Its an intimidating task to write something about the famed Gem & Co. from Chennai, the creator and seller of some truly world class Indian fountain pens since 1920s. That's enough time for the world to spin a lot around its axis, witnessing rise and fall of different eras and trends, embracing changes with open hands but at the same time discarding some sweet little memories and moments to the endless flow of time.
In another kind of world, Mr. M.C. Cunnan, and his business partner S. Venkat Rangam Chetty, started one store for writing instruments in the bustling Parry’s Corner area in Chennai. At that time India was under British rule, Chennai was Madras, and it was the capital of the whole Madras Presidency. Fountain pens were the means of writing, and business flourished. Gem and Company gradually became one of the largest pen stores in southern parts of India and were dealers in most of the famous brands of that time like Parker, Sheaffer and Pilot. They also carried out repair work on these pens.
After a few years into the business, they decided to start designing and producing their own brand of high quality fountain pens. And thus the brand "Gama" was born. The 'Great' Gama Pahelwan was the stage-name of Indian wrestler Ghulam Muhammad. He defeated most of the big wrestlers from all around the world during the first three decades of the twentieth century. Gem and company decided to name their own pens in reverence of this amazing strongman, signifying both the strength and the performance of these pens. It was around 1940s that these pens were introduced in the Indian market. Initially these pens were made in England. Made of good ebonite material and having quality gold nibs, Gama brand quickly gained popularity among Indian fountain pen users and gradually became a big name for our fountain pen Industry.
Long gone are those golden days, with advent of Ball point pens, fountain pen industry declined steadily. After Mr. Cunnan, his son Mr. M. Prabhat Kumar became the owner, followed by his son, the third generation in the family, Mr. Pratap Kumar. The shop stands at the same location witnessing the rise and fall of fountain pens, the workshop for repair and production stands a few blocks away. The number of skilled repairmen and shop workers going through steady decline, the number of people interested in fountain pens dwindling by the day. Mr. Pratap is a through gentleman, responding to queries and greetings heartily. Many models are not produced anymore, steel nibs has taken the place of golden ones, still Gem and company remains creator of some of the best fountain pen models from India.
Presently GAMA pens are available online through ASA pens website, and either Mr. Subramaniam or Mr. Pratap can be contacted for customization.
Today I am going to review GAMA Kuyil. The word 'Kuyil' in Tamil means Cuckoo bird. Most probably the name of this elegantly designed pen drew inspiration from the beautiful singing of the bird.
This is a large, strong, beautiful looking eyedropper ebonite pen in matte black finish, with a reasonably smooth 'Indian' fine nib.
1. Appearance & Design: The pen came in a black velvet pouch with Gama written at the lower end. This pen looks very impressive. It is a flat topped rod shaped pen with slight tapering towards both ends. The top of the cap is a bit larger than the bottom of the pen. The cap has a chrome clip with the top finial flushed with the body, thus concealing the ring of the clip. There is no end ring at the base of the cap, but that actually matches the overall design of the pen. The clip is a flat sturdy clip with good springiness. The cap takes about two and half turns to screw on the body and there is no tightness.The section is glossy black finish and it compliments the brushed body. The section gently tapers towards the nibs and ends in a chrome coloured monotone no 6 nib. Just before the end, the section has a small flaring ring like finger rest for easy support of fingers. The section is quite thick in comparison to other ebonite pens. Branding in the form of the word 'Gama' is written on the barrel in italic script, and the quality of this engraving is very good. The words are put down with crisp margins. To compliment the brushed body, both the top and bottom of the pen is of glossy black surface. The Cap ends in a beveled edge which is again polished.
The Gama Kuyil
2. Construction & Quality : The first thing I noticed with most Gama pens is the thickness of the ebonite. The walls of both the body and section is very thick. This makes the pens quite heavy in comparison to other ebonite pens, but at the same time the feel is amazing. It does the name Gama full justice as the pens appear very strong and tough. The brawny pens looks premium in hand. The brushed finish is very well executed and the feeling is great to the fingers. I didn't find any lathe marks or impurities in the ebonite, which is a common complaints with Indian ebonite pens. The cap has one minute breather hole, which is in line with the Gama branding on the barrel. The monotone nib has some simple designs and Gama written beneath that. No nib grade is written. The feed is a simple ebonite feed. The section screws on the body by about 4 turns, there is some tightness initially while turning and there is no leak if some silica gel is used carefully. Overall this pen will last a lifetime if used with due care and the brushed look would prevent scratches and marks appearing on body or cap on extensive use.
3. Weight & Dimensions: This is a jumbo sized pen. I think this is meant to be used un-posted, as the length gets ridiculous for proper gripping when posted, unless, obviously one has a giant palm. Its a bit heavy pen, but the balance is perfect. The section is very thick due to thick ebonite wall, but this doesn't feel uncomfortable while long writing sessions. I personally prefer pens with a section thickness of around 11.5 mm, but still didn't have much problem while using it for the last few weeks.
From Left to Right: Pilot Metropolitan, Lamy Safari, Gama Kuyil
Length capped: 152 mm
Length of uncapped pen: 138 mm
Posted length: 180 mm (!!!!)
Nib length: 24 mm
Diameter of section: 16 mm- 13 mm
Cap length: 70 mm
Ink capacity- 3.5 ml
4. Nib & Performance: The pen comes with a friction fit Monotone #35 steel nib with Indian fine grade by default, which is between European medium and Japanese fine. Its a smooth nib with a hint of feedback which helps good control during writing. The nib had a bit of scratchiness out of the box, but these feeds take some time to get primed as well, so after using it for three days, it became very smooth and pleasant.
One thing I stress here, Indian fountain pen makers can accommodate any International nib as per customer's choice these days, if requested at the time of order. So, one can get this pen made with other nib grades as well. Personally, I am a big fan of Indian smooth fine nibs and thus have many of the pens in their default states. There is no flex in the nib. I don't know whether golden nibs are still available with Gama, but they might have some left with them.
5. Filling System & Maintenance: This is an eye-dropper pen with huge ink capacity. I encountered no burping issues, but as a precaution I keep the ink level more than one third of the barrel. Even then, the ink capacity is very helpful for long writing sessions. There is occasional burping if there is large fluctuations in outside temperatures all of a sudden. Custom fitted Schimdt nib and feed can prevent these occurrences. I think the maker can accommodate other filling systems as well on request, though I personally haven't asked for any such changes in my Gama pens.
6. Cost & Value: The pen is priced at around INR 1200-1500 ( around US $38 ) according to customization. Its a fairly cheap pen with simple design but great appearance and strong built. One can use this cheap pen as a daily writer without compromising on the quality side.
The Cons: The big size, thick section and weighty feel may not appeal to some users, particularly fans of slim pens. Eyedroppers are meant for advanced users as there is every chance of some leaking or burping, which may vary from particular copy to another copy. Only 'fine' nib grade by default is a problem that may require customization.
7. Conclusion : The hallmark of 'Gama' brand is the quality in materials and performance, in this respect the Kuyil is a great value for money pen. This one is a must have pen for every Indian fountain pen lover. One can contact ASA pens and Gem and company to check for availability and customization for nib and filling mechanism.
Mr. Subramaniam from ASA pens have one particularly helpful option of 'fountain pen testing', under which he tests the nibs of particular pens before dispatch. So, if one is not sure about the Gama nibs, they can opt for the testing option I have six Gama pens at present and hardly faced any problems regarding Gama nibs.
ASA website ASA
Whatsapp no of Mr. Subramaniam - +91 9176607660
ASA email- firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
No of Mr. Pratap- +91 9884209055
Edited by Samrat, 31 October 2016 - 18:05.