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In Search Of The Nostalgic Misak Fountain Pens (In Hyderabad, India)...
Posted 29 October 2012 - 08:42
My own interest in procuring at least one Misak FP for my collection started with my friend and fellow FPNer, Hari’s response to one of the posts on Indian FPs on FPN...who informed me that he had managed to buy a couple of Misak FPs (probably the last pieces in that shop) from a shop somewhere near DPS Secunderabad and he had also mentioned the name of the shop (Gupta Pen Stores)...so, one evening, I went around that area looking for Gupta Pen Stores and found none...there was another pen shop nearby and I enquired there and the husband and wife duo (owners presumably) there told me that they no longer have any ebonite pens to sell, let alone a Misak FP...I went to DPS Secunderabad and asked them about the shop...Zubair tried to remember and told me that there is no such shop in the vicinity and there could be a shop similarly named somewhere in the older part of the city... I was disappointed...I asked Hari and he confirmed the name of the shop and the location...maybe I missed it...
Hari is the main source of information on FPs for me and he told me that he had also tried to find out about Misak Pens on the internet and found an address in Hyderabad where the Misak Pens shop/manufacturing unit is located...a place called Chappal Bazar...he promptly wrote a letter to the owner asking him about the brand and if they had any stocks left, but disappointingly and unfortunately the letter came back with ‘addressee not found’ scrawled on the cover...
Hari had also informed me that he had got to know that the brand name ‘MISAK’ is actually the name of the owner written in reverse...KASIM...maybe the Deccan people told him this... and he was also informed that Misak Pens is closed now and no more Misaks are being made...
The search for Misak was getting more and more disappointing...at that point in time, I used to enquire at every suitably old looking stationery shop for Misak pens...and the generally common answer I’d get was a nostalgic one tinged with regret...‘arre saab, Hyderabad mein bahut chalta tha Misak Pena-n...bandh ho gaya ab...koi bhi patte ka pen istemaal nahin karrein...’ (oh sir, Misak pens used to be very popular in Hyderabad...it is closed now...nobody uses ‘nib’ pens anymore...)
The night has to end sometime...and that daybreak happened one innocuous day when on my rounds checking old looking stationery shops, I found a really shabby looking shop in a very busy general shopping area...all kinds of note books, ledger books, cardboard boxes, stationery boxes, paper sheets, stacked here and there...it looked like an angry bull had entered the shop... I asked the man at the counter if he had any fountain pens...he showed me some cheap plastic ones...I asked for ebonite FPs...and he brought out a cardboard pen box and showed me some ebonite pens...I read the name on the clip...MISAK...oh man oh man oh man... I forgave the shop for looking so shabby...only if more shops were shabby, but held old treasures...well, I am getting ahead of myself here...he had some 6 similar looking thick mottled brown ebonite pens with the name MISAK on the clip...I opened the cap and looked at the nib... disappointment... not a Misak nib...the immediate conclusion was ‘not an original Misak’... I asked the person about the pen and asked him if these were new...he said they were new pens...I then told him that I had heard that Misak had closed shop long back... ‘yes, indeed,’ he said... ‘but one of my customers is based in the US and had asked me to locate some Misak pens for him...I managed to locate somebody in the family and they made me a small batch of FPs...and these 6 are the last ones...’ I didn’t want to ask any further questions... I checked all the 6 pens for nib smoothness and bought 4...at least the clip has MISAK on it...some consolation...
But as you can see, I was not satisfied...the soul of the pen was missing...and it was a kind of a reminder...‘your search doesn’t endeth here’... I left it at that... no point in running after a mirage...or a misak...for that matter...
It was not that easy, you see, to dismiss Misak totally out of my mind...though the spirit was willing, the flesh was weak and so the intensity got dimmed a bit... and all this was happening around two and a half years ago... and one evening I was in an auto-rickshaw travelling towards the older part of the city...the driver was somebody whom I engaged regularly for my book and pen explorations around the city and he knew my regular shops and my strange hobbies...there is this stationery shop which looked old enough and I had always wanted to stop and ask if they had any FPs...and moreover, the board had ‘Pen’ and Stationery on it, so that gave me some more hope...so on this day, I asked my driver to stop near the shop...there was a middle-aged gentleman manning the shop and I asked him if he had any FPs...he gave me the familiar nostalgia-laden answer...I asked him if he had any ebonite FPs from the olden days...he said ‘no’... and then he stopped himself for a second and said ‘let me see’...aha... a sliver of light seemed to appear at the end of the tunnel...I waited with bated breath...he seemed to be searching for something and seemed to have found it and came up with a dusty plastic pen folder...he then dusted it with a cloth...suspense was killing me...arre, clean it later, na...he then unzipped the folder and there were 4 pens there...3 of them mottled brown ebonite pens... he handed me the pens... did my heart skip a beat?...ALL THREE BROWN MOTTLED EBONITES WERE MISAKs...
