I decided to see what you could get for 15 rupees. Here's a shoot-out between
a Montex Handy 27 bought in Bhavnagar, Rajasthan (where I'd stayed in the lovely Jungle Lodge and spent the day in the nature reserve watching painted storks bringing up their vociferous children)
a Camay 1185 (not Camlin, and I have no idea whether they are related) bought in Chanderi, MP (a truly lovely little town with fine monuments and old havelis, and very welcoming people)
a Hamraj 1579 bought in a graphic arts shop in Varanasi. Actually, this one was 10 rupees!
Montex – bright coloured plastic (red and blue, but there were numerous other combinations) which definitely feels cheap, with a plastic 'clip' that doesn't really clip, and a very scratchy nib. The section is ribbed, a bit like Waterman laureat; it's quite a thin section, and there's a sharp step up to the barrel, which was not particularly comfortable. The nib appears to be folded and pressed steel with no tipping, like many cheaper Indian pens. It's a cartridge pen, taking international shorts. It blotted like stink, needed shaking every few lines to encourage it to write, and had very variable ink flow.
Hamraj – an eyedropper pen; like the Montex, it looks and feels pretty cheap. It's a workmanlike pen, in burgundy (I also have blue and I think green), with three thin metal rings (two on the cap and one on the end of the barrel); they're not particularly well made, and bluge out where the metal has been squeezed up to get it on. The clip is metal, and the plastic tassie protrudes slightly where the clip has been jammed underneath. Yet a major surprise on a pen this cheap, the cap is screw-on, not snap-on. The nib says it's tipped, and it probably is – it's not scratchy like the Montex, though it's a dry writer and suffers intermittently from poor ink flow. This was also, probably, the finest of the three nibs.
Camay – unlike the basically tubular Montex and Hamraj, this pen has a cigar/torpedo shape. It also came with a little syringe style converter; very basic, but well made. It has one vice; after filling, you need to expel a little of the ink, otherwise it will blot once or twice. Once I got used to this little quirk I was able to use the pen without mishap. The nib was good, though there is a little local scratchiness which is only apparent if I let the pen rotate while I was writing. This soon became my regular pen for keeping my journal.
Out of the three pens, the Camay wins hands down. It's also available in wonderfully vivid colours – I wish now I'd bought the lot; I have bright yellow and a lurid orange, but there was also pink and lime green... Now to resort to a little micromesh to get that nib nice and smooth, and it will end up one of my favourite pens - and a lot cheaper than my Lamy 2000!