Mizanur Rahman bhai is a well-known name in the fountain pen and ink user groups in Bangladesh. He runs a very successful shop in Dhaka and can easily be considered among the handful of opinion-makers in the country. As a fountain pen and ink importer, his knowledge about the quality, availability, and functionality of pens in different price points, sourced from different countries is naturally vast. As a seller, he is in constant touch with the users, collectors, and aficionados, putting him in an enviable position where he knows about the needs, whims, and fancies of the buyers first-hand. And finally, as a lover of fountain pens himself, Mizanur Rahman knows not only about the emerging trends, but as manufacturers swear, can make, or break them by suggestions, often of the most subtle kind.
Thus, when Mizan-bhai crosses the border and comes to Kolkata, it is an event to celebrate. Not only because he is a dear friend to many of us here in India, or because he is such an authority in all matters of pen and ink that we look forward to dipping into his pool of knowledge, but also because he is visiting the city after a long gap, forcefully induced by the pandemic. I for one seized the opportunity of catching up with him in the Sulekha factory which he was visiting to conduct business talks. Later during the day, he also had a meeting with Rahul Gupta with whom discussions are on for the sourcing of vintage and antique pens for the connoisseurs in Bangladesh. However much I wanted to, I could not attend this second meeting, but am told that it went on well and that fountain pen lovers in Bangladesh can look forward to some exciting art pieces in the near future.
Mizan Bhai was also carrying with him the prizes won by different contestants participating in the contests organized by the Fountain Pen Culture, which could not be distributed earlier due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. As he handed the items to me with the request that I ensure that the gifts reach the recipients, he floored me with a gift that he has carried all the way across the border – a Jinhao Dragon fountain pen! I do not know what is more striking – the pen with its intricate carvings, gem-studded demeanour, look and feel of a sceptre, or the sheer love with which it was handed over, but it was a touching moment, nonetheless. Imagine the broader context – here I was in India, receiving a Chinese fountain pen as a gift, brought to you by a brother from Bangladesh! If only the fountain pen could bring our countries together as it shatters the walls in our hearts…
But the gift that really blew me away was from Amain Babu bhai from Dhaka who sent a Sultan pen for me. Sultan, if you do not know already, was a homegrown Bangladeshi brand that at one point in time had been hugely popular. As with most fountain pen brands in the sub-continent, except a very few with a deep fascination for our legacy, the story of Sultan pens too, has become mired in apathy. Not only are the pens not available, but very little is also known about the brand, its history, the people behind it, or its contribution. Naturally, the pen is a priceless piece and I shall certainly treasure it with all my life. I will not belittle Amain babu bhai by thanking him for the gift, I do not have enough words to express my views, especially as my eyes get wet as I feast them on this piece of history.
It was also a kind of a homecoming for Mizanur Rahman bhai as he visited the Sulekha factory, which as we all know had started in Rajshahi, which is now in Bangladesh. Kaushik Maitra, the Managing Director of Sulekha personally showed Mizanur bhai around, explaining in detail the ink-making process, the quality control norms that are inbuilt and the rigorous tests that the ink batches are put through before the ink is bottled and dispatched for sale. Also present on the occasion was Sudipta Chatterjee, a renowned ephemera collector and an expert in period items from the subcontinent. Various ranges of inks – in production and those that are undergoing tests before the formal commercial launches were shown to the guest.
The most heartening piece of news however was the invitation that was saved for the last, with Mizanur Rehman informing that with the easing of the post-pandemic restrictions a number of events are being planned, including a book fair in Chittagong where the fountain pen community in Bangladesh will have a presence and that we from this side of the river should also participate.
I for one, cannot wait.
For more information watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVnyK1HAZyw