1st India Pen Show – a Vishal Affair
I first talked to Vishal Singhi about six months back, when he had called up, following up on a mail I had sent to the then proposed 1st India Pen Show, expressing my desire to be associated with the event. In the last six months or so, we have talked innumerable number of times, as he was gracious not only to take www.inkedhappiness.com on board as the media partner to the event, but also to discuss various matters that he wanted to sound off me, apart from asking me to draft the different communiques and other sundry mailers that had to go out. Every time – be it late in the night, early in the morning, or at more “official” hours – he had been an extremely soft-spoken, gentle person, someone who would, like they say, exude charm with every word.
What was remarkable, I would often think, was the man’s tenacity – not only in daring to dream of an event of the scale that he was planning, but also of his genuine desire to work towards the consensus opinion. Never, did the man loose his cool, though, as the show came nearer and nearer, the strain on his voice was obvious and even on the other end of the phone, I could feel the palpable tension (and the bleary eyed exhaustion) as he would schedule calls between meetings, between hurried gulps at dinner or even while idling the engine in the traffic signal.
First the glitterati, at the Inaugural session where tributes were paid to one of us fountain pen lovers – the Late Kaifi Azmi. Even by Mumbai standards, the turnout was phenomenal to put things mildly.
Then the Industry representation – from Magna Carta and Constellations88 the people who conceived the show; to William Penn and Kaweco the presenting and co-sponsor; to a veritable who’s who of the writing instruments fraternity who were not only there in huge numbers, but had their creations spread out for the nouveau and the parvenu to the connoisseur and the collector. There were three generations exhibiting the finest in hand turned craftsmanship from the house of Ranga; there were the “Lotus-eaters” crowding appreciably around Ashok Singhi; there were the felicitators of strategic agreements in a corner with Diplomats of all hues; there were the moving spirits behind Rytol – makers of handmade luxury pens; there were the prime movers from Click Pens, Kanpur Writers, Gem & Company, not to mention the importers of TWSBI, Platinum, Conklin …. the list is endless.
What was most heartening however, was the participation of Gen X: pen turners, lovers, calligraphy enthusiasts, stationery manufacturers, e-commerce vanguards. There was Aditya Bhansali, the man who is expanding the horizons for lovers of all things writing with sister Akanksha, who is even younger; there was Lavanya Rastogi who is giving the aficionados hiccups of an extremely happy kind and there was Richika Giri who is taking the entire act of personalising stationery to another level all together. As a matter of fact, Lotus, Ranga and the entire Constellations88 team comprised of people who literally got one murmuring Kaifi Azmi sahaab’s immortal words “ab tumhare hawale watan sathiyon” – not a lament that “kar chale hum fida jaan-o-taan sathiyon”, but as a sense of fulfilment that our generation’s love (and sacrifices that we have all lovingly endured) for the fountain pen is now safe in your young hands!
Finally, the Gods. Vishal Singhi had invoked, and the Gods from the pantheon of pens had descended on the show. K C Janardhan, Calligrapher with a cult following, the man who has established the World’s first museum dedicated to the science and art of Calligraphy was there, distributing handwritten visiting cards in all humility. Yusuf Mansoor who has more fountain pens in his collection than Tendulkar has test runs and is the grand daddy of the fraternity – restorer, collector, raconteur par excellence was there taking incredulous crowds through the history and development of the fountain pen. Prof Y D Pitkar – the Travelling Ink-pot, no less, was there in his unassuming splendour – his reputation as a collector: a man of letters, lettering and lettering aids preceding him with the brilliance matching the pieces of art collected and lovingly preserved by him. Sudhir Kalyanikar was there, tuning nibs for those who want to fill their quill with acid as well as the ones who want their pens to shower the most melodious ditty’s of love. Vaibhav Mehandiratta, ace architect and the rock star of fountain pen blogging in India – the man who administers most of the fountain pen communities that penophiles swear by was also there as were countless others, too numerous even for a people with thirty-three million deities to pay our individual obeisance. The event established a high watermark in terms of walk-ins, footfalls and participation – the involvement of enthusiasts in the calligraphy workshops – and the men and women who conducted them (may their quills never run out of ink) were stuff that dreams are made of. It also accorded an opportunity to the founding fathers of the Fountain Pen Association of India (FPAI) to spread the word among the like-minded. The membership drive is now on and those interested in joining the brotherhood against ball-points can contact email@example.com.