Do not ask me to explain the chemistry but it is a fact that a combination of a pen and ink and paper is likely to give rise to different results under different circumstances. A thin Fine, dry nib will allow less ink to flow onto the surface than a wet, broad one and the markings will be different, often distinctly so. And this will also happen with fountain pens from the same manufacturer, keeping the ink and the paper constant.
Similar is the case with paper and ink. The fortune that was spent to acquire that notebook with “fountain pen friendly” paper … well, that was for a reason after all. Ever tried using your pen and ink to write on ordinary copier paper, or on those little scribble pads that are everywhere, and comparing the sample with your writing in your treasured notebook? I guess you should, it is kind of an eye-opener, you know?
Considering the fact that in India we are on a slightly lower keel on the fountain pen and ink hobby graph, our obsession with journaling which accentuates the fixation with both paper and ink has not really reached the manic proportions of Japan for example (leave alone Washi tapes and rubber stamps and stickers). This year, I believe, we will travel many notches up in our paper and ink journey. And there are reasons why I say this.
Remember when Tamoe River said Sayonara? Remember the scramble to collect quotas before they were gone? Well, it may not have been a mad rush that was all-pervading, but it was very much there, with some fanatics going to great lengths to satiate the hunger perceived or otherwise. The void that Tamoe River has left has thrown up many interesting brands around the world, but sadly, in India, we are yet to see the kind of action that would have encouraged us in the hobby. Endless Recorders and Origin One are the two names that enjoy the top-of-mind recall, with Ayush paper following suit, but to be honest, the numbers that they chalk up are far from impressive. Even put together, their supply is not even a drop in the demand that the ocean is capable of throwing up. Kaagazi Collaborative which had appeared with a lot of promise has folded up – temporarily, I am told – and I hope that the fireworks begin in real earnest, that too, real fast.
However, the one area where I expect the maximum amount of action in the near future is in the field of inks. We haven’t really seen boutique ink brands in India and I believe that this is a blast that is just ticking to happen. Come to think of it, nothing exciting has happened in the segment except Krishna ink’s sporadic outbursts, which too, have tended to hover towards the unexciting mean recently. Yes, Sulekha has made a comeback and the inks that they have on offer come with stories that are pretty exciting, but on the whole, seeped in traditionality, it is yet to focus its attention on those purveying tomorrow.
I am talking about the Japanese trend of “inkunuma”, wherein collecting the ink becomes the raison deter, which in turn creates the demand for ink-friendly paper and pens – fountain, dip, glass, brush and, even felt-tipped ones. For testing and cataloguing one’s collection of inks, serious hobbyists are not restricted to notebooks and journals alone, swatch cards of different shapes, sizes and quality, with accessories like carrying cases too are in vogue: niche demands that are addressed by willing players who are joyfully addressing the same. If my Japanese friends are to be believed, this hobby of collecting different types, quality and classes of ink is huge – what is more, over the last couple of years it has grown from being a sub-culture of fountain pen collecting to becoming mainstream, acquiring its own place as a legitimate hobby with dedicated, and growing number practitioners.
It will not be surprising if inkunama quietly makes an appearance in India and slowly start to build up its own band of loyalists. As a matter of fact, I will be surprised if it does not, considering the fact that one will not need to fuss about one’s handwriting, nor will it require investment in expensive pens to pick up this hobby – which will allow one the kind of me-time that the stressed-out practitioners will look forward to enjoying without requiring the kind of investment that collecting pens would normally do. Considering the colour, composition, sheen, shine, variation, and everything else that inks have to offer, the possibilities before the collectors are endless.
The only question that will remain is the egg and chicken one – what will come first? The demand emanating from the collectors, or the supply from sellers, including new boutiques, that will create its own demand in its wake?
Watch this space.