Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Pen Fight Club

No one and I dare say, no one would ever dispute the fact that school was when we lived and our existence changed for the worse when we crossed the courtyard of class 10.

School was also the time when were impressed upon the virtues of self righteousness and the importance of being earnest. A phase, where the whole world revolved around home works, sports, and as time went by, on gossip about whose hormones were trying to impress whom. Well, this post is not an ode to Cheran’s Autograph or some such and was inspired by Krish Ashok’s post on book cricket; in reminiscence of another game that was played out in all its glory in Model English School, Dombivli. We used to call it pen fight.

Well, even before we had seen Fight Club, we had framed the commandments of the PFC. Somehow, David Fincher hadn’t heard about this game of ours, for why would some one want to get beaten up to the bone marrow, when a simple pen could do the same? And no one could quite kill the concept of brands and celebrity as we did, for the pen is mightier than the Knight R(a)iders’ sword. (By the way, why are they called the Knight Riders and not the Night Raiders? I mean why on earth would a team bristling with testosterone, Akhtar and SRK’s Looney tunes want to ride medieval knights? Or is SRK sending a message to the Queen, demanding his Knighthood, a la Sir Sean Connery? Or is it out of respect for polity and humanity that they decide to do all the riding at night? Anyway, I am digressing too much…it never made any sense.)

That the PFC was an underground movement was a foregone conclusion the day it was formed, being banned by all the teachers and the class prefect as well (self righteousness, get it), for as per Hindu mythology, Goddess Saraswathi resides in every pen, pencil, rubber, scrap of paper, sharpener and the myriad things that have anything to do with literacy and so she would poke your eyes out if you used her instruments of knowledge for such destructive past times (Ummachhi kannai kutthum… get the groove). And in a way, it was a great leveller as well, for no one had much previous experience or any special skills for the game.

There was no such thing as brand consciousness, for the design of the pen or its robustness was not half as important as one’s ability to hit the sweet spot of the opponent, though, I vaguely remember Raveena Tandon becoming a superstar with her Rotomac brand of pens, (yeah, the likhte likhte love ho jaaye one) for they were supposed to have an excellent grip on the wooden bench were the combats were played out. But as I said before, the game outlasted Raveena in popularity, with new pens such as the Cello Gripper, with rubberised grips, negating the home advantage that the pens gave (that Raveena’s love moved on to Akshay and other things is another story altogether).

Initially, all the matches were one to one combats, played during the classes, when Anita teacher would be waxing eloquent about Tanaji Malusare’s Houdini Act at the Sinhagad fort or when Mini teacher (Minnie would have been more apt a name) would be shouting her head over Pythagoras’ infallible treatise on right triangles. Soon the game became a rage, with every one and his one-dropped younger paternal uncle jumping onto the bandwagon. Individual combats gave way to tournaments, and soon became a weekly event that filled the lunch break, the time between two classes, and for some even the time in their tuition classes. So much so that the neighbouring Swagat stationers started making enquiries about the weekly fixtures and the pens that were performing well, so that he could stock them up as per demand.

Over time, the usual Reynolds, Montexes and Rotomacs gave way to pens which were four times the normal size, and were made of wood, steel and some pancha dhatus. One chap called Rohan made his debut with his dad’s super sleek steel Cross fountain pen and to everyone’s surprise won that day’s lunch time super bowl and the admiration of almost half the padips girls in the class. His happiness though was short lived, for immediately after the class we had Anita Miss’ test on moundaens, pladuus and plains (yeah, a sing-along Mallu accent) and as luck would have it, when he opened his Excalibur, it had a split tip and was bubbling with royal blood, which spoilt both his and his bench mate Rahul’s white and white PT uniform. Soon after some blackmailing by the teacher, the self righteous prefect came out with the truth behind the Excalibur’s twisted nib and for the first time the whole class witnessed Anita Teacher going hyper. In fifteen minutes we were all kneeling outside the Head Mistress’ cabin, we the champions of the inaugural pan – Dombivli Pen Fight tournament, and the bald PT master, Murali, caned us so hard, that the very padips girls who had air-kissed Rohan on his maiden triumph were half wet with fear. Those were the days when caning a wayward student was perfectly normal, and when bald PT masters were sadistic, especially when it came to punishing boys in front of whimpering nubile girls.

That moment, was our moment of truth, and from there our PFC went on to become a major underground tournament, with even local rowdies settling their fights over a cup of cutting chai and a pen fight game on the banks of the Reti Bunder. Like all good things, the PFC was decimated slowly by its more rugged counterparts such as gully cricket, UNO cards, WWF etc… and the introduction of the Lexi 5 at Rs. 5/- was the death blow, for it was the worst pen one could play a pen fight with and hope to win. The parents of the kids, to their credit, hastened PFC’s death by buying the Lexi 5 in dozens for the hapless kids.

Many attempts to reintroduce the game at High School, Engineering College and even the B-School have failed, due to numerous constraints, including Snake 3, certain knowledgeable professors and a certain lady whose name is frequently confused with a green leafy vegetable in Hindi.

In case you are wondering what role yours truly played in all this, well, it is a little known fact that I was a part of the first pen fight combat to be ever played, and ended up as a winner. A pity, though, that the girl I had a crush on, refused to believe this and the opponent who was white washed, refused to acknowledge his defeat. To that I blame my bachelorhood…

Oh and talking of plagiarism, does the Dombivli Leaders’ Forum sponsored Indian Pen-Fight League sound vaguely familiar? Well, it seems Lalit Modi’s son was the college mate of the Brutus faced class prefect of class VI-A.

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