It takes just one quick look at the nib for Marzin Shroff to decide if it makes the cut. He prefers broad nibs and quickly scribbles on your notepad to drive home the point — the thickness is hard to miss. Shroff, an unabashed admirer of the traditional fountain pen, breaks into a happy smile.
Shroff’s tryst with the instrument began when he was pursuing an MBA in Marketing. To this day, the 53-year-old chairman of Eureka Forbes, remembers buying his first special pen in London. It was a Pelikan fountain pen, the German brand known for its fine quality worldwide. The idea that it would grow into a collection of over 60 prized pens hadn’t even taken shape back then. A few years later, one of his father’s pens caught Shroff’s eye. He describes the Mont Blanc with a bedazzled look — a distinct vintage pen with an old-world charm. Today, it looks as weathered as a pen can, but that doesn’t make it any less enchanting for Shroff yet.
Without exception, each of the pens is filled with green ink, Shroff’s colour for no specific reason. “I just like it and people at work are used to the colour,” he quips. The only time he settles for a ballpoint pen is when he has to sign cheques, unenthusiastically. The ballpoint is the only one that doesn’t enjoy a place of honour in Shroff’s office or a brand that’s distinguishable. It’s a common pen that can be found at any stationary store. But his cherished possessions of fountain pens include brands such as Monteverde, ST Dupont, Lamy, Lapis Bard, Sheaffer and Parker to name a few. Which one he carries to work depends on the shirt worn that day. “It just has to look good on it,” says Shroff matter-of-factly.
He does not seek out occasions to add to his collection, Shroff works mostly on impluse. On a recent work trip to Vienna, he went out for an evening walk. The neighbourhood pen store was set to shut for the day when Shroff casually strolled in. The kind store owner welcomed and entertained him as he browsed for over an hour, trying out a range of pens. Like a critique examining an art piece, Shroff studied each pen’s weight, height and, of course, the thickness of the nib. “I really tested the shop owner’s patience but it was worth his while,” he says with a grin. It definitely was, since he settled on a Visconti fountain pen, the Italian brand that ranges between Rs.10,000 and Rs.200,000.
If he can help it, Shroff shops alone for pens and not without reason. “It is always a personal experience and I need to be by myself. Besides, the time taken can irritate a person,” he laughs. He also accepts pens as gifts from close friends and family, gladly. Three years ago, when he turned 50, a friend gifted him a Lapis Bard. With age, the passion for pens has not abated. “It’s actually a mad passion,” he signs off quite cheerfully.