Published: 13th February 2020
This Bengaluru youngster has over a thousand ink pens — and only writes with them!
Do you fancy yourself some fountain pens? Harsh Makkar sure does. We speak to him about his collection of rare fountain pens and how he puts them to good use every day
I am sure you must have used fountain pens during your school days and (if your experience was anything like mine) ended up spilling ink all over your hands, clothes, the bench... everywhere basically. But we all moved on from the messy fountain pen to the ever-convenient ballpoint pen. Harsh Makkar from Bengaluru also followed the same pattern, but he couldn't let the fountain pens go. Eventually, he started collecting them and today, he is the proud owner of a wide range of fountain pens and, if you can believe it, he is also the go-to person for all fountain pen dealers. Harsh, who inherited his family's iron and steel business, says, "I developed a love for fountain pens when I was in Delhi. As a UPSC aspirant in 2014, I observed people writing long answers and essays using fountain or ink pens. I felt then that I wasn’t introduced to fountain pens, with scratchy and brittle nibs, in the right way."
Having realised that the UPSC exams are tough to crack and requires some vigorous studying, Harsh returned to Bengaluru in 2017. Although he returned primarily to take control of the family business, he also wanted to spend some time searching for some of the oldest fountain pens. Harsh, who started off by collecting a few Chinese fountain pens, says, "The oldest pen that I have in my collection is a Vintage Waterman fountain pen that has a retractable nib, circa 1905, which was used during the wars to write documents and letters. I bought this pen from a flea market that's put up every Sunday in Bengaluru. The latest pen that I have is a Montblanc Writers Edition 2019 Rudyard Kipling, which cost me around 1,200 dollars."
Harsh Makkar has a collection of 1,000 fountain pens
When we ask Harsh more about the rare pens he possesses, he goes on to list them effortlessly, "Parker 51, known to be one of the greatest pens of all times, is one of the most unique pens in my collection. I also have a Parker Duofold that dates back to the 1980s and was imported from England. I am proud of this pen because it is in the same condition as it was before and I maintain it properly. I also have all kinds of flagship pens from brands like Pelikan, Pilot, Montblanc and many more." Harsh has more than 1,000 pens in his collection and he dedicates every Sunday to cleaning, filling them with ink, changing the nibs (if necessary) and so on. "Maintaining these pens is a Sunday ritual for me. I sit patiently and check their working condition so that I am good for the rest of the week. I don't like my pens to stop writing when I am working on documents. There are dedicated pen cases and folders to store these pens. In fact, I have a separate cupboard just for them," says this youngster whose love for pens knows no bounds.
As Harsh uses these pens every day to write and sign off on documents, he has the right knowledge when it comes to the nibs of these fountain pens. He says, "As fine and extra-fine nib pens are for hectic writing, I carry them when I need to write a lot whereas medium, broad nibs or Pelikan pens are used when you want to enjoy writing. Expect smooth and thick lines while writing with these pens." Usually, Harsh drops by Meenakshi Stores on Avenue Road to buy fountain pens. He explains, "This shop, which was once very famous for fountain pens, might shut down anytime. KN Krishna Murthy, the owner of this shop, is a knowledgeable person when it comes to fountain pens and is my go-to person when it comes to buying these pens. And whenever I visit the shop, I purchase rare pens.”
Apart from this, he also visits the flea market put up every Sunday where people sell old and unique fountain pens. There are also some old shops in Malleswaram and Basavanagudi. He adds, "When I go there in search of these pens, the shopkeepers greet me happily. Some pens, that are otherwise available only in other countries, are bought through international agents and they know that I will not waste their time. I try to strike a good deal with them." He doesn't just collect these unique pens, Harsh also donated around 100 fountain pens to an orphanage in Bengaluru in Diwali last year. "My craze for them will remain the same and I want to keep adding to my collection as much as I can," he concludes.