It happened when I was 8, close to the brink of crossing 9 in a limited number of days. ‘It’ was the long-awaited cursory transition that had been a ‘hot topic’, as we called it back then, for all the 8-year-olds. The passage of rite to finally becoming and being recognized as adults, adults who could be trusted to discard pencils and yield ink pens.

It was a big deal, as they call it now. You see, when you are growing up in a boarding school in the mountains where it rains more often than you can count on your fingers, the means to entertainment become limited. Of course, there would always be the perennial acorn spinning competition amongst the boys who prided themselves in hoarding ones of varied shapes and sizes. It wasn’t really for me; I had long decided, having tried it in secret and finding to my horror that more than spinning, my chosen acorn decided to lay obtusely flat on the ground.

But ink pens- those were the IT-thing. We all got our own, all 25 (I think) of us and IV A suddenly had their own party ground at the ready. Distinct levels of experimenting ensued with the mysterious blue liquid that had been prohibited for far too long.

The ink bottle would be stationed in the sand tray, we soon found out. Heaven knows where that name came from, but it gave me a feeling of beaches I hadn’t been to yet, and wouldn’t see for another 11 years. And no, there wasn’t any sand in it, in case you were wondering.

So back to the sand tray, that saw a long line of suitors queuing up for inspection. It wasn’t long before all was ink- the starched white shirts, the navy blue tunics that camouflaged it all so well, and the grey pants that didn’t do such a great job. Blue hands resulting from said liquid had to be washed, scrubbed and brought back to a normal human appearance before meal times, lest the MOD (read Mistress On Duty) see it and decide something otherwise.

Little did the adults know that the depths of our obsession with ink were beyond comprehension. I distinctly remember ink drinking competitions. Who discovered, or rather invented this bright idea, I have trouble recalling, but all of a sudden, navy tongues were a permanent stature amongst many.

The class 5 students, having graduated to the realms to the oh-so-fancy gel pens, would simply shake their heads and shrug their shoulders in collective resignation. Been there, done that, as they call it now I believe. Not to forget, the lost ink pens, which sometimes found and other times just lost forever could result in massive mood swings, along with the perpetually silly and yet guilt-free ‘my pen is better than yours conundrum’. If you have arrived so far, it doesn’t really take a genius to figure out that it would take more than a few head-shaking incidents to overall deter the group of ink enthusiasts. (This was to go on for quite some time.)

I don’t own an ink pen now, haven’t for years. But it doesn’t take much to remember the trail of damp blue handwriting on paper, the experiments of dipping discarded feathers in the blue liquid to get a fleeting vision of the Harry Potter life, the unexplained euphoria of something so minimal, and the smudge of ink.

– Abhilasha Tyagi (2011) 

This article was penned by Abhilasha Tyaagi, 2011 batch, a full-time writer and an accidental illustrator based in New Delhi. It was originally published on Abhilasha’s own blog on March 04, 2019.


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