Swadeshi, Sadhinota, Sulekha – My Experiments with Truth of a Fountain Pen kind.
I spent a good part of the last two days with the students of the Bhawanipur Education Society College (BESC) as they organised their Annual English Literature Festival, the Communiqué. More than a hundred students from as many as 15 city colleges participated in the fest which was fiercely contested, and then thoroughly enjoyed. As I learnt from the students, the fest in its entirety, was organised by the students themselves, as is the norm of the college, which views such activities as a part of the overall learning process of the students. Little wonder that the BESC students are known as the street-smart go-getters that they are.
It was a learning process for me too, albeit of a different kind. The whole idea of Sulekha taking up a table at the BESC Communique as a part of Sulekha’s overall outreach program had come from my friend Jyotshna Agiwal, the pen behind the Kolkata Pen Lovers blog, the spirit who has brought us ladies together in the Facebook Group – Fountain Pen Ladies: Fine, Medium & Broad and a BESC ex-student to boot. She was the one who had liaised with the BESC and convinced Kaushik Maitra of Sulekha to get on board as a sponsor, apart from working out the fine details of organising the Ink Bar, with fountain pen blogger and collector Chawm Ganguly. That is why, when Jyotshna had to leave the city in the thirteenth hour, leaving the actual execution of the event on me, I was literally crestfallen.
The first dose of confidence, that all will be well, came from Prof Dilip Shah, the Dean of Student Affairs of BESC, who after taking just a cursory look at my tense face, gave me his famous confidence booster. Prof Minakshi Chaturvedi, ever smiling and always affable was also there on a 24X7 basis, who hand-held me as I took the first faltering steps to organising my first event for Sulekha. Prof Vasundhara Mishra, Kolkata’s most celebrated Hindi poetess was also there with her motherly affection, always a call away.
After that it was like a kaleidoscope. The honored guests delivered their lectures. Prof Dilip Shah declared the fest open. Kaushik Maitra of Sulekha felicitated the Dean and other BESC professors. Chawm Ganguly entertained the audience with the history of Sulekha, as he extolled the virtues of writing with fountain pen and ink after which the Ink Bar was unveiled. Honestly speaking, I was taken aback by the kind of emotions that the very name Sulekha generates even among the youngsters from my generation, as members of the faculty and students alike crowded around the counter to test the inks.
I made tons of friends – Ritika Bhakta, Rupaiya, Bhavna, Rishi even as I renewed my old friendship with Ankita Dutta who is also from the BESC. What I sampled first hand, was the BESC way of doing things – of taking decisions on the go. I guess, this needs a little elucidation. Sulekha had gone to the BESC with the intention of reaching out to the students, to introduce the brand Sulekha, to talk of our legacy as a Swadeshi entity, to showcase our products. However, to my utter surprise, the Sulekha name was already well known, and despite all the negative comments that we hear about the young generation not wanting to write with fountain pens, there were many who wanted to buy Sulekha inks. Paying heed to their request, Prof Dilip Shah allowed us to address the queries across the counter, and I, scared as I was, concurred. I guess, it was the spirit of entrepreneurship that pervades through the BESC that had rubbed off. Point is, my decision was lauded by the seniors at Sulekha. I must also thank the Sulekha regulars who actually manned the counters – Sanjay, Priyanka, Akhilesh and Sugam.
The second thing that I learnt is never to let circumstances get the better of one. Yes, I had no experience, but as Chawm Ganguly told me, there is always a first time. And yes, my first crack at an event has been a memorable one. Thank You. I now firmly believe what Prof Dilip Shah told me – you have to believe that you can, and you will.
My most important takeaway for the Communique is the fact that Fountain Pens and inks are definitely not passe. They are much more popular than we believe and if we are able to ensure a steady supply, I feel, there will not be a dearth of demand. And finally, Sulekha is still an icon, a star.
Nanigopal and Shankaracharya Maitra, the brothers who had started Sulekha in 1934 to make inks for Gandhiji, were my grandfather’s father and uncle. Thank you BESC for restoring my faith in their belief – in Swadeshi, in Swadhinota, in Sulekha.
- Ahana Maitra is studying M Com in St Xavier’s College, Calcutta.
For More information: https://www.sulekhaink.co.in/