This was truly unreal...I had to hide my excitement... I tried to look nonchalant... I opened the caps one by one...the first FP had a gold band on the cap...the nib had Misak on it...wonderful...the second one had no cap band... this nib also had Misak on it...more wonderful...the third one with the arrow clip turned out to be a ball pen with an ‘ancient’ looking refill still in it...no harm... it is always nice to have a complete range of a pen brand, if possible...in fact, I did not want to leave any Misak behind...I then asked him some general questions about the Misak brand...he said it was a very popular brand in Hyderabad at one point of time and of course now it is closed and the owner has migrated to the US or Dubai, he was not sure... very casually, I asked him the price of these 3 pens...by now I think he realised that I was hooked...and told me that he is offering me these pens at cost price, although these are now antique pieces...and he can ask for more...I just smiled...and he offered me each pen at cost price...which was fabulous...
Now I had 3 Misaks...two FPs with custom Misak nibs, something I was searching for...the ball-pen added variety...and there was a tremendous sense of satisfaction...as if I had made the pens myself...
What is special about these pens? Nothing much...they are simple looking ebonite FPs with no frills or fuss...but for a whole generation of Hyderabadis...Misak meant ‘fountain pens’...
And this happened around a year ago and I had wanted to write about my search and post pictures of my Misaks...and it never seemed to happen...a couple of weeks ago, I finally decided to create my Misak post...and as some kind of preparatory work, wanted to see if I can get some information on the Internet (though I have scoured the net many times earlier in search of information on Misak...)...and I found a piece of conversation (in a Hyderabadi forum chat) between two Hyderabadis...one living in Chicago and the other in Hyderabad...I have not mentioned their names here for obvious reasons...
The Hyderabadi living in Chicago writes in a nostalgic mood (in English transcribed Urdu) about how in the 1960s there was a shop in Putli Bawli called the Misak Pen Store and the pens sold here were inexpensive...Mr Kasim Husain was the owner of this pen store and that the name of pen was the reverse of his name...KASIM...MISAK...and because the pens were inexpensive, they were very popular and the owner used to repair pens for free in his shop...now I think the shop is closed...
The one in Hyderabad responds to this and writes in English that Misak Pens were popular in his school too... and that he was thankful for some of the useful details supplied by his compatriot in Chicago...he goes on to write that some samples of Misak could still be available in one of the book shops in Charminar area and that he wanted to buy one and keep it as a collectible... but had forgotten...and now this nostalgic reminiscence from Chicago has refreshed his memory and he offers to buy one and send it across to Chicago as a gift...
Well...after this very long narrative...here are the pictures...
This is the FP with Misak only on the clip...
The ‘original’ Misaks...2 FPs and 1 ball-pen...
Misak 1 – The one with the broad gold band on the cap...
The clip of the same pen...
Aha...the nib...with Misak on it...
Cap and nib
Misak 2 – the one without the cap band...
Clip with brand name...
The Misak without the Misak nib...
This picture is lovely...the name is etched very cleanly on the clip...
Yeah...it has got an Ambitious nib...
The Misak ball-pen...
The arrow clip with Misak on it...
The ancient looking refill...I bought this pen just for that...
Thanks for all the patience...I hope you liked reading this as much as I enjoyed recounting this search...
Posted 29 October 2012 - 15:01
Posted 29 October 2012 - 19:32
Thank you for taking the time to finally document the legendary Hyderabadi Misak pens. Very little is known about them other than what you have so nicely presented.
I own 4 Misaks. Some pictures:
The very first one that I bought from the now untraceable shop on RP road.
Misak (Regd) stamped faintly on the barrel, hope I have been able to capture it adequately.
A Group photo of the others, the second one is courtesy you, thanks! The last two were kindly sent to me by another generous Hyderabadi FPNer whose FPN handle is anup.singh in Feb2010 that he had found in a shop at "Chandanagar” close to BHEL Township in Hyderabad for a princely sum of 15 Rupees each!!
The nibs are quite worn, but these are Misak branded nibs, also the clips have Misak on them.
Edited by hari317, 29 October 2012 - 19:33.
Posted 30 October 2012 - 03:18
rewarded. This just goes to prove that a brand doesn't means much to a seeker looking for something else.
Recently my mother said had she known that I would be into fountain pens she would have saved all the Plato pens that her dad got her during her school years. Before that I had heard about Plato pens but never ever actively looked for one. But that's when it changed and that conversation ignited the search to find a Plato. Fortunately I was able to get a nice celluloid specimen from Christof from Sweden - small world eh!
These pens are quite nice, especially the first one which has the non-Misak nib.
Hari - thanks you for being such an enabler and regularly introducing us to such wonderful pens.
Posted 31 October 2012 - 14:43
Abhik...since each Indian pen that I have hunted has a story, maybe that's why the posts are so long...
Hari...your contribution to my FP collection continues to be invaluable...and you have brought more value to this post by posting pictures of your Misaks...keep the good work going, friend...
Markiv...I am glad that you finally found a Plato...it is only in hindsight that we feel we could have done simple things like keeping aside things that we or our parents were using...all those brands have become antiques now...For example, Wilson was such a common FP brand during my school days, but now it has become a collectible...I have found many pens in the least expected places and at the least expected time...which makes the finding all the more dramatic...sometimes I am speechless... and I am caught...
Posted 01 November 2012 - 11:01
I hope you enjoy your new finds as much as the world enjoys their snorks and vacs