Samit Dutta’s grandfather the late Anil Kurmar Dutta was a fountain pen aficionado and had many pens in his collection. He would rotate them for his daily use and though the young Samit was hugely loved by his grandfather, access to the pens were a strict no-no. Mind you, those were the days, when the fountain pen was the standard and the ball-point pens, which were just coming in, were the “real” fancy stuff. As a matter of fact, in the schools, writing with a fountain pen was the rule and the use of ball-point pens was not only frowned upon, but also attracted punishment. (How I wish we could go back to those days! But that is another story.)
For the young Samit too, at that particular point in time, the fountain pens did not hold any special fascination, as they were near ubiquitous and certainly not things young people collected. And the only reason he would go to the Pen Hospital in Kolkata with his grandfather, would be to get the damaged pens mended, perhaps to buy a bottle of turquoise ink, which, though the rage among the fashionably inclined those days, was not available in his native town of Raniganj. The visits to Pen Hospital were almost incidental, the real attraction was Kolkata.
It is widely believed that the internet has killed the practice of writing with the hand and along with it, the fountain pen. However, in Samit Dutta’s case, the opposite seems to hold good. For, it was the internet that first fueled his curiosity about the hobby of buying and collecting fountain pens. His first acquisition was in the year 2007 when he bought a fountain pen from ebay. What propelled him into the hobby was the acquaintance of Subramaniam of ASA pens and a quirk of fate that forced Samit to visit Rajahmundhri for work, which led him to acquire his first Ratnam and Guider pens, apart from stoking his fascination and establishing him firmly as a lover of hand-turned Indian fountain pens for life.
This was incidentally the time (read the year 2010 and thereabouts) that most experts consider to be the worst time for the Indian fountain pen industry, which was facing an existential crisis, not aware of the fact that people like Samit Dutta were already planting the seeds of its revival, with the same internet that it painted as the villain, morphing to throw it a life line. The first net-based pen forums were already in place. People in India were aware, again thanks to the net, that fountain pen collecting as a hobby was globally accepted as mainstream and that it was possible to have a group of like-minded individuals discuss and deliberate of fountain pens.
The second fateful event, and we fountain pen lovers have every reason to thank providence for that, was a chance meeting that Samit Dutta had with Soumitra Sanyal, where else, but in the Pen Hospital. This was around the time that Soumitra Sanyal had single-handed, opened the first of the Kolkata based fountain pen groups in Facebook – the Greater Kolkata Pen Lovers. The year was 2016.
What followed in quick succession were a spate of WhatsApp and Facebook groups – the first being formed by Abhishek Dey, Dr Samrat Ganguly and Samit Dutta as the core members. Abhishek Dey has since become a little less prolific in the scene, but one earnestly hopes that he will be back with the same enthusiasm he had displayed at the onset. Soumitra Sanyal, whose profession forces him to remain away from active participation for long stretches of time, too is less regular, however, no one can deny the fact that the love for the “pen-chants” in his heart remains as strong as ever. Similar is the case of Dr Samrat Ganguly, whose increasing pressure as a medical practitioner has taken away most of the time, that he would otherwise have loved to spend with his fellow lovers of the fountain pen.
The next logical step was to add Kolkata to the Pelikan Hub map, which was successfully organised for the first time in 2017, with Avishek Dey as the hub master. The Holy-Trinity of Kolkata’s Fountain Pen lovers, however, had formed much before that around the year 2016 when Yusuf Mansoor joined the movement like a whirlwind. The rains that cooled the big-bang of Yusuf Mansoor’s entry, was brought in by Sukla Roy. It wasn’t like the way it is today – Yusuf Mansoor, the collector – was such a huge name in the circuit, that the founding members of the Kolkata pen lovers were scared out of their wits to initially approach him, even as acquaintances. It is a different story that Yusuf Mansoor, the human, turned out to be way bigger than either his reputation his peerless collection!
Now, the Fountain Pen lovers of Kolkata are getting ready for the next stage in the story of evolution. It has witnessed three Pelikan Hubs since the first, the migration of the wildebeest, the good, the bad and sometimes, the ugly. New faces have come in, bringing with them newer vigor, robust ideas, and hopefully, are harbingers of better inks tomorrow.
Samit Dutta flashes his smile. For, he is the one who has been there, seen it all from day one. And to be honest, one does not really know what fascinates him more as a collector – his pens or his pen friends.
Watch this space.
You can join www.penloverskolkata.com