January 14, 2010

Gandhi's ink pen was made in Rajahmundry

Exposition:
I am not comfortable writing with anything that is transparent or even remotely translucent. Ever since I have been allowed to write with a pen (class 4), I have been writing with a fountain pen and hence I consider myself an expert in judging fountain pens, the only qualification for expertise being the inability to write comfortably with a ball point pen. I gladly attribute my good handwriting[citation needed] to the smooth flowing fountain pens.

Rising Action:
Very recently, while I was doing my usual research, (clicking random links and reading whatever I click) I ran into a news article (dated 1st October, 2009) in which the luxury pen maker Mont Blanc has announced a “limited-series” gold and rhodium Mahatma Gandhi special edition pen to commemorate the 1930 Dandi March. The pen costs about fourteen lakh rupees (Rs 14,00,000) and they are selling 241 pens to mark the 241 mile march.

Isn’t it ironic that the man who stood for the poorest of poor is exploited as a brand to sell pens to the richest of rich? If anyone really wants to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi, they should buy Ratnam Pens.

Flashback:
Mr. K. V. Ratnam was from a family of goldsmiths who were also involved in making lithographic blocks. He met Gandhiji during the swadeshi movement in 1921. Gandhiji advised him to make something that could be useful to the common man and that was inexpensive. That was when they started making pens. In 1932, the first pen was ordered by Nyapati Subba Rao Pantulu, one of the founders of The Hindu. It was made of silver.

Ratnam then made a pen from ebonite material and sent it as a gift to Mahatma Gandhi who wrote back to him commending it (scanned copy of the original letter that is displayed in the store, click for a bigger version). The pens retained their status and popularity even after independence and boasts of clients like Indira Gandhi, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Shankar Dayal Sharma, S Kasturiranga Iyengar (founder of The Hindu) and Ramnath Goenka (founder of the Indian Express Group) and Jayanth Tadinada (pro blogger, gtoosphere) among thousands of others.

In the late 1950s, K. V. Narasimhacharyulu, the son of Ratnam went to Germany and on his return started a ballpoint pen manufacturing unit for the first time in India in Rajahmundry. Ratnam’s two sons continue to run the pen business to this day from Rajahmundry.

Epilogue:
*
Ratnam Sons have an extensive catalogue with ebonite fountain pens starting from Rs. 55 and the custom made Gold and Silver pens can go up to Rs. 30,000.

* They make really awesome customized gifts which can be ordered by phone and are shipped within a week.

* I recently bought yet another Ratnam pen and absolutely love it. (It is way better than the Chinese ‘Hero’ pens)

* My handwriting used to be very good but has declined after coming to IIT because I don’t take notes and use the computer for everything (may some of my school friends or family members can give a citation)

* This post is getting way too long to maintain the reader’s attention.

11 comments:

  1. pro blogger :P

    nice article by the way .. :)

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  2. interesting ... did not know the history, though used a Ratnam fountain pen long ago ... will try to get one when I visit RJY next time :)

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  3. A few people have been asking for contact details of the shop. The phone number and email address of the shop can be found in the image :)

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  4. jayanth!! i love the way you write! OMG! i think im your greatest fan!!!

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  5. Interesting! And ahoom ahoom, excuse me but Gandhi's 'caligraphy'..............wonder if he was using a Ratnamson pen! (:P)

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  6. @J... Well, a poor handwriting is consistent with his image of being poor and simple in all aspects...

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  7. I'm proud to say a Jayanth Tadinada was born in my home state of Andhra

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  8. I truly appreciate you taking the time to post this.  I really liked reading through it and am looking forward to more posts from you!  Keep up the good work.

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  9. I want to know the names and address of KV Narasimhacharyulu's son's who have th pen business in Rajahamundry till date.
    Sulekha p

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  10. Chaala bagundi! I was hunting around for this scanned letter for a while now. Thanks for posting. Would be interesting to know if you use any other FPs. In my days in Hyderabad, I was a regular shopper at Deccan Pens. They still make some wonderful ebonite pens. You'd be surprised how popular Ratnams have become abroad these days.

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don't be lazy