Chennai Pen Show – a roundup!

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We are just back from the 1st Chennai Pen Show which was organised by Aditya Bhansali and his team of super-efficient achievers. Well, the platitudes are deliberate – for here was a show that like a pack of trump cards, excelled on all counts.  For the habitual nitpickers among us, I did look very hard, if only to give you some speaking points, but no, faults I found none. The only thing to which one can remotely ascribe some negative connotation being that, this show has set the bar so high, that those who will follow will have a hard time keeping up. Congratulations!

There were thirty-odd exhibitors, brandishing more than a hundred brands. But it was the Chennai crowd that walked out with the cake. Not only did that come in hordes, but stunned the seasoned fountain pen and ink lovers with their knowledge and passion for all things writing – from the art of writing to the instruments that were on display.

Chennai Pen Show

And what instruments! The Ranga had its full range of hand-crafted ebonite works of art. Subramaniam of ASA was right next, manning his stall. ASA has been representing Gama pens for ages which were there on display, though the highlight of the show was the presence of Shirsendu Bandyopadhyay who showcased his cashew  lacquered creations – a first of its kind in the world. Click and Beena usually attract the highest footfalls in any pen show anywhere and Chennai was no exception – both selling out by the middle of day three. Endless Recorders too did brisk business, as did William Pen – who now owns the legacy brand, Sheaffer. The presence of Nikhil Ranjan, the man who has, in one fell swoop put India on the global writing instruments map, was there in person, pushing the show itself a few notches higher.

The next table – manned by the new generation from Kanwrite was also a pleasant surprise, though there is nothing new that I can add about this nib maker hailing from Kanpur, the largest and most versatile in India. Diya Vadodaria was there with her pens and some superb leather carry cases. Hardik Kanakhara and the patriarch of the Magna Carta family were also there with their spread of glitterware.

Chennai Pen Show

Kaushik Maitra was there next, displaying an almost inexhaustible variety of Sulekha inks, each telling a story more fascinating than the other. Little wonder, the Sulekha stall was always crowded, with discerning buyers jostling with each other stock up. Rajesh Pillai was there next representing a variety of brands, including some awesome Urushi pieces from Vivek Kulkarni, India’s own Urushi master., a local Chennai-based manufacturer cum retailer had taken up a huge space, and going by the kind of eyeballs they attracted, it seemed like a good decision. Delmoon Pens, which is stunning the fraternity with one exotic offering after the other, was there too, with Ravi Tiwari, the man behind the mission, interacting with awe-struck buyers himself. Nisha and Vishal Singhi of Vazir were also there as was Stex, sharing a good part of the aisle.

Rahul Gupta and Sayak Adhya from Kolkata were in the far corner of the hall, one selling vintages, while the other displaying imported pens from a variety of brands. Likhit, a Pune-based brand, that is now making a comeback with a variety of very affordably based pens was next and Manoj Asrani, the owner was at his affable best.

Chennai Pen Show
Prof K C Janardhan talking about the healing power of Calligraphy with Dr Nan Anantharaman

The pleasant surprise was the presence of Kiko pens from Chandannagore (near Kolkata) represented by the young Engineer-cum pen fanatic Arijit Dutta who was displaying his made-from-scratch piston-fillers whose efficacies must be written with, to be believed. Well, suffice to say, the connoisseurs of Chennai did not disappoint him and he did have a very successful first pen show experience as a manufacturer.

The final table as we walked the circuit was taken up by the young gun of antiques Dhruva Jain from Mumbai who had on display, as usual, some hard-to-find instruments. A real pity I could not add anything to my haul from him as I had run out of resources. Suffice it to say, I have booked the ones that I hope to loot and will get back to you with their incredible stories soon.

There was a group of young mavericks with a 3D printer turning pens in front of incredulous buyers – pens that were being made at fantastic price points. Watch out for more as they deserve a story dedicated to them. There was Diplomat, there was Tejura Overseas and there were the others – from Krishna Inks to Lami and everything in between, nothing to discount there either.

Our pilgrimage to the Gama Store with the legend Pratap Kumar!

The crowd was extremely knowledgeable and the most encouraging was the spirited participation of several young people whose energies were infectious. As for some of the hardcore collectors who had come, like everything about Chennai, they were solid so far as collections go and I certainly hope to write about many of them as they deserve the space as much as we guys want to ogle at the El Dorados in their possession!

Two and a half days. A footfall of about ten thousand. A hall full of exhibitors unanimous in accepting that business was way beyond expectations. And countless fountain pen, ink, and stationery freaks with memories that they will cherish for years to come.

The Chennai Pen Show has been a real blast and I for one, cannot wait to be back for the next one!