The moving finger writes: Sulekha Ink and its collector's edition 'Swadeshi line'

The pandemic trend of physically putting words on paper has created a renaissance that proves the pen is mightier than the keyboard.
Sulekha Ink MD Kaushik Maitra
Sulekha Ink MD Kaushik Maitra

Not too long ago, author and columnist Twinkle Khanna posted pages from her notebook on social media announcing that she had made the big shift from typing to writing by hand. Her grand return to writing longhand summed up the year gone by for most of us who were cooped up indoors.

The soulless keyboard couldn't provide succour and so people gave typing a miss and picked up a paper to scribble and scrawl.

Nostalgia reloaded It reflected how the demand from fountain pen lovers and ink aficionados led Sulekha Ink to start production, and launch its Collector's Edition - Swadeshi line - in November 2020; Swaraj and Swadhin lines are expected in the coming months.

The indelible ink had been a part and parcel of our lives for long. so much and so, that filmmaker Ranjan Ghosh revisited its glorious past through reel character, Atanu Ganguly, in Ahaa Re.

A former employee of Sulekha Ink, Atanu reminisced how Rabindranath Tagore had named it, and the entity was started at Rajshahi in Bangladesh in 1934 and commercial production at Jadavpur and Sodepur plants, before being shut down, leaving many like him jobless.

Taking the conversation forward, Kaushik Maitra, Managing Director, says, "Sulekha's history is etched in the history of India's freedom struggle. It was born out of a compulsion to serve the Mahatma's desire to empower the people with the pen. We are paying a humble tribute to the halcyon days of yore. Swadeshi was the soul of Swaraj and our forefathers aimed to be Swadhin." 

The launch was welcome news for fountain pen collectors like Kolkata-based Suvobrata Ganguly, who still writes by hand using the pen inherited from his father. "Fountain pens teach me about precision, craftsmanship, and passion, all of which I try to communicate through my writing," says Ganguly.

Write way Although computers may dominate our lives but a mastery of penmanship brings important cognitive benefits and a decline in this basic skill may spell a cultural tragedy. Mumbai-based handwriting advocate and founder of Katha Kathan, Jameel Gulrays, finds unparalleled joy in writing by hand.

"I find it easier to write than type. When I hold a pen, thoughts flare up in my mind, the rush of emotions takes the shape of words and reflects on paper. The creativity is sparked by holding a pen alone," he says.

Operating a keyboard is more about pressing the right keys while writing is the result of a singular movement of the body. "As a person holds the pen, stimulated by the brain impulses, two muscle groups - extensor and flexor - work in tandem to help write. Writing by hand enhances one's brain's efficiency," explains Bharti Rakheja, psychotherapist and personal success coach.

Writing has always been seen as the reflection of personality, and one can work on changing some traits by changing the formations and style of writing.

Calling graphology an underexplored dimension of therapy, graphologist Sayli Udas-Mankikar says, "We study the lines, circles, loops and patterns in an alphabet, each of which signifies something. In some cases, we can change the way an alphabet is written to reinforce what the person needs to bring in life."

Business sense

The lockdown brought a creative windfall for The Indian Handwritten Letter Co, Bengaluru-based firm that specialises in personalised handwritten letters in 13 languages. The company saw a surge in its orders during the pandemic from 700 per month to 1,500.

Bengaluru-based Prof KC Janardhan, who is known for handwriting, lettering, calligraphy and graphonomy, has been running courses under the J's Golden Hand for more than three decades. Sulekha Ink's new launch has received an overwhelming response from all over India and Bangladesh, and also from as far as the UK and USA.

It gives Suvobrata a reason to cheer. "Fountain pens are back in vogue. It bodes  well for the environment. Unlike a ball pen, these last longer and can curb plastic pollution," he quips.

Handwriting could also be the best way to beat digital apps' privacy concerns, says Janardhan with a chuckle. 'If you want your thoughts to be private, write it down on paper. If someone wants to steal it, he or she can do it only in person," he adds. True that!

J's La Quill Museum in  Bengaluru

The museum was inaugurated by the Italian Ambassador Lorenzo Angeloni and DH Shankara Murthy, Chairman-Karnataka Legislative Council of Karnataka on February 4, 2016

  • Collected, created and curated by Prof KC Janardhan 

  • It is the one-of-its-kind museum of handwriting, lettering, calligraphy, fountain pens, rare books and writing instruments

  • The private museum aims to preserve the art form of handwriting, lettering and calligraphy in its purest form and style for posterity 

  • It helps experience the power of writing in this digital age

  • It is a custodian of emotions because contributors have donated their prized possessions of writing instruments

Penning history

  • Swadeshi edition has been recreated using the same exacting standards and mostly the same ingredients with which Sulekha made the first inks for Mahatma Gandhi

  • The carafes are packed in a handmade pouch and come from Shantiniketan

"Writing in a diary is a tool I employ when I feel that a touchscreen phone's autocorrect function will meddle with my words, hindering the flow of my thoughts," says Manish Gaekwad,  author of Lean Days.

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express