Sulekha Relaunches the iconic Banga Lipi
Sulekha is a legacy. Sulekha is a legacy born out of a people’s need for self-reliance as a means of earning self-respect, at a time when they were fighting to break free from the shackles of a foreign yoke. Sulekha is an emotion, one that has very few parallels for fountain pen lovers in India and the world.
Sulekha, as we all know, is making a tumultuous come-back. And, as a part of this process, it is readying to revive another nostalgic brand from the last century: Banga Lipi. The exercise book that is synonymous with a time when we were all innocent. Of a time when Banga Lipi exercise books used to be purchased from ration shops and no school bag was complete without at least one. Of a time, when we used to fill its pages with words and watched the paper soak up every drop of ink.
The Banga Lipi exercise book in its latest avatar will contain some select print advertisements of Sulekha, to further strengthen the nostalgic bonds, to give a glimpse into the rich heritage of this legacy brand and its rich history. An advertisement from 1961, with Sulekha celebrating Rabindranath Tagore’s centenary with an essay competition. Another, invoking the blessing of the Mahatma, relating how Sulekha had been conceived to create the swadeshi ink for his writing…
The new Banga Lipi exercise books have been made fountain pen friendly, keeping in view the constant demand of fountain pen and ink aficionados. The move is welcome considering the fact that fountain pens are increasingly being used as an aid to fight depression, a tool for digital detoxification, and are perhaps the most sustainable option for writing. These books, in keeping with the modern trends and likings of the younger generation, have been styled as notebooks in A5 size, in contrast to the erstwhile A4 size ruled exercise books.
Penloverskolkata was specially invited to be a part of the low-key relaunch. Sudipta Chatterjee, celebrated ephemera collector (someone who collects printed things), was invited to unveil the first copy of the cherished notebook as Sulekha had sought his help to accumulate the old advertisements, some of which have been printed in the new Banga Lipi. In order to express gratitude for his contribution to the process, Sulekha presented him with the first copy of the Banga Lipi notebook and special letter of thanks.
Sudipta Chatterjee, his voice choking with emotions, said “Sulekha advertisements have an aesthetical value. Apart from inks, Sulekha is also synonymous with the Swadeshi movement. I am thrilled to hold a Banga Lipi copy in 2021 during the ongoing pandemic, that too, filled with the old Sulekha advertisements. People of my age, who have grown up with both Sulekha and Banga Lipi as constant companions, would relate to the sheer joy that I am feeling as I hold this book. While leafing through the high-quality pages of this spiral notebook, my heart is immediately filled with the stories of my younger days. It indeed is a special and rare moment: one that I will cherish forever.”
The entire initiative was thought about and executed by Ahana Maitra, who is the fourth generation in the ink business. We talked to Ahana about her dreams of reviving Sulekha and regaining the glory that her great grandfather and grandfather had taken it to and which her father has been desperately trying to restore since the past two decades. Her fight is not only to resurrect Sulekha, but also to revive the very art of writing with fountain pens and inks in today’s generation. She has taken it upon herself to rekindle the so-called ‘old’ art of using fountain pens and inks. She knows that her generation has forgotten the use of these and therefore aims to take the necessary steps to popularize them once again.
Inviting Penloverskolkata was a part of this exercise, for she feels that as representatives of the digital domain we should be the first to learn about the legacy that she is fighting to revive and understand the glory associated with it. She says, “this is one of my first attempts to refresh history. The road ahead is a difficult one, but I am adamant to reclaim for Sulekha the grandeur that it rightly deserves.”
During the visit to the factory, we were shown the ink-making process and learned all about it from Sulekha’s ink specialist, the octogenarian Shailesh Chakraborty who has worked with all four generations of Sulekha, including Ahana. Even at such an advanced age, his passion is admirable and he explained how the brand still follows the traditional ink-making process that involves the least use of machinery. We were also told the factory has been running on solar power for the past 4 years and intends to reduce its carbon footprint as much as possible in keeping with its core philosophy of being ethically and morally correct.
In a conversation with the present owner of Sulekha, Kaushik Maitra, we learnt that Sulekha never compromises with the quality of the ink. Regular checks are conducted to ensure that the ink does not damage the nib of a fountain pen for which continuous tests are conducted. If even a hint of corrosiveness is detected, the entire batch is reprocessed or is outright rejected. He also shed light on the road ahead for the company, “We have demands to produce inks that were used in old manuscripts some 500 or 1000 years ago. Our team is constantly exploring new areas of innovations that can provide our loyal patrons with the spread of inks that they desire.”
Watch this space – Sulekha is readying for a giant leap forward! – Jyotshna Agiwal.
For more information, please visit: https://www.sulekhaink.co.in