There’s nothing chota about the Dil of ASA’s Subramaniam though!
L Subramaniam, aka Subbu, aka Anna is one of the most loved names in the fountain pen fraternity. He was born and brought up in Kolkata (near Lake Market and went to the Bhawanipur Education Society College) before shifting to Chennai. In Chennai he gave up a lucrative job to follow the dictate of his heart and took the plunge – into the world of fountain pens!
The year was 2013 and the journey of ASA pens begun (ASA is incidentally an acronym of the first letters taken from the names of Subramaniam, his wife and daughter). Before we move further, just take a moment to ponder on the passion of a family man putting everything on stake to follow a childhood love for the fountain pen, an instrument of writing, which was, for all intents and purposes as dead as a doornail.
Subramaniam did not have anything when he started – neither could he fall back on a family legacy of pen making, nor did he have prior knowledge about the craft, leave alone the necessary wherewithal to start a manufacturing unit from scratch. Naturally, the early forays were fraught with setbacks, massive, for one who was just venturing out. Besides, back then, the fountain pen community in India was far from either being organised, or big, or connected and even for the odd pens that Subramaniam turned, there were hardly any takers.
But ASA did not lose heart (or hope as in Asha) and persevered against all the odds. Fountain Pen Forums were the new thing, and Subramaniam, ever the prime mover, Facebook-ed his way to recognition. Orders began to trickle in and satisfied customers began to applaud the young man on a mission. Yusuf Mansoor, probably India’s most well-known collector and restorer of fountain pens, was among the first to extend his blessings to Subramaniam and ASA. As a matter of fact, it was Yusuf Mansoor who had fondly christened him “Anna”, moved by Subramaniam’s tenacity and love for the fountain pen.
The faith of the early converts was not misplaced. ASA was among the first in India to marry the Indian tradition of hand turning with imported converters, nibs and clips. Ever the practical man, Subramaniam had gone the imported way not only for the quality and price, but also because he just didn’t have the felicities to manufacture everything in-house. Besides, considering his volume, it did not make business sense either. Initially, the Brahmins of ebonite eye-dropper fillers had turned their collective noses in disgust, something that they now regret, for what ASA had initiated is virtually the industry norm.
There is another great service that Subramaniam has done to the fountain pen fraternity and we will fail in our duties if we do not acknowledge it. He has, almost single-handed, ensured the availability of quality fountain pens at reasonable price points, that too in the net, helping the cause of the industry and that of the fountain pen lover. One just has to think of the pre-ASA days so far as acquiring a hand turned Indian pen went, to understand what I am saying. He has also been instrumental in ensuring, in his individual capacity, that collecting fountain pens shed the “elitist” tag that it unfortunately, but inevitably carries.
Yes, to be fair, after sales service and delivery schedules are still grey areas and the ASA web site leaves much to be desired, but then again, at the price points ASA does its business, one can understand that the shortcomings are more accidental than deliberate and therefore excusable, especially in view of the fact that ASA is a one-man operation and not a business conglomerate.
I had bought my first ASA fountain pen in 2017 and have, since then, not only made multiple purchases, but have also come to consider Subramaniam as a close friend. Close enough to request him to make my Christmas gifts to myself – two Duofold look alike fountain pens, one white and the other yellow. Both are converter fillers and while the yellow one comes fitted with a standard Jowo nib, the white one sports a Kanwrite flex, which, as all aficionados will agree, has its own charm.
I will not go into the details about the sheer pleasure that writing with these pens are, nor will I bore the fountain pen lovers with the details about the balance or the weight. Both the pens being way lighter than either the original Parker Duofold or the various tributes to it by different pen makers that I have collected over the years. Suffice to say, for Indian hands, especially those not used to writing with fountain pen equivalent of maces, the pens are as near perfect as they get.
Dear Subramaniam, here’s wishing you and the ASA family a Merry Christmas. May the Lord who has brought you here, also give you the courage to endure so that prosperity may follow. We who love our fountain pens will pray for your success like we always do. Good Luck and Godspeed!
For more information: https://asapens.in/