Humour: Bold, sharp or blunt?

Celebrating the simple joys of stationery in the era of the voice note
In this age of the virtual keypad and voice notes, it helps to have a favourite pen or pencil(Parth Garg)
In this age of the virtual keypad and voice notes, it helps to have a favourite pen or pencil(Parth Garg)
Published on Dec 13, 2020 07:50 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | By Rehana Munir

You think you’ve heard it all, and then a friend in HR tells you that her German bosses keep a remote eye on the desks of employees, judging, if not rating them, on what they find there. The horror, the horror. Work desks – as every wise person knows – are those all-forgiving spaces where the conflicting hopes and ambitions of one’s disordered life clandestinely meet. It’s where the sublime van Gogh print and tacky calendar from the animal charity share space with the empty Old Monk bottle from that unforgettable night at the bus stand in Bengaluru. Or maybe we’re getting too specific here.

Dear 2021

I fall under the dubious category of those who always possess a complete range of stationery items but hardly ever use them. A bouquet of sharpened pencils, fully loaded staplers and obscenely bendy paper clips serve more as morale boosters than work enablers. And then there are the diaries – the quirky ones from art galleries, the free ones from the opticians and the handcrafted ones from the organically minded – that remain pristine, for fear of contaminating their pages with inconsequential squiggles. As we move into the appendix of the year, which is best surgically excised from our lives on an emergency basis, we’re destined to be hit by a surge of diaries and planners, seducing us with the promise of a better year.

Even the staunch rationalists are looking at January 1, 2021, as the mark of a new era. I must confess, I’ve bought myself a diary too, film historian Nasreen Munni Kabir’s tribute to the poet Sahir Ludhianvi on his upcoming birth centenary. It’s strangely empowering to submit oneself to the revolutionary poet who gave us both Sar jo tera chakraye and Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye toh kya hai – a range of sentiments that the new year no doubt will reliably trigger.

The pen is mightier than the keypad

There are those who fall under a quite different category: the compulsive stationery shoppers and users. Ever since they first laid eyes on the Staedtler Noris pencil – black and yellow, with a pert red bottom – they’ve been unstoppable. To this breed, adulthood is the fulfilment of a childhood promise to never run out of essential writing supplies. Their online shopping carts boast such gems as pineapple-shaped sticky notes, two-speed sharpeners and erasers strong enough to wipe out the lines on one’s palm. Their workspaces are a serious threat to the self-confidence of that differently wired species, content to write a grocery list on the back of an ex’s visiting card with a blunt stick of kajal. For everything else, there’s the phone.

To compulsive stationery shoppers and users, adulthood is the fulfilment of a childhood promise to never run out of essential writing supplies

I admit it can be gratifying, this business of growing up and possessing all the things one missed in a pre-liberalisation classroom. Only those compass boxes with buttons and colour pencils with 48 shades are now enjoyed as Moleskine diaries and Parker pens. While we’re on the topic, let me register my undying love for the Reynolds 045, Fine Carbure, the pen with which I’ve written pretentious pages about Elizabethan drama, signed scary legal documents in a shaky hand and taken great pleasure in inscribing books. Even, or especially, in this age of the virtual keypad and voice notes, it helps to have a favourite pen.

Requesting 1 pc bold pencil

In the year of the lockdown, spare a thought for all those bold black markers languishing away in office cabinets. My mind goes back to the dark days in an Andheri establishment where literally every pencil had to be requisitioned by under-loved staff, a situation made bleaker by the soundtrack of rats scuttling in AC vents. When cost-cutting measures trickle down to stationery use, you can be sure it’s not worth the cost sticking around at the job. Alternatively, I’m always a bit suspicious of receiving stationery supplies as a gift, especially when they come with wires. Like the powerbank I was recently gifted, embedded in a diary with actual pages. Two simple ways not to use one gift.

Though I’ve worked from home long before it became necessary, I sometimes miss the confidence that comes from the sheer proximity to office supplies. The silky smoothness of printing paper. The addictive whiff of correction fluid. The satisfying click of a punch. It’s like hardware for softies. *looks at long-neglected but perfectly-sharpened pencils admiringly*

Follow Rehana Munir on Twitter and Instagram @rehana_munir

From HT Brunch, December 13, 2020

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Friday, October 22, 2021