I’m a huge fan of tradition. It’s easy to confuse the meaning of tradition with superstition, custom, beliefs, and even religion, but for me, tradition connotes something entirely different. I think tradition is possibly more Western in it’s approach, which is possibly one of the reasons I bought into tradition really easily as an NRI kid.
Nowadays I don’t care too much about it. I love customs, celebrations and traditions all the same. But back then, and in my brain still, there exists a strange sort of compartmentalization.
A lot of traditions for me were self-evolved. In that, we practiced them at home every year, and they became habitual. The printing of new name labels for each book at the start of every academic session, the buying of new brown paper. Picking up new stationery – those specific Staedler pencils I love, and a new water bottle: one of 10, or 11 I’d own in the span of one year.
This continued. As did picking up new shoes, because my feet grew abnormally large for a 5th Grade kid.
All of these things I stick to even today. I still end up hunting around in my room in Bangalore for one piece of unused stationery to bring back to college every semester. It gives me a weird thrill.
My affection for tradition is exemplified perhaps by my stubbornness when it comes to writing with ink pens. In Dubai, we had this rule: You could only move to writing with a pen in Grade 5 if your handwriting was deemed to be neat enough. It was a rite of passage, for the Class Teacher to call out your name and announce to the entire class that you’d earned yourself the privilege. Carrying over in pencil to Grade 6 was something unheard of.
I had found my goal in Grade 5. All I wanted was that stamp of approval. The second part of this rule was that once you were told you could write with a pen, you went across the school to Lulu (this amazing Hypermarket) and bought an Inoxcrom Ink Pen after-school hours.
I must’ve spent hours admiring Inoxcrom pens, readying myself for when my name was called out. At some point I think I knew Inoxcrom’s sales catalogue and model numbers and prices across 5-6 stores in the UAE. The same was true of Schneider pens, the traditional second purchase.
So when my name was called out, I was naturally thrilled, and a 10 Dirhams dish-out began a love story I can only hope lasts the rest of my life. It’s a love story where the only dillemma has been: blue or black.
I cannot, will not, write with any other sort of pen in my academic notebooks. This is absurd because I’m a left-hander, so as such I write about 10% slower than most people. Therefore, I should be using techniques to speed me up, not pens that significantly slow you down.
Yet, I persist.
And my ink pens are peculiar. In school, I used a particular purple sheep pen that became my identity. I couldn’t write with anything else. So much so that I bought a replica pen on a second visit to that store, to replace in case I broke the nib or something. That pen served me till the end of my board exams.
In college, I write with Hero pens. One that’s been handed to me by my grandmother, which is really old, and another replica pen I found in a shop close to my house. I fill ink in them every morning and carry them to class – a small feeling of satisfaction, that I carry a little bit of my child-self to class every single day.
Today I messed up filling ink in my pen, resulting in an ink-spill for the ages. My right hand turned blue, and smelt of dye for an hour or so.
I’ve been involved in ink-fights, filled ink-cartridges with syringes, lost cartridges, and extended the life of cartridges by filling water in with the ink. I collected the ball-bearings of cartridges, and cartridges themselves, and traded these into the dustbin for absolutely nothing.
And I absolutely love it.
Gift me an ink pen, and we’re friends for life. Make fun of my ink pens, and you’re dead to me.
It’s a kick I can’t quite explain.