Starmark Pen Fest

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Starmark is undoubtedly a “go-to” destination for bibliophiles, stationery lovers, and increasingly, fountain pen and ink aficionados in Kolkata. Naturally, when Starmark celebrates its 25th year, the city sits up to take note. As someone who has spent half my life browsing and buying from the different Starmark outlets, I too was excited. But what made my heart skip a beat, was when I learned that Starmark was planning to hold a Pen Fest to commemorate the occasion.

And what a Fest, it was. First, there were the fountain pen and ink brands– Cross, Lamy, Sailor, Mont Verde, Conklin, Sulekha, Endless, Waterman, Sailor, Lotus, Click, Faber-Castell, Kaweco, and Staedtler, to name a few. Then there was the variety- endless options to choose from. And then as the icing on the cake, was the discounts. Two special edition inks, representing the Starmark Colours – Blue Blood and Passion Red were also launched.

Starmark Pen Fest

But there are reasons why Starmark’s aggressive foray into fountain pens and inks has got me all excited. As a buyer, I felt, that buying a fountain pen or ink, especially imported ones that cost a packet, was always fraught with problems starting from having trust issues with the sellers and going all the way to having little or no after-sales service, which was a huge dampener. Pricing too, used to be a bone of contention, while the fact that one was buying a piece of art from a semi-literate shopkeeper sermonizing about the merits of German engineering over that of Japanese was repulsive to put things mildly. The fact that most of these peddlers, were no more than resellers, with little backing from the brands they touted, used to make buying imported fountain pens, akin to taking a leap of faith. Add to it the fact that one had no way of verifying that the pen was not a well-crafted replica (or even a pre-used one), and the pain used to be palpable.

Naturally, with Starmark entering the space, we can have the fruit and eat it too (read buy the pen and write with it too). The pens and inks on display are straight from the brands, the salespersons at the counters are well-versed, and the after-sales service is impeccable. Besides, the ambiance counts – there is a difference between buying the same pen from a name-brand store in an upmarket mall and buying it from a hole in the lane near the station, that too, with hardly any difference in the price. But more of it in another story.

Starmark Pen Fest

Minu and Gautam Jatia, the owners of Starmark must also be thanked for another reason. They flew in the Maestro, Prof K C Janardhan to deliver a talk on the “Seven Elements of Handwriting.” The audience was spellbound, and when the participants received a handwritten certificate of participation, written and signed exclusively by the Maestro, their joy knew no bounds. Many workshops and competitions were held as a part of the ongoing celebrations, including those sponsored by some leading brands, though as one who attended most events pointed out, Prof Janardhan’s talk was certainly one that will be remembered for a long time.

Prof Janardhan waxed eloquent – about the city, her people, her culture of fountain pens and inks, talking at length about the movement in Kolkata to reintroduce our children and young adults to the art of writing which is increasingly being pushed backward by the onslaught of all things digital. He hailed Starmark not only for creating the platform for pen lovers to congregate but also for actively taking up the cause of writing and writing instruments.

Starmark Pen Fest

It was also an honour and pleasure to be invited to deliver a talk on the hobby of fountain pen and ink collecting which I have been pursuing for more than three decades. Trust me, to be talking to a crowd as appreciative as the one that had assembled, ensconced in that temple full of books, was an experience the kind of which I had never felt before. I do not know about the feelings of the listeners, but I sure was electrified. And, I will be failing in my duty if I do not acknowledge with gratitude the fantastic work that was done by the Starmark team to facilitate the program.


The good news is that the management of Starmark too is extremely buoyant at the response of the fountain pen and ink fraternity. “Considering that this was the first event of its kind for us,” said Minu Jatia, “we were initially a little apprehensive but were swayed by the overwhelming response that has been generated. The footfalls, the response of the customers to the brands on display, the sales – have all been very encouraging We will certainly plan more such events in the future.”

It is a great pleasure to buy for oneself a new fountain pen, or, a bottle of ink, perhaps even a notebook to write on. But it is an even greater pleasure to watch fellow lovers of pen and ink buying to their heart’s desire. The pen fest at Starmark gave me that pleasure as I stood there, hours at an end, watching the busy counters as fountain pen fanatics scrambled to add another prized possession to their collections. I guess that was my biggest takeaway from the event.

Watch the video here: