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Indian Pen Odyssey 1: Backpacker On A Mission!


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8 replies to this topic

#1 amk

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 09:47

introduction

I recently spent nearly six months in India, touring the north of the country and packing as many palaces, forts, temples and treks into the time as I could. That didn't stop me having time to pursue my interests as a pen collector, though. In every little town I visited, I'd look for stationers, and question them eagerly as to whether they had any fountain pens.

 

I ended up acquiring nearly a hundred pens. Some are cheapies that just illustrate what you can get for 15 rupees; others are rather lovely hand made ebonite pens of some distinction, or flashy acrylics. Just two cost more than a few hundred rupees – a lovely Ratnam celluloid, and a vintage Tintenkuli I wasn't expecting to see in India!

 

I'm sure little in this narrative will surprise Indian members of FPN. However, it might amuse them. I hope, though, it will be of use to FPNers from elsewhere who are planning a trip to India.

 

The state of the nation

 

I'd better qualify that; I didn't visit Kerala or Tamil Nadu this time out, nor Andhra Pradesh, where fountain pens appear to be more commonly in use. So my analysis may err a bit on the gloomy side.

 

At a guess, roughly half the stationers and pen stores I visited didn't have any fountain pens at all, or had only Heroes. (I found it interesting that Hero was often shown me when I asked for an Indian pen. So, occasionally, were other Chinese brands, the most common being Baoer.) The other half generally had one or two Indian brands, the commonest being Montex and Cello/Flair, and often had Parker as their premium pen. Camlin was also common, with the Elegante definitely making a splash in the better pen shops.

 

Pierre Cardin is also a prevalent brand in the mid-tier of the pen market. I have to say I don't like them; for the same money as a Parker, you get a lot of bling, but the quality seems poor (based on in-shop inspection - not having bought and written with one). Of imported pens, besides Parker, Sheaffer appears to have a reasonable representation in major cities' pen shops (eg Bhopal, Mumbai), though not in smaller cities. Waterman I hardly saw at all, whereas Lamy was better represented than I'd expected.

 

That still leaves about half the pen stores I visited selling only ballpens and rollerballs, which is sad. (A special prize for Misleading Trades Descriptions goes to Fountain Pen Depot on Relief Road in Ahmedabad, which had a single Parker and two Heroes, and a huge amount of ballpoints.)

A nice surprise was that some of the smallest towns had surprisingly good and numerous pen stores, at least for the lower and middle tiers of the market, with a good choice of models and brands; special mentions go to Vidisha, Chanderi, and Chamba (HP), as well as Datia (MP).

 

Chinese pens with their huge bling appeal have made a huge impact. What's disheartening is that they seem to be displacing locally made pens. If I want to spend 300 rupees on a pen, I'd rather have ebonite than thin lacquer or chrome – but I seem to be in a minority. The main identifiable brand other than Hero is Baoer; I didn't find many new Wing Sung, though people showed me older Wing Sungs a few times. Hero sells to the worker/user market - it's generally 45 to 60 rupees, the second level up from real cheapies like Jumax, Camay, Artex, but below Camlin's better pens and well below Parker.

 

One fact that does indicate the situation is less dire than I may have painted it; a lot of the shops that didn't have fountain pens did have fountain pen ink (usually Camel, at 15 rupees a pot, and occasionally Quink). Someone must be using it.

 

Continues....

 


Too many pens, too little time!

http://fountainpenlove.blogspot.fr/


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#2 hari317

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 10:10

Nice... :) waiting for more.


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#3 shrujaya

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 10:55

Yes...yes...me too...waiting for more...with photos of fountain pens as well...


Writing and posting about fountain pens exclusively on www.jaisiri.blogspot.in ... recent posts on Hema Pens (Hyderabad), Haul at Majestic (Bangalore), and Asoka Pens (Tenali)...

#4 de_pen_dent

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 14:01

[subscribing - I had gone on a pen hunt yesterday in Kolkata, so I'm definitely keen to read about OP's experience, given that mine is still fresh]


True bliss: knowing that the guy next to you is suffering more than you are.

#5 theadityajain

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 15:33

[subscribing - I had gone on a pen hunt yesterday in Kolkata, so I'm definitely keen to read about OP's experience, given that mine is still fresh]

Am looking forward to read your hunt too.  :thumbup:



#6 de_pen_dent

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 15:58

I'll take some photos and post them tomorrow - have to go back and collect a Sheaffer Triumph Lifetime in carmine, which the guy is restoring for me.   But back to the thread at hand, which i dont want to de-rail.

 

OP - looking forward to the rest of your report.  Especially as your pen-hunting has likely taken you to areas which are way off the trail, even for backpackers (most of whom stick to the Lonely Planet circuit the way a train sticks to rails).


Edited by de_pen_dent, 23 July 2013 - 15:59.

True bliss: knowing that the guy next to you is suffering more than you are.

#7 amk

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Posted 27 July 2013 - 22:17

Just got back from a little trip to the country - more posting tomorrow with some pen pictures, and if I can find them, pictures of some of the shops I visited with their proprietors.


Too many pens, too little time!

http://fountainpenlove.blogspot.fr/


#8 hari317

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Posted 28 July 2013 - 05:48

Just got back from a little trip to the country - more posting tomorrow with some pen pictures, and if I can find them, pictures of some of the shops I visited with their proprietors.

I think you should make a new thread with your visit report as the first post. You have created lots of interest now, cannot wait.


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#9 amk

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 13:26

Just thought I should add something that came up in conversation with another FPN'er.

 

Quite a number of the Indian FP manufacturers now rely at least partly on Western demand. In Delhi, I found that Kevin of Fountain Pen Revolution is a great customer of Serwex pens - they love dealing with him as he buys in big volume. In Aurangabad, I found Astra working as supplier for a number of well known western FP brands.

 

Then of course there's Ranga, which exports via eBay and via Andy's Pens in the UK and has clearly targeted the export market with its pricing policy. (I didn't visit this manufacturer as it's based down south.)

 

I wonder if India can overtake China as the world's FP outsourcer? :-)


Too many pens, too little time!

http://fountainpenlove.blogspot.fr/







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