversharp, Blackbird and Swan. The most prized among them are a Conway Stewart of 1920 and a Parker Duofold Lucky Curve. Then there are Indian vintages: Guptoos, Brahman, Krishna and Bharati, among others.
Ms. Roy said: “It is common for many women to stop pursuing their hobbies after marriage and motherhood. We all have hobbies regardless of our gender. But a woman has to sacrifice a lot more in life. Maybe that’s why we see very few female collectors in comparison to males. My satisfaction lies in the fact that I have been able to retain the tradition of using fountain pens.”
‘Every single day’
How often does she get to use the pens from her enviable collection, that too in the digital age? “Every single day,” she declared. “I give tuitions and use only fountain pens to teach and to correct scripts.” As a self-trained artist, she also uses ink and pen to draw portraits.
“I am present in almost all the pen shows that are held in India. You can say I am a regular. The last show I attended was TIPS-2020, held in Mumbai in March this year, shortly before the lockdown was imposed. A lot of pens are launched at these shows, and that’s a big incentive. But the best part is I get to meet like-minded pen enthusiasts,” Ms. Roy said.