The Ink Rush – Telegraph India
The author points his pen at a new old trend
Posted on 10/31/21, 12:15 a.m.
An upper secondary school near Manjeri in Kerala was attempting to enter the Guinness Book of Records in 2017 by creating a giant fountain pen from thousands of discarded plastic ballpoint pens. Three years later, Sulekha Ink, one of the pioneers of ink manufacturing in India, ramped up production. Are the two things related? Yes, kind of. Both had to do with the resurrection of the fountain pen.
At that time, the ink and fountain pen market was slowly opening up in India as well as overseas. Taking example, the owner of Sulekha Ink, Kaushik Maitra, restarted production after almost two decades, albeit on a small scale.
The company was born in the Rajshahi district of Bangladesh. Maitra’s mother and her two aunts started making ink at home in 1934. Maitra says, “My father Nonigopal and his brother Sankaracharya would go door to door selling homemade ink. Soon they realized that the ink market was robust in Calcutta and they moved here. In 1945 the business was booming and my father bought land for a factory in Jadavpur, in southern Calcutta.
Sulekha launched three varieties of ink in May. Swadesh, Swadhin and Samarpan were so named apparently keeping historical associations in mind. Maitra says, “We started our business in response to Gandhi’s Swadeshi Andolan. According to him, a fourth variety called Gorber 50, is intended to celebrate the golden jubilee of the Bangladesh Liberation War.
It looks like a few months after the launch, sales jumped from 50 bottles per month to 5,000. And most of the order comes from Bangladesh.
Amain Babu, historian and journalist based in Dhaka, explains: “We never had fountain pen manufacturers in our country, but from 2017, affordable Chinese pens started to hit the market. Ink requirements have increased.
Fountain pens and ink were never out of use in the Indian market. Subashish Bhattacharjee, a university professor based in Siliguri, is a collector of fountain pens. It has over 200 fountain pens and at least 300 different colored ink bottles for various purposes – writing, gloss, shading, shimmer, permanence, etc.
Bhattacharjee was part of the central group that designed and executed the first limited edition fountain pen designed and manufactured in India in 2019. “The pen was made in collaboration with Lotus Pens and Kanpur Writers, two Indian companies that manufacture fountain pens. A special ink made by Krishna Inks was used, ”he says. Krishna Ink was started in 2010 by Dr Sreekumar, based in Kerala. Krishna ink is available in over 50 colors. These can be used to shade and sign important documents.
The demand for ink has also increased because it is increasingly used for calligraphy. Delhi-based Daytone Ink’s Dharmendra Bhatia produces ink that can be used only for calligraphy.
According to Bhattacharjee, nowadays fountain pens are mainly used by people who are not writing. For these users, the fountain pen is more therapy than just an instrument. “The process of cleaning those pens, taking care of them regularly, choosing the right ink and paper, and finally putting the nib on the page to scribble and doodle can be a meditative exercise. Users feel a sense of peace.
Pen collector Vedisha Singhi, who lives in Mumbai, has a name for it: graphotherapy. She also believes that those who write with a fountain pen tend to express themselves better.
There is also a school of thought that advocates the theory that a fountain pen betrays a person’s identity and personality. How? ‘Or’ What? Said Vedisha, “It’s just that iridium feathers are known to wear out from different angles for different people.”