Ratnam Supreme – the pen that gave the world its lessons in non-violence!
The Ratnam Supreme is a kind of a grail pen. It’s a big, no-nonsense main battle tank, strong enough to ram through the enemy fortifications. Naturally, in any army of pens, it can easily roll in and demand a salute even as it rambles in. In terms of sheer legacy too, it has few parallels – that it flaunts the Ratnam name, one that is closely associated with Gandhiji and the first Swadeshi pen, in itself is enough to the swell any Indian heart that possesses the Ratnam Supreme with pride. Made by K V Ratnam and Sons, who slot themselves as “Pioneers of Pen Industry in India since 1932”, the Ratnam Supreme, if one just considers its eight decade plus uninterrupted run, is peerless to put it mildly.
Naturally, it occupies a special place in the hearts of fountain pen connoisseurs and collectors around the world. Don’t know if it is the cause or the effect, but buying one is extremely difficult – key in “Ratnam Supreme” and Google does not even feature one link in its first page to any site that sells one.
Some say that the scarcity is artificial; some attribute it to the fact that the pens are hand turned in small batches which makes them hard to get; while some others point out the fact that it is the typical Indian attitude of being content with whatever little one has – with manufacturers depending on market pull as opposed to marketing push to satiate the demand, which leads to the relative difficulties in procurement. The fact that the pen, despite its obvious brand value and all the positives going for it, is priced at the lowest rung may also shed light to its scarcity – with wafer thin margins negating possibilities of advertising and marketing expenses, visibility and availability are both abjectly poor. Sad, but strange are the ways of the ancient pen-iners – who could have easily mounted the digital wave, but didn’t, waiting in oblivion, perhaps for the same wave to deluge them.
The Ratnam Supreme – the pen itself, however, leaves little to complain about. Some aficionados even go so far as to compare it to the Montblanc 149, which however, according to me, is a bit of an exaggeration. Mine came fitted with a Genius Iridium Nib, with Germany proudly etched on it. Xenophobia apart, it writes fairly well: smooth, wet and steady, with neither burping nor drying. What is more, there is no scratchiness with very little feedback, which I guess can be attributed more to the paper than to the nib. The ebonite body, is surprisingly light despite its girth and the minimalist shape lends the Supreme an ability to blend into the grip effortlessly, adding to the pleasure of writing.
The grip of the pen, itself, is another winner – there is a thick step at its very end (where it meets the nib) and somehow, it adds a very pleasant sensation to the whole act of writing. The balance too is just perfect, which underscores a very important fact about fountain pens – even the simplest of designs, incorporating the most basic technologies and minimal frills can give you a pen that transcends time.
There are a few dots and micro holes in the body, which I guess, was a part of the ebonite stick from which the pen was crafted. A puritan will certainly (and justifiably, argue) that before the actual turning, the rod should have been examined, but then again, it is the little imperfections that really adds value to the overall beauty of this handcrafted object of desire.
Unscrewing the cap and the barrel of the Ratnam Supreme is like dating eternity – they seem to go on forever, which too, is a good thing – a tried and tested method of leak-proofing. While the threads are tight in the beginning, they ease up with use and I particularly love the way each turn fills me with nostalgia, for the days, when a Swadeshi fountain pen was one’s silent protest against the foreign yoke. Naturally, I have filled my Ratnam Supreme with Sulekha ink, which too traces its origin back to the Father of the Nation’s Clarion call.
But there is another dimension which I must spell out to complete this story. Just when I was about to give up hope of acquiring a Ratnam Supreme for myself, I met Shreyas Yedla, a banker from Hyderabad and a fountain pen fanatic like the rest of us. He was kind enough to make the trip to the shrine of Ratnam at Rajahmundri (now Rajamahendravaram) only to acquire the pen that makes me proud now. We have never met, have only talked over the phone a couple of times, yet. I guess, this was the spirit of fraternity.
I guess, this was what Swadeshi and Nationalism was all about. I guess, this is the Gandhian way of life that we have consciously debunked in the present, the same way that most Indians have forgotten about Ratnam and the Swadeshi Pen.
The Ratnam Supreme, in the final analysis then, is no ordinary fountain pen – it is the icon of an epoch, it is a way of life, it is a tribute to the God who walked amongst the men, by men who were so large hearted that there still remains the likes of Shreyas Yedla.
May their tribe increase. May the Ratnam Supreme continue to be the synonym of all that is good in this country. May we never forget that the pen is mightier than the sword and that, the Ratnam Supreme was the pen that gave the world its lessons in non-violence.