Say it with colors

12:31 PM

i love writting with coloured fine liner pens, the Stabilo and Steadtler brands are my favourites.

I have a confession, though at this point I am not sure it is one anymore. I have a thing for stationary supplies. Buy now you all know I am crazy about notebooks. But, what would notebooks be without pens?

I like to write in colors, a thing that stuck with me since my teenage years. Back in those days, we still learned the art of writing with a fountain pen in Switzerland. It was such an important thing that past a certain age in elementary school, kids are supplied with a standard issue Pelican fountain pen by the school. It was and I assume still is a big rite of passage. 3rd Standard meant we finally were going to be "big kids" and write with ink and a dignified tool. The teacher would set several hours a week aside to teach us the proper way to handle our classy pens and write beautiful cursive letters with it. Handwriting was an art.
The importance of having a perfect calligraphy was constantly stressed. In a country where sending thank you cards and penning wished on pretty stationary was of utmost importance, once had to learn these things.

Of course back then nobody ever heard of emails, SMS and Whatsapp. We wrote and kept the postal service very happy.

I of course have the worst possible handwriting when forced to write in cursive. I HATED those calligraphy session. My work was always sloppy and my letters stayed inequal in sizes. Fortunately, by the end of 5th Standard, I realised that the teacher no longer really cared how we wrote, and I got the chance to revert back to script letters. And because of it, my own handwriting style emerged. is it super dainty and pretty? Nope, absolutely not. But, it is easy on the eye and totally legible.

By the time I turned 12, another rite of passage came: going to Middle School. Transitioning from having only one teacher to teach us everything to having a teacher per topic and changing classrooms through the day. This means more change, more independence, going to a further away from your home school and feeling very grown up (teenagehood at its best!)
Back then, there was a sudden trend of owning as many fountain pens as you could, each with a different color of ink in them.
It was such a rage that even supermarkets, and stationary shops in town had stocked up on cheap pens, and ordered ink cartridges in every color possible from their suppliers. It was that HUGE a thing, I kid you not. And of course being a teen who wanted to stay "in", a fair chunk of my allowance went to fuel this trend. We all did it.

Beside, in Switzerland, presentation matters in your school work, and our course binders were actually graded once a term. Teachers expected clean worksheets, well penned notes, and rewarded people going the extra mile. This extra mile translated into demarcating paragraphs, titles and sections clearly. the use of different coloured pen came in super handy to achieve that. The presentation marked counted as much in the trimester average than the weekly tests and quizzes. So, it was all in our advantage to keep or study material super neat and good looking. The added bonus with this method was that because we took care to write in different colors, we also remembered the content better to prepare for exams.

The fountain pens trend was however short lived. It lasted a year. Mainly because it was impractical to carry such a big bulky load of pens, and that most of these cheap ones leaked into the pencil case creating a mess.
But writing in colors didn't go away, not one bit. The brand Stabilo was the first one that introduced fine liner pens in more than just the standard Blue, Red, Black and Green. It offered even more colors than the ink cartridge in the fountain pens did. And of course came at a fraction of the cost and were leak free (and don't get me started on the weight...much much lighter).

I was hooked, and had them for years after getting out of school. It made keeping my notes and diaries organized much simpler. Plus, you can't beat writing a holiday postcard in pink (seriously, you can't, unless it is turquoise, or purple....)

When I moved to India, I wrote with boring black pens for the longest time. Mostly because the stationary shops that were around had limited stock. And then because those who had them used to sell them in sets of 10 or so, making it quite an expense.
Until we shifted to Mumbai, and I found out that my favourite store was selling them as single units. The Stabilo from my youth, and the far more sophisticated and elegant looking Staedler brand. Elegant pens that I now keep picking in new colors whenever I feel like it. At 75 rupees a pen they aren't too costly for the avid diary and journal writer that I am.
Plus, it gives me warm fuzzies each time I pen something. I'm that creative, quiet teenager I was all over again. And, yes, it still helps me stay organized.

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  1. I recently found out that they no longer teach writing in cursive to school children in the US.
    It is no longer considered to be 'necessary'.
    I guess no one signs checks, writes letters or sign credit card receipts anymore?
    Why should I be surprised that Americans won't even know how to sign their own names anymore, most of them can't even do basic math well enough to balance a checking account.

