Pens dance to his tune
While many stand in queue with folded hands to meet Solicitor General of India or the Police Commissioner, there is one man who is allowed to skip all the waiting as those in authority warmly welcome him at their residences and offices. He is no politician, no known face, not even a priest.
He is a man with a skilled hand and his expertise lies in repairing pens, which he collects from IAS, IPS officers and other senior officials. Be it Mont Blanc, Parker, Cross or Sheaffer’s vintage or pens from newer collections, Vinod Aggarwal is adept when it comes to setting them right!
His 2x2 workshop in a narrow bylane of Katra Gokul Shah, Chandni Chowk contains cupboards filled with boxes of pen parts - used, unused and even broken as any of them can come in handy at any point. Between these, are boxes containing his personal collection of vintage pens built over a period of time.
“Somebody introduced me to the world of vintage pens and I began assisting a pen trader in 1999,” shares Vinod. “One day I chanced upon a Cross pen that had stopped working due to a mechanical fault and somehow I was able to repair it. After that I developed a desire to repair vintage pens.”
It has been 14 years since and Vinod is as passionate about repairing a pen as he was then. “There is no definite time frame that can be promised to repair a pen as it all depends on the availability of original parts. Since companies do not provide us with parts, we depend a lot on scrap dealers,” says Vinod while fiddling with a Pelikan lead pencil. What is he doing? “I am trying to open this. It is a 1945 model. Unless it opens up, I will not be able to locate the error in its mechanism.”
For Vinod, repairing pens is, “creative work as I get excited every time a new pen is given to me, especially if it is one that I haven’t tried before,” he explains, narrating tales of emotions attached to these machines. “Once an elderly man came to me with a vintage Parker that I was unable to repair. So I offered to buy it off. The man started crying and shared that, that pen had been gifted to him by his grandfather and so, how could he part with it! Since then, I have been more sensitive to the emotions attached to them.”
Despite being gifted and only one of the three people in the country who possess this art, Vinod admits that his passion-cum-business generates only a hand-to-mouth survival. “Expensive pens are now available legally unlike previously when they used to come through the grey market. So, if there are a 100 people who want to purchase, then there are 800 who want their pens repaired. The prospects are good but I am unable to represent myself at forums which will help me earn more,” confesses this mechanic even as he unveils his personal collection for Metrolife to enjoy.
The priceless collection
includes gems like Sheaffer’s mechanical pencil manufactured in the 70s, a 1930 Parker Shadow with a push system for filling ink, a 1940 Comway (a look alike of what the British used), an early 1990s Waterman with an ink lock-in system in pen and cap, several Mont Blancs from 60s and 70s, an Indian handmade pen by Guntoor with a 14 carat gold nib and a limited edition Parker lookalike that was originally made for Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding.