Dr Sovan Roy ready to unveil a forgotten chapter in Indian pen making
Dr Sovan Roy’s magnum opus – a book that tells the story of Radhika Nath Saha – a man who set up and successfully ran India’s first manufacturing unit for fountain pens is being awaited by the community of fountain pen lovers and scholars with bated breath. The book is expected to shatter many a myth about the early days of fountain pen making in India and the pioneer who had put India on the global map with home-grown inventions, productions and patents!
While Dr Roy is naturally tight-lipped about the contents of the book, he talks about the reasons that led him to research the content, something that had become an all-consuming passion. In a free-wheeling interview with www.inkedhappiness.com, he talks about the forthcoming launch and the special offer that he is extending to the lovers of fountain pens. Excerpts:
When did you first start collecting fountain pens? Why? How is your collection different? What is the special niche that you target?
Dr Sovan Roy: I, in fact, collect everything outdated. I have been doing so since I was in school. It is a passion that I picked up from my father the Late Dr Sunit Kumar Roy and guess, thanks to him, I have been a passive collector from long before I could enjoy the finer nuances of collecting.
I rarely spend a significant amount for collecting any object. In fact, I am incapable to do so as I derive a fixed salary from my service and my commitments to my family are my prime priorities.
I began collecting fountain pens from the beginning of this century when I realised that this fascinating instrument for expression shall no longer regain its popularity and many of the pen brands of the previous century would be lost forever.
I am, in fact, more interested to document the lost fountain pen brands and models of the last century than collecting for the sake of collection.
When did you first become interested in the history of fountain pen making in India? How did you quench your curiosity initially? Or was it the quest of a scientific mind right from the beginning?
Dr Sovan Roy: I am not sure if my collection is unique of its kind, but the lion’s share comprises of pens from the least known brands of the 1900’s and barring a few, almost all are pre-owned and pre-used pens. Apart from ensuring proper documentation and protection, my prime objective is to search out their history.
The academic niche of liquid ink pens is very difficult to expand – the electronic information highway has allowed us to get plenty of information, but it is near impossible to coordinate and come to a conclusion, as more than eighty percent information is unknown and is yet to be documented and verified. In fact, during the last century, fountain pen making and outsourcing had become a cottage industry, especially in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It will not be an exaggeration to say that fountain pen making had become so prolific that most of the meaningful names available in a dictionary can be attributed to a pen brand manufactured somewhere in India.
Actually, no collection is conserved for a very long time. My next generation may not be interested in conserving my collection. So academic documentation and historical analysis are the most important parts of collecting ancient artefacts. Enrichment of the literature of the history, of the science, of the culture is ensured by proper documentation and a relatively permanent protection to the antiquities.
One object shall be transferred from one hand to another in the normal course of time, so only pride of possession is not going to yield anything for the future generations.
When did you start working on the book?
Dr Sovan Roy: I have been exploring trash all my life, though not always with any meaningful result. In fact trash has always attracted me and Rabindra Nath Tagore’s immortal lines:
“jekhane dekhibe chai, uraiya dekho tai,
paile paite paro amullo roton!”
(wherever you see ashes, blow it and who knows it may reveal a priceless gem) has been kind of a loadstar for me.
In fact, many inventions and discoveries of the past have been generated out of trash. In my case also, everything was in front of me, but in disguise. I could not realise them until one fine morning, when time lit up a golden lamp before me – it is a story of realisation that I have highlighted in detail in the book. In fact, I actually started writing the book in April 2019 when everything was already crystal clear before me.
Why according to you, is the proposed book special?
Dr Sovan Roy: Simply because this is the first book that unravels the mysteries of fountain pen manufacturing in India in the early 1900’s. This book introduces to the world, for the first time, an Indian inventor of fountain pens who had at least fourteen patents from various nations providing guarantees to at least twenty-two or more Indian inventions / innovations on fountain pens.
Radhika Nath Saha, the forgotten hero of Indian fountain pen has been rediscovered by the author and this book will unveil a new chapter, hitherto forgotten, in Indian history of science and inventions.
Dr Sovan Roy: The book as been priced at INR 700. However, for your readers from the fountain pen community there will be a discount of INR 150. Besides courier charges will also be waived and readers can enjoy Free shipping facilities.
For select members, I will also autograph a few copies, strictly on request and on a first come, first served basis.
Editor’s Note: Aficionados wishing to collect a copy of the book are requested to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org clearly mentioning your name and postal address. We will mail back the bank details of the author so that you may directly deposit the money and receive the book.