    1. Ishita is starting to write in cursive now, at the age of 5. Her school skipped the practice on penning script characters to go straight to cursives. When I was a kid, we started in script and only started cursives in 2nd standard, which in my opinion is too late and probably why I always had a nasty handwriting in pire cursive. my current handwriting is a mix of cursive and script.

      I have no idea if they still teach it the way I learned in Switzerland or if they still have the fund to provide a fountain pen as standard issue in school these days.

  2. Anonymous3:47 PM

    Yes, I remember the pride when we graduated from pencil to pen. I changed pencils brands in the hope that my handwriting will improve, which was futile. Then there were the fountain pens with a lever on the side which was to be pulled to suck the ink. In some pens ink had to be poured. Pens came with different contraptions and most of time was spend looking after them. I remember that Parker ink was the the king of ink and also expensive. Pilot pen with its sharp tip was quiet a rage. At a princely sum of Rs. 10/- it was the envy of everyone. I guess the long association with stationery in our student days make us fond of them. I personally like Reynolds, simple and effective. Jell pens are good but with people with good handwriting. I have not such liking for pens because they remind me of school. I am rather afraid of them.

    It is said that handwriting defines the character for the person. People with bold, cursive handwritings are more firm and sure of themselves. Those with small handwritings, are misers. Those with bad handwriting are confused. Different theories for different people. Women generally have better handwritings than men as they are better organized and their minds are not running in different directions.


    1. When my parents were in school, they still had a stylus type pen and a ink pot on their desk. The old school Swiss desks were still around when I was a kid and we all found the little trap door in the upper right hand corner funny. It was meant to accommodate the ink pot and hide it when not in use. My parents told me that the teacher would refil the pots with ink once a week and they got a new stylus tip every trimester, so they had to be very careful not to break it in between otherwise the parents were asked to pay for it.

      I think women have a neater handwriting because the brain is wired much differently.
      In Switzerland, when you apply for jobs, you need to send your resume, and motivation letter (basically it is pitch letter to sell yourself hard). When I was growing up, that letter was to be handwritten because the recruiters would look at the handwriting of the candidate before even reading the pitch. If the handwriting was bad, the pitch and resume were dismissed without any further reading. When you receive 500 resume to fill one position as it is often the case, you need to be very selective.

  3. I have an obsession with both notebooks and colourful pens! It's so much more fun to write when you have fun colours to use. As I write by hand less and less though, it's sad to see my penmanship slowly degrade, and I hate hearing the news that handwriting isn't taught anymore.

    1. I know right? I have no idea if they still teach the art of handwriting the way they did in Switzerland, but even if cursive writing was something I struggled with big time, I know the necessity behind it, and the era of computer should not be an excuse to ignore handwriting.

  4. "In short, learning cursive should train the brain to function more effectively in visual scanning. Theoretically, reading efficiency could benefit. I predict that new research would show that learning cursive will improve reading speed and will train the brain to have better hand-eye coordination. In other words, schools that drop cursive from the curriculum may lose an important learning-skills development tool. The more that students acquire learning skills, the less will be the need for "teaching to the test."
    - Dr. William Klemm, Ph.D., Senior Professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University.

    1. That doesn't come as a surprise to me. Complex patterns are a brain workout, the earlier you train your brain to recognise them the better it gets at it. My cursive handwriting is sloppy looking if you compare it to calligraphy work. But when I got the freedom to choose which writing style to use, I ended up with a mix of script and cursive, some letters only felt more natural to me in cursive while other didn't.
      They should definitely not drop it from the curriculum. I am myself really happy that in Ishita's school they started cursive writing from the pre primary level because it really makes more sense to train kids to it early.

    2. I asked my niece who is principal of an elementary school in California what they were teaching instead of cursive now?
      Specifically were they teaching keyboarding/typing to take the place of cursive in our new 'technological' society?
      She says no, they don't teach that in elementary school either.

    3. Wow so the kids won't learn to hand write anything nicely and won't even have an edge in typing? What dos they fill all the hours of cursive writing practice left vacant with then?


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