Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Wonders of the 90's: Gel Pens

Back in late 90's when I was about to complete a decade of my existence, technology moved at snail's pace, people still priced landline connections, Maruti 800's just got toppled by Santros and cellphones were the sole attainment of the extremely "Ameer"! What then could a nine year old really look forward to having a craving for. The entire hot wheels and tazo collection was a dream all right, but what about something revolutionary, something never seen before. And then came the era of gel pens. 

The epoch of gel pens began with the introduction of a Add Roll Gold which marked the first instance when some other pen apart from a Stic Eazy or a Luxor Pilot pen was advertised on television. Priced at a whopping Rs 40, guys of my age perceived it to be made of or embossed with real gold! It was a touch too luxurious, given that pens were still available at Rs 1 a piece. Moreover, people were not dauntless back then. Losing a 40k iPhone is no big deal today, losing a 40 rupee gel pen called for a court martial back then. But the pen set the tone for what was to follow.


Some months later, an Add PG 300 was introduced in the markets and shopkeepers were filliped to sell it and push its case. For the Indian parents,any extra penny that goes into education was a penny well spent. The sellers heralded the pen as the salvation for those with a pathetic handwriting, which I ostensibly was surrealy pathetic at. Suddenly, that one pen which people found strange from a distance with the glue at the end of the refill portraying a sordid picture, was in people's hands for them to try. It was priced just marginally above the Stic pilot pens which gave goosebumps while writing because of
the traction between a rough nib and even rougher papers. Registers made from rough papers were a hit back then!

Suddenly, a PG 300 was to be seen everywhere. Girls with their eternal calligraphy prowess found it a viable replacement for the sullen fountain pens. Their handwriting and presentations witnessed a renaissance. For not so shrewd guys like me, it was a bane. The writing exacerbated and now even the erasers that worked on fountain pens didn't work anymore. Gel pens became cataclysmic and notebooks became a disaster. The only savory element of a gel pen was the sweet taste of the ink and the pleasure in seeing the ink go squiggly once you tossed it up. In fact the unique construction piqued the curiosity of quite many. Right from inserting compass pins to touch the gel to pulling the gel out through an application of suction, my Add PG 300 was a physics lab.

Later, there was a crisis situation. The refills got over before you could catch a glimpse. People, used to using fountain pens whose inkpots had an infinite life and Stic eazy that was as good as free, were shriveled at the thought of buying refills every week. And boy you had to splurge money on them. They made up upto 80 percent of the pen's original cost. Soon, people countermanded the gel pen jamboree and some still stuck to the gel pen bandwagon. Ultimately, more models came in including some local ones that looked more like contraptions than like pens. Gradually, gel pens gained acceptability and became a part of our lives.

Ask anyone from that era and they'll tell you how they literally  pictured that moment when they held their first gel pen in their hands. Writing with it felt like fostering a baby, though I haven't done that yet. That was the technology that took everyone with surprise. The enigma, the luxuriance, it was all to exuberant and enthralling and people felt blessed. How much has the world changed in the last 15 years and now gel pens are another trivial thing. But believe me, they were a milestone for an entire generation, the folks from the 90's.