Anupam Goswami – fountain pen aficionado, an autodidact who is hand writing his way to a nirvana of a different kind!
Anupam Goswami is a lead-acid battery manufacturer based in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, though there is no Tezaab but sheer Love dripping from his pen as he takes the world of scripting by storm! “I am from a generation who completed their entire schooling in handwritten format” he says. Surprisingly, Anupam Goswami got into the fountain pen hobby only about two years back, time enough for him to have scaled peaks that ordinary mortals only dream of. “Since then, I have come to know a lot of interesting people through this hobby and received a lot of love and appreciation. I have also endeavoured to improve my handwriting with some success” he says in all modesty. We choose to disagree for we are as much in awe of his work as you certainly will be. Read on:
Inked Happiness: When and more importantly, how did you gravitate towards this beautiful world of pen, ink and paper?
Anupam Goswami: It started in August 2019. Out of whim I had bought a fountain pen a few years back but it was lying unused. My daughter one day fished it out and asked what it was. Those days I had to spend weekends at my work and I started transcribing Sundar Kand from Ramcharitmanas.
Sometime that month, I came across a book cover that had some fancy handwriting on it. I now know that it was copperplate. I don’t remember now what turn of events lead me to talk to Sandeep Awasthi of Kanwrite pens on phone, but when I mentioned my curiosity to him, he told me about the flex nibs. And then I bought a flex pen from him. He also added me to fountain pen group on WhatsApp called ‘Fountain Pen Lovers’ which has since then become the focal point of my social media activity. There, I got acquainted with Yusuf Manzoor who introduced me to the world of dip-nibs. He remains the guide I consult before any purchase or when I have any question.
Inked Happiness: You have ventured into a world that has very few contemporary peers – Devanagari calligraphy. What has been your experience so far? What are the challenges that you face? How do you overcome them?
Anupam Goswami: First of all, I don’t consider myself a calligrapher. Neither my writing technique is disciplined nor my script flourished. I guess ‘scribe’ is a more apt word to associate with me.
That being said, my experience has been great. Writing Devanagari has me reading the works of our poets that I hadn’t in years or hadn’t at all. In this sense, one could say that I am reconnecting with my cultural roots. I was taught Sanskrit up till eighth standard in school and now by writing Devanagari, I am somewhat re-familiarising myself with that language.
The only challenge I found initially was the scarcity of writing instruments suitable for Devanagari writing. But as time went on, and I kept following the works of various calligraphers on the social media, I found out that the scarcity wasn’t of the instruments but of the general awareness and lack of noise. One legitimate drawback could be that Devanagari has lesser audience than the Roman (English), but even then, it is quite large.
Inked Happiness: What advice do you have for young people who are keen to take up handwriting, lettering and calligraphy?
Anupam Goswami: Write a page a day. And write it like you intend to submit it in a handwriting competition! That’s what worked for me. It may work for them.
The biggest challenge I faced when I took to improve my handwriting was boredom. Practising individual letters was too monotonous for me. So, I transcribed poems and other scriptures. This lent a sense of purpose to this exercise. Every few days, I tried to improve at least one letter in the page I wrote that day. This method, however, may not work for someone who intends to be a calligrapher.
Joining social media groups for fountain pens or handwriting gives one an audience and appreciation, and so does writing letters. Without an audience, it is difficult to maintain the same level of interest.
Inked Happiness: What do you think about the many “Calligraphy” crash-courses that are offered on the net? Do these courses, mostly run by people who are themselves untrained and untested, do more harm than good? What should one look for in these courses before enrolling?
Anupam Goswami: I never joined any such courses. So, I can’t comment on their worth. But I am of the opinion that learning calligraphy is a solitary exercise. One has to practice and improve the way one draws each letter individually. And this has to be done repeatedly. The templates for various letter forms are widely available over internet and one can just choose from the many images that will show up after a query on any online search engine. Countless videos on calligraphy are available over the Internet as well. Hence, I don’t see a need to enrol in any crash course.
Inked Happiness: Do you see a revival in the use of fountain pens, especially among the young? Why do you think that fountain pens are essential for us and our children, that they should be an integral part of the narrative?
Anupam Goswami: When I am interacting within the fountain pen social media groups, I feel that there is a revival of fountain pen use. New manufacturers are springing up and the portfolio of the existing pen makers is growing. There is a lot of excitement for the new pen and ink launches and the various writing styles are noted and appreciated with keen interest.
But, when I get out of those groups and enter the real world, I see that there is still little interest towards fountain pens. Still, very few stationery shops carry fountain pens and inks, and those that do, have very limited options. In almost two years that I have been in this hobby, only three people within my circle of influence have taken up fountain pens. And those people too have to be supplied with the instruments and inks by me or else they will go back to their ball point ways.
A fountain pen is as much essential for us and as integral for the education narrative as a sword is essential for a soldier in today’s age of guns. Like swordsmanship, penmanship too, is a unique skill to possess, takes years of practice, looks good when displayed by a skilled practitioner and may open an avenue for livelihood if mastered. But, just like a sword is no longer essential for a contemporary soldier, a fountain pen too is no longer an essential tool for a contemporary student who has more use for a keyboard.
Maybe it is just the people like me who did their schooling before the advent of digital age that are coming back to fountain pens. However, a strong argument can be made in favour of fountain pen in terms of its much lesser environmental load compared to a ball point.
Inked Happiness: What steps should be taken to make fountain pens and inks more popular, especially to a generation that is “digitally damned”?
Anupam Goswami: Money drives any sector. If the fountain pen industry is exempted from sales tax, more small-time manufactures will join the organised side of the trade and will get enough business in the books to be able to avail bank loans and improve their manufacturing process and research, thereby bringing the prices of the entry level fountain pens comparable to that of an average entry level ball point. Maybe then, an average user from the ‘digitally damned generation’ will consider purchasing a fountain pen over a ball point for whatever little writing he or she does. As for the ‘coolness factor’, a flex pen is infinitely cooler than a ball point or roller ball!
Inked Happiness: How has your passion for calligraphy and the Kalam helped you cope with the lockdown and the pandemic that led to its enforcement?
Anupam Goswami: I got into this hobby during a stressful period in my professional life. I found it to be cathartic then and a great stress-reliever during the Covid lockdowns.
Inked Happiness: Anything that you would like to communicate to our readers.
Anupam Goswami: Oh yes! To all the lovely people I have met or gotten myself acquainted with in the fountain pen world, I would say this: Would you call a person who keeps buying watercolour supplies but can’t or doesn’t paint at all, a watercolour hobbyist? So, please use your pens and use them well!
You can follow him on facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/anupam.goswami.965