Diptanshu, diehard aficionado of all things fountain pen, ink and stationery – talks about his passion, underscoring the need to use, as opposed to just collect.
Morning creative strategy meeting between client and the advertising agency. The Client, one of India’s largest manufacturers of ball point pens, is naturally led by the owner of the company, an account that any of the big agencies will give their right arm to handle. The agency’s art team is led by their Senior Creative Director, who nonchalantly takes his seat, and while everybody else scrambles to open their laptops, in what appears to be an unpardonable faux pass, flips open his paper notebook and with the indifference that only rockstar mavericks can muster, starts scribbling with a fountain pen!
Maverick rockstar he is, but that is another story. Today we will focus on his lifelong passion for the fountain pen, inks, paper and stationery , as we take a peep into the world of Diptanshu Roy, scion of the Roys of Behala, Kolkata. His grand father used to keep a pet tiger in the house. Another one was gifted an airplane, to facilitate whose flight was built an airstrip, which now is the Behala Flying Club. Behala’s main arterial road, in fact, is named after his great grandfather. But let us not digress. Let us also not harp on the fact that he is perhaps one of the finest mandolin exponents in the country, for his passion for the fountain pen is greater than all these put together.
His first fountain pens were a blue Pilot 57 with a golden cap and a blue Pelikan with a silver cap. The year was 1988 (or was it 1987?) and the young Diptanshu who had just been promoted to Class Four, had graduated from writing with a pencil to a fountain pen as was the school rules then. Both pens were hand-me-downs from his father, pens that he still treasures. The inks he used, he distinctly remembers, were Sulekha Royal Blue and Sulekha Black. Chelpark inks had come later, but were no where near the leader in terms of availability.
Those early school years had also reinforced the love for fountain pens as his elder uncle, making the annual trip from Berlin, Germany, used to come bearing pens, mostly Pelikano student editions. As a matter of fact, the one fountain pen related regret that he nurses till date, was when the uncle had offered to gift him a Montblanc for his sacred thread ceremony, which he had declined, requesting a cycle instead!
Dot pens were allowed in school from class eight onwards, but Diptanshu has stuck to his fountain pens, using the dot pens only to write his university examinations, that too because the answer sheets provided by the university were so poor in quality that it was only right (call it poetic justice if you may) that they be written upon by ball point pens. However, that brief philistine interlude was overcome when Diptanshu started his first job, in Bates Clarion.
In Bates, the creative top gun then was Anurag Hira, a Lamy aficionado, who instilled in Diptanshu, already a committed user, the desire to buy fountain pens, which was flagged off by the acquisition of a Lamy Safari in 2012. Those were the days before the e-commerce boom and good pens were obtained mostly during overseas jaunts. The preferred destination being Bangkok (where work took Diptanshu many times over) with his initial obsession being with Kaweco Liliputs. Incidentally, the only Indian fountain pen bought during this period was a Ranga Model 3, which had failed to pass muster. Then William Penn had opened shop, first in Bangalore and then in Kolkata, adding ink to the obsession. It was only in 2016 in Rome that Diptanshu’s fountain pen frenzy had had come of-age, when he acquired the just launched Pelikan M120 Limited Edition, a remake of a 50’s model. The Montegrappas and the Viscontis that he had ogled at, could not be afforded.
“Both my bosses” says Diptanshu nostalgically, “Anurag and Paramvir, used to stress on the need to scribble and somehow, it has become a habit that I cannot do without. Every morning, I religiously sit down with my fountain pen and any one of notebooks, of which I have many, one for each conceivable subject. I try to ideate, to sketch, scribble, doodle; write music, to turn it all into an intellectual exercise. I admit that often I end up just making to-do lists, but sit I must with my pen and paper”. The underlying reason is simple, for, working with pen in hand, allows the creative juices to flow, which somehow, is seldom replicated in a digital setup, which tends to straightjacket one to the tool. “It is almost as though the computer forces you to do its bidding, while the blank paper and pen allows your thoughts to be the captain of all that you survey” explains Diptanshu.
However, it was the pandemic that really turned Diptanshu into the fanatical pen, paper and ink connoisseur that he now is. “I started studying about Indian pens, buying them, testing them and giving away the ones that I do not use, mostly to newcomers into the world of pen, paper and ink. Bangkok had introduced him to Japanese paper and notebooks – Cosmo Airlight, Yamamoto, Midori, Stalogy, ROBIKI- and whetted his appetite for fine inks which became a full-blown passion. “I prefer the wet fluidity of Japanese Inks as opposed to the drier European Inks, though for Iron Gall inks, I am open” says the man, who, according to his own confession, has enough inks to last him for the next 500 years!
Tongues routinely start wagging when he draws out his fountain pens from his pocket (or from the leather carry cases that he has taught himself to hand craft). His collection of note-books are the cynosure of all eyes. And his collection of pens are stuff dreams are made of. But the man remains strangely nonchalant. “I am a user: not a collector or a hoarder, if you know what I mean” he says, alluding to the fine difference between mere possession and pure passion. “And yes, I am obsessed with Japanese stationery items as whatever they do – be it a piece of paper, a shade of ink or a fountain pen – their quest for excellence is writ large. I am fascinated by their search for perfection, even in what may appear to be mundane things to the ordinary and consider myself privileged to be sampling the sheer love and attention of details that goes into the making of their products, as the nib scratches on the paper, the ink turning my thoughts into reality. It is not merely about pen and ink, it is the meshing of cultures, the union of passion from different parts of the world, a kind of a cosmic explosion”.
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