When Mont Blanc met Gandhi

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It’s the 140th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth today.

Gandhi, of course, was known for his advocacy of nonviolent resistance and his extreme simplicity of lifestyle. So what better way to celebrate him than by buying a £14,000 Montblanc Gandhi pen? The pen features an 18-carat solid gold, rhodium-plated nib, and ‘a saffron-coloured mandarin garnet’ on the clip. The chairman of Montblanc’s distributor in India, said: “We are creating a thing of simplicity and beauty that will last for centuries.”

I particularly like the gold wire entwined by hand around the middle of each pen. According to the manufacturers, this evokes ‘the roughly-wound yarn on the spindle with which Gandhi spun every day for half an hour, regardless of where he was or whom he was talking to.’ No, it doesn’t evoke that. It evokes an image of idiots in Switzerland winding bits of gold thread around one of the most tasteless, pointless, tackiest items ever produced.

I mean, as a commemorative object, this is spectacularly tasteless. What next? The Francis of Assissi Special Edition Ferrari? Gucci’s Jesus of Nazareth Commemorative Loin Cloth? Frankly, this says everything you need to know about Mont Blanc pens. To have Gandhi’s name associated with a brand that caters almost exclusively to the moneyed elite is ludicrous. A Mont Blanc pen is a status symbol, pure and simple. It doesn’t work any better than other pens (in fact pen afficianados will tell you it doesn’t even work as well as other less-expensive pens). But the funny thing about the Gandhi pen is that it shows you that just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean it isn’t tacky. Mont Blanc, for all their airport-lounge luxury and Bond Street shops, are actually incredibly cheap.

Ah well, this is what happens with visionaries and prophets. Sooner or later someone comes along, someone with a paper-thin understanding of what the person actually stood for, and they say to themselves ‘how do we make money out of this.’ This is what lies behind all those bejewelled chalices and fine robes of the Christian church, all those tons of silver and gold which fill the treasuries of our cathedrals. All those gilded chasubles and stoles and fancy dressing up. They are always presented as a way to honour the founder. And they are always a betrayal.

Anyone who buys this pen should be made to use it. They should be made to sit down and write out a thousand times: ‘I am a spectacularly shallow individual with the IQ of a housebrick.’

You want a good pen? Fine. I have nothing, absolutely nothing against that. Buy a Pelikan. Buy the Pilot 78G (you can get three for twenty quid on eBay.) Then spend a few moments writing out Matthew 16.26. It will do you a lot more good.