A Fountain pen – a personification of all the finer nuances of life, dedicated to a wrestler, who represents everything that the pen is not? At first sight, the naming seems to be a misnomer, a terribly wrong one at that. Not unless one is talking about the cult Gama pen from Gem & Co, Chennai – and yes, we are talking about “The Great Gama” – Gulam Mohammad Baksh (1878-1960), World Heavyweight Champion since 1910, who was undefeated in a career spanning 52 years and is universally acknowledged as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
Legend has it that the young friends MC Cunnan and Venkatrangam, who had started their Fountain Pen making business in George Town, Chennai in the 1920’s wanted to give their flagship ebonite offering a name befitting the sturdy pen’s height, girth and inordinately high ink carrying capacity, which led them to call it Gama. The pen has not only lived up to the legacy name, but has, over the years, built such an impeccable reputation for itself that today it is the pen with which the wrestler’s name is associated, turning the tables as it were.
The Gama Supreme Rippled Ebonite Flat Top Fountain Pen
And trust me, the Gama is one Big pen. Insanely big, intimidating even. At a whooping six and a half inches, it stands head and shoulders above the crowd and has a matching thickness. (For those who are used to posting their pens, it is almost seven and a quarter inch). However, for its size, it is surprisingly light and even when fully inked (loaded, shall we say) is not a strain on the hand of the beholder. For, what good is running a marathon if it leads to muscles cramps?
To cut a long story short (I have been warned to review pens with detached impassion, as opposed to lunging headlong into professing my love for them). It is a pleasure to write with, once one overcomes the mental barrier of putting such a huge pen on paper. The nib unit that mine came with was monotone, with Gama etched on it and is the customary iridium point. Needless to say, it writes, sorry glides effortlessly through, floating like a butterfly, stinging like a bee – the sting, as it has a slightly scratchy feel to it. To put the record straight, it writes somewhere between an F and an M, which too, is in keeping with its size, I guess.
Visually, apart from its towering size, it has a lot going for it. The ebonite body, as I mentioned earlier, is extremely light weight and the dark green, mottled surface accords it with a sinister camouflaged gait, that of a natural killer ready to follow its instincts. The black crown and the barrel end accentuate the colour scheme with the steel hardware adding just a hint of embellishment, that too, in the most unobtrusive way.
Being a hand turned pen one is willing to give it a favourable handicap, not that it needs any – the feed, the threads, the grinding, the polishing – everything is as perfect as it can get and I for one, have no complaints with, either the design or the craftsmanship. On the contrary, it is pens like these that make one feel proud as an Indian – proud of our legacies, proud of our abilities and proud that such enterprises are still picking up the gauntlet that life and the Chinese are throwing relentlessly, only to emerge winners.
I must apologise that I have not yet made my ritual pilgrimage to Gem & Co to pay my respects to Pratap Kumar – the third-generation flag bearer of pioneering pen crafting. I bought mine from ASA & Co, another Chennai based maker of fine handmade masterpieces, who also acts as the online distributor of Gem & Co creations.
When I requested Subramaniam, one of India’s most revered names in the fountain pen industry about the Gama, he was at his reticent best “this is a time tested model, it has stood the ground and has been one of the top selling models for over two decades now, which should speak for itself”, preferring, as he put it, “to let the pen do the talking for itself”.
Incidentally, the Great Gama too, was also a man of a few words.
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PS The pen and the feelings that it evoked are entirely mine and mine alone. I have reviewed it (if you call this a review that is) following some inner, inexplicable urges. Neither was the pen provided to me to induce me to write fine things about it, nor was any financial sweeteners offered.