Dr Muhamad Akmal Mohammad, a medical officer with the emergency department at Hospital Sultanah Bahiyah in Alor Setar, Kedah, is one of the many frontliners dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak.
Life, he says, has been more hectic than ever before for him and his colleagues who have their hands full dealing with the Covid-19 cases while also attending to other emergency cases that come to the hospital.
In the midst of this, the 34-year-old doctor says that he has a way of managing his stress levels and keeping himself sane: writing.
The self-confessed fountain pen enthusiast says that he whips out his fountain pen whenever he has a spare moment or two and he writes, scribbles or doodles.
"Writing gives me an avenue to vent and unwind. It also helps me organise my thoughts. I do it every chance I have... in between shifts, in between patients. Most of the time it is random scribbles and sometimes, it is work-related. But I find it therapeutic.
"The pandemic is a test for all of us, even more so as a frontliner. I work in shifts and when I am not on shift, I am on standby at the emergency department. We have to be prepared for the worst, both physically and mentally and so the little time we have in between our shifts is really more precious than ever. I use this time to write," says the doctor.
Dr Akmal's interest in pens started when he started working seven years ago. However, his “acquisition overdrive” started three years ago. He now has more than three dozen fountain pens and more than 50 bottles of ink in his collection.
"I also have about a dozen mechanical pencils!' he adds. "My grail pen at the moment is the Graf von Faber-Castell Intuition Gerenadilla Wood but my favorite pen is my bronze pen from Fine Writing International (Bronze Age, a limited edition pen).
"Handwriting, for me, not just conveys messages but emotions. It is therapeutic and it calms me. Also since getting into this hobby, I have made many friends who share this passion... people from all walks of life. Our passion for pens and handwriting unites us," says Dr Akmal.
Dr Akmal isn't the only one turning to their pens to get through the crisis. Others who are abiding by the directive to "just stay home" during the movement control order period are also turning to their pens to keep them occupied.
Fellow fountain pen enthusiast Ozilinah Othman says that the MCO has allowed her the time to spend on her pens and her writing.
"It's a chance for me to go through my array of inks and do a proper inventory of what I have. This way, when the MCO is lifted, I will know exactly what I can add (to my collection) and what I should stay away from," says Ozzie, as she is known..
Regarded as the "Lamy queen" in the fountain pen fraternity for her collection of the German-made pens (Ozzie has 160 Lamy pens, of which 120 are fountain pens), Ozzie says that she's taking full advantage of the time she has at home to practice her writing.
"I am currently learning Mandarin. One of my Chinese friends has told me that there isn't any quick and easy way to remember the characters other than writing. Hence, it's practice, practice and practice without interruption.
Using all the different nibs, pens and inks that I have has made studying and memorising the characters so simple. It has taken away the tedium of learning and has made me look at each character properly," she says, adding that she plans to learn Arabic next.
Owner of Pen Gallery, a shop in Petaling Jaya that also serves as a meeting place for fountain pen fans and collectors, Lai Kim Hoong says that although the community cannot meet physically in these times, they are active on social media and WhatsApp.
"My clients are my friends. They hang around the shop to chat or to write and try pens and I have been getting message from them saying how much they miss the sessions. We have quite a strong fountain pen community in Malaysia and we started a Facebook group, Fountain Pens Malaysia, that is growing daily with more than 800 people who regularly chat and share their passion, ” says Lai who has about 1,100 pens and 650 unique inks in his shop in Petaling Jaya.
On the Fountain Pens Malaysia Facebook page, enthusiasts are sharing what they are doing with their pens and inks while at home. They are posting photos of their scripts and doodles and also sharing links about... you guessed it, pens and inks.
"Writing is as old as mankind and despite the digital age, fountain pens are making a comeback. Let's not lose the art of handwriting because, after all, the pen is mightier than the sword, ” says Lai.
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