Firingi Kali. The naming itself is hatke, different. The Bengali word Firingi, can be traced back etymologically to old French, through Persian, Urdu and Hindi, where it denotes a foreigner, especially a British or a white person. Kali, in typical Bengali means ink, though phonetically it can also be construed to denote the Goddess Kali – the master of death, time and change. The play of words in the naming, is thus the first thing that struck me as I feasted my eyes on the new offering from Sulekha.
The Firingi Kali packaging is nothing like any ink box that I have seen before. It is a gleaming wooden box, replete with a brass carry handle and sports an equally gleaming plate where “Sulekha Firingi Kali”, is etched on the screwed-in brass badge. The top opens to reveal a protective inner box, which houses the six bottles of Firingi Kali, the inks. The finishing of the boxes is impeccable and one is initially stunned and naturally led to appreciate the lengths to which Sulekha has gone to ensure their perfection, especially in the detailing.
The actual containers – glass bottles, are nostalgically old world, period pieces, replete with cork stoppers. Though the labelling is just a shade too modern, they add the right amount of visual attractiveness to the Firingi Kali bottles. The names of the individual ink colours are not mentioned on the labels, which are however, colour coded.
The inks have a distinct British undertone, the shades being more on the pastel side and are not for the ones who are attracted to the banally bright. Why these inks were originally conceived of, as they have now been made, is a fascinating story and has been recounted in detail in the Note Book that has been provided as a part of the package. The Note Book, I must mention in passing, is another beautifully crafted piece, aesthetically appealing and functionally useful. The pack of six post cards with the Firingi Kali mnemonics too, is a welcome addition.
As I was saying, I will not get drawn into the story behind the Firingi Kali, leaving it for the users to dwell into in their leisure. What I must say however, is that a word of appreciation is certainly due to Sulekha for crating the narratives with which they are consistently packaging their products. For their Swadeshi line of Limited-Edition inks, they had used old print advertisements to tell their tale; for the Swadhin range, it was a bold step to provide the packaging box as a canvas to young artists apart from intelligently integrating the theme of sustainability; while for the Samarpan range the way inks were used as tributes, was certainly laudable. The Firingi Kali too, is no exception from this thematic presentation effort and simply saying that I am impressed will be putting things mildly.
The six shades that have been boxed so elegantly are pale red (mayer paye – at Her feet), light orange (bhakti – faith), grey (sondha pujo – evening prayers), sacred green (bel pata – prayer leaves), karmic brown (choron dhuli – blessings) and lavender (sugondhi ashirbad – sacred aroma). Made using the time-tested techniques that incorporate a three-stage filtration process, the inks are absolutely safe to use and have the same characteristic feature of all Sulekha inks that make them clean the feed and nib as they flow. Even when left in the pen for prolonged periods they have been proven to be non-corrosive which is another reason for me to blindly put my bets on Sulekha.
Yes, they do write beautifully, and are a treat to my eyes that prefer pastel shades to inks that assault the senses with their brightness. There is another hidden attraction of inks like these that get my creative juices flowing in anticipation. These inks, made out of natural dyes are capable of taking innumerable hues depending upon the quality of the paper, the time they are allowed to lie exposed and even on the kind of nibs they are used to write with. Naturally, the possibilities are endless and yes, I find the very unpredictability, however marginal and difficult to detect by the naked eyes, hugely exciting.
When I accosted Kaushik Maitra, the Managing Director of Sulekha about the new launch, he was characteristically humble. “Being a stand-alone ink manufacturer is not an easy task these days of digital domination. Being an ink-maker with the kind of legacy that Sulekha has, makes it even more difficult for us. We will be happy if you just appreciate the fact that we are still very much in the fight, that we are constantly trying to reinvent ourselves to keep pace with the changing times. If we are able to attract the attention of our children, if we are able to convince them to pick up the fountain pen, we will consider our efforts to have been successful. Sulekha has fought for Swadeshi. Sulekha was part of the story that scripted our Swaraj. Now join us all you fountain pen and ink lovers out there, as we fight for Swatantrata – for Swabhimaan as fountain pen users and for Sustainability”.
For more information: https://www.sulekhaink.co.in/
watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0tlaGPtsTA&t=12s