From being a nondescript duty, voting in India has become a matter of demonstrable pride. As defined by the many who flaunted their inked fingers on social media, if voting I would be no exception. Although the role of ink in our lives has sadly diminished, the polling booth is a truly distinguished exception.
During the early years of scholarship in Calcutta, the choice of ink was a fierce debate. The traditionalist was passionate about Sulekha, as it represented the finest Bengali enterprise, patronised by the great Tagore. While the youngsters were more inclined towards Chelpark, a more contemporary bottle originating in Bangalore. It did give birth to an urban legend that Wing Sung, the Chinese pen, functioned better with the new-age fuel while the Indian Artex was adequately satisfied by the ink of Bengal. In my multi-board school, the West Bengal board candidates veered intuitively towards Sulekha while the ICSE candidate was attracted to the pan-Indian entity.
Ink was also the conduit for the significant manual signature, be it the will or cheque or appointment letter. It signified a deliberate permanence, the considered expression of a sincere decision-making process. Which also instigated the act of forgery, dubious and devious attempts to undo a severe act with unpalatable consequences. In literature and in life, the attempts to smudge, erase and then re-create were etched in legend, the decisive action of the desperate foe. The ink pen acquired an artistic gravitas, a piece of craftsmanship unlike the flimsy BIC or even the undeniably elegant Cross.
Over time, we managed to associate personas with the ballpoint user and the fountain pen writer. The former was clearly a person of easy virtues, inelegant in schooling and infirm of purpose. A person you could not trust for a serious chore and certainly not with your sister’s hand in marriage. The exponent of ink was however of considerable pedigree, educated in a formidable institution and destined for certain greatness. His attire would be usually impeccable as would his manners, gentle yet firm. A believer clearly in the finer rituals of living, this being a minor expression.
During the elections, most relevant today, the ink plays its most fundamental function, as a substitute for trust or an antidote for deceit. In an ideal world, a person would not vote twice but ink ensures the enforcement of law in the unideal world that we all live in. Which over time, has become a status mark especially for people like us who are private and not public citizens of India, revelling in the spoils of the economy. An equivalent perhaps of flaunting our IT Returns acknowledgement receipt, defensible verification of our sotto voice nationalism.
In fact, the transition of ink from being resounding physicality to emphatic emotionality has been most remarkable. Examination papers will soon become digital quite like most other critical documentation, including banking and administrative. Even the deafening signature, the most vital function of ink will move from ball-point to digital, the last bastion finally conquered. Ink will thus exist as an expression of soft power, powerful words written elegantly in a handbound notebook. Else graduate to fine art, as handwriting becomes so rare that it qualifies as exhibition content. Evoking a breed of eclectic practitioners who elevate calligraphy to hitherto unforeseen levels, arresting the gaze of the connoisseur.
As a chronic writer and a stickler for authentic experiences, I should have been a member of the fountain pen brigade. Alas not, partly due to appalling handwriting notwithstanding sincere attempts by childhood tutors. Also, for the constantly fleeting state of my mind – the keyboard permitting multiple corrections unlike the ink pen which insists on utmost clarity prior to the act of writing. A conundrum shared with multiple fellows, I sincerely suspect.
Ink is today important evidence of Indianness, way above every other function. It will be worthwhile to keep gazing at your finger till the mark finally disappears. To ensure that love for the homeland stays forever true in deeds and intent.
(Shivaji Dasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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