CALICUT CITY- SOME UNTOLD STORIES
I don’t how many could believe that Calicut, a city of Kerala, have such a rich heritage in fountain pens- so that it may be called as the pen city of Kerala. Probably as the only man in FPN from Calicut, I take the responsibility to present our city in this forum.
The pen productions have started in early 1950s. By 1955-1960, there are four major firms of pen making. Don’t think that these are big companies producing pens and marketing in wide areas. Actually these are four pen shops, and each shop produced pens for their own shops only. And because of this poor marketing strategy, they are almost unknown to the outside world. As the healthy competition continued, many beauties have born.
The pen history can be roughly be divided into 6 phases.
- 1950 - 1955 PEN PRODUCTION begins .
- 1955 - 1960 CONSOLIDATION PHASE – By this period all the 4 pen shops came into existence and production started at full swing.
- 1960 - 1970 THE GOLDEN ERA. This period have witnessed these shops running in full glory, churning out the maximum number and variety of pens.
- 1970 - 1980 THE DECLINE STARTS
- 1980 - 1990 THE BIG DECLINE
- 1990 - PRESENT.
All the things happened right here- in the SM Street. The most busy street of Calicut. SM stands for Sweet Meat. Wondering what’s sweet meat ? . It’s nothing like meat. A hard rubbery confectionary -or Calicut Halwa- as known outside Calicut. You can see a lot of shops selling this here. They are available in a variety of colours and flavors—atleast twenty I think- more that what colours you are getting for a Sheaffer Skrip or Waterman range of inks!
For those who don’t know, Calicut ( or KOZHIKODE) is a city situated in the coastal Malabar area of Kerala, India. It’s the only place in Kerala where fountain pens are made.
Calicut is also known as the Biriyani capital of Kerala. Wonder why .. all pen cities are famous for their biriyanis also ..!? the Malabari biriyani is made in process were all the rice, meat and the spices are cooked in a closed container where the soft aromas and infused to rice in a slow process of around 5-6 hrs.
Now, coming to the story part - The whole credit of fountain pens of Calicut goes to one and only person- Mr. M. Haneefa Rawthar- for without him the story would not have happened. People called him Haneefa Saheeb. He came from somewhere in Tamil Nadu in around or before 1950. At that time ( and now also) many people comes from other states to Calicut as merchants. His first visit was somewhere around 1950. He came with a huge collection of fountain pens- used and new, along with a lot of spare parts.
Usually persons coming to Calicut are attracted by the hospitality and friendliness of natives and most of the merchants and traders later decided to settle here. Haneefa Saheeb was no different.
Don’t think that there was no pens at all before Haneefa Saheeb. Imported pens like Waterman, Black bird, Swan were there. These were costly and not afforded by all. Apart from regular pens, dip pens were also popular.
Ink tablets were also popular at that time. For making ink, you have to dissolve tablet in water!
For dip pens, thicker inks were made with tablets dissolved in lesser water. Also they were available at very cheap rate compared to an ink bottle. Any ink manufacturer reading this?
Coming back to Haneefa Sahib, a man with no formal education, but lot of experience from worldwide travelling and visiting so many countries, now at his fifties or sixties, toying with the idea of starting a pen shop at Calicut.
FIRST PEN SHOP OF CALICUT
The first pen shop of Calicut opens in SM street in 1950. As expected the shop flourished very quickly. This shop later became Kim and Co pens, as known today. As he sold new and old pens, he provided them with good service, as he had a huge collection of spares.
Kim and Co shop at Calicut.( at present)