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Prasad Ebonite ED Fillers, a FP brand from Tenali, Andhra Pradesh, India
Posted 06 November 2008 - 17:45
After a couple of days, she gave a phone number and told me that her uncle had managed to get in touch with the proprietor of Ashoka Pens and asked me to call the number and speak to the proprietor. I spoke to him the same day and the news was not so good. He told me that he had closed down his pen manufacturing unit almost 6 years back and had sold away all his machinery and stock. He said his pen manufacturing unit couldn’t withstand the ballpoint pen revolution and since it was a small scale industry, almost like a cottage industry, it couldn’t sustain prolonged sluggishness in business. I felt very sad and asked him if he had at least a couple of FPs for my collection and for posterity. He said that even he doesn’t have a sample of the pens manufactured by him and that his friend had taken away the lone FP he had. I continued the talk for a little while more, prodding his memory in the hope that he’d remember some forgotten cache where he had stowed away some pens. No such luck. But he said he knew another pen company called Prasad Pens in the same city and would ask the proprietor if he had any pens to spare.
I had heard about Prasad Pens…Hari had told me that Satish had gifted him 2 ebonite Prasad ED fillers and had also sent me the photos…and I think I had also seen a Prasad Pen with someone, I don’t remember who… In a sense, Prasad Pens follows in the footsteps of Ratnam Pens and Guider Pens, who set up pen companies in small towns in Andhra Pradesh…
I waited for a week, and then called the person at Ashoka Pens to enquire if he had spoken to the people at Prasad Pens. He said he had and gave me the contact number. I called this number and spoke to the current owner, Mr Anil Kumar Jain and told him what I wanted. He was happy that someone had taken the trouble to get in touch with him and that someone still used fountain pens in this age. He said Prasad Pens manufactured pens in four basic models – Duofold, Medium, Major, Baby – in four ebonite colours. I was aware of the three usual colours – black, mottled brown, and mottled green – but he said they also manufacture pens which are mottled white in colour. I was fascinated by this. I wanted one of each model and each colour…and I asked him if he had all of them…he said he had them and that he’d send them... I then asked him if he had any celluloid pens…he said he’d check and let me know…a couple of days later, he said he could give me 2 celluloid pens as they were left over from a batch of pens he had made earlier for a customer… I had always fancied celluloid pens and I was more than happy to accept the offer…and then…I waited…and waited…
While speaking to Mr Jain, I asked him a little bit about how Prasad Pens came about and he told me that his chief pen technician, Mr Poornachandra Rao, would be able to help me. Mr Rao has been working as a pen maker & technician with Prasad Pens for 40 years, he proudly said, and gave me some bits of history of Prasad Pens…
Prasad Pens was started by Mr Taniganti Prasada Rao in 1953 in Tenali, a district town in Andhra Pradesh. At one point of time in history, Tenali was a very important town in Andhra Pradesh known for its rich cultural and literary legacy. Tenali is best-known as the hometown of Tenali Ramakrishna (also known as Tenali Rama), the legendary poet and wit in King Krishna Deva Raya's court. Three canals of the Krishna River flow through Tenali making it a part of the rice bowl of Andhra Pradesh.
In its early days, Prasad Pen Company used to manufacture fountain pens and ball-pens in ebonite and celluloid. The company also made gold nib pens. But, their stock of celluloid is over and since celluloid has to be imported at exorbitant rates and is no longer viable, Prasad Pen Company now makes pens only in ebonite. They have also stopped making gold nib pens because of the increasing cost of gold and total dearth of skilled workers proficient in making gold nibs.
In 1977, the Prasad Pen Company was sold to the Jain family and the family has been managing the fortunes of the pen company ever since. It is clear that of late they haven’t been able to sustain the onslaught of various trendy, colourful, and lightweight ballpoint/gel pen brands and the rapid decline in the use of fountain pens has added to their gradual disappearance from the pen manufacturing scene. One of the signs is that one rarely hears of Prasad Pens. Let alone Andhra Pradesh, even most of the residents of Tenali don’t know that a fountain pen company exists and is struggling for survival in their midst.
I waited for a long long time after placing the order for the pens to be delivered…and finally after innumerable phone calls and almost one and half months, I received the pens and was disappointed to see that the pen I dreamed about most – mottled white ebonite – was not among them…I examined the other pens and they were uniformly good…the clip, nib, and feeder all had the ‘Prasad’ imprint on them, making them exclusive…I later spoke to Mr Jain and he said that they couldn’t get the material for the mottled white pen and therefore were not able to make it…the Duofold (it may not look like ‘the’ Duofold’, but it is what Mr Jain calls the pen) is the largest (both thickness and length) of the 4 models and the ‘Baby’ is the thinnest…in fact, it is the thinnest ebonite pen I have seen so far…
Once this entire exercise of discovering, ordering, and finally receiving the pens was over, I realised reflectively that the time taken from my first phone call till the delivery of pens was actually to make the pens with the existing material…and this batch of pens was probably one of the last batches of pens made by Prasad Pens…
When you see the photos, you will detect some blemishes, slight pitting, scratches, and so on…but these didn’t deter me from liking them…and again, like all other handmade pens from India, and especially, Andhra Pradesh, keen readers and collectors might detect a number of elements copied from more illustrious international brands, for instance, the Parker arrow inspired clip on the Baby…I dip tested all these pens and most of the pens are good writers and nibs are smooth and feel good to grip and write…
Some details and measurements for the discerning pen lover…
All the 4 models of Prasad nibs have “Prasad – 1st Quality – Alloy – Tipped Fine” engraved on them and an encircled letter ‘A’ at the bottom probably indicating that the nib maker ‘Ambitious’ is the manufacturer of these nibs…if the nibs are actually ‘Ambitious’ nibs, then going by previous experience, these nibs would last quite long…and again, all feeders too have ‘Prasad’ engraved on them…
Prasad Duofold: ED filler…this is the largest of the 4 models; 5 ¾ inches capped; 6 ¾ inches posted; and slightly more than 5 inches capped; black tapering slightly upwards cap jewel; clip has a slightly upraised centre section with ‘Prasad’ engraved on it; rounded bottom and flat slightly raised top…the Prasad Duofold can be compared in length and girth to Lamy Safari…
Here are the Prasad Duofold photos…
Prasad Major: ED filler…around half an inch shorter than the Prasad Duofold; 5 ¼ inches capped; 6.1 inches posted; 4 ¾ inches uncapped; the cap jewel is similar to the Duofold, in fact, all Prasad ebonites have similar cap jewels; rounded bottom; the clip is totally flat, bent straight from the top along the curve of the cap and straightening out, again with ‘Prasad’ engraved on it; compares with Waterman Hemisphere GT in length and girth…
Prasad Medium: ED filler; slightly more than 5 inches capped; 6 inches posted; 4 ½ inches uncapped; similar cap jewel and clip as Prasad Major; rounded bottom; slightly shorter and thinner than Prasad Major; can be compared with Parker Rialto in terms of length and thickness…
Prasad Baby: ED filler; the thinnest ebonite FP that I have seen so far; slightly more than 5 inches capped; 5 ¾ inches posted and 4 ¼ inches uncapped; again, the cap jewel is similar to the other Prasad pens; rounded bottom; the clip is different though, it is the arrow clip similar to the Parker model clips, with Prasad engraved on it…I have placed this model alongside Wing Sung 603 for comparison…
And finally, some group photos…
Friends…more than acquiring the pens, it was the journey towards locating the pens that was more exciting and tense…at one point, I wondered whether I’d get the pens or not…but thankfully, they arrived minus some promises, but all the same, the search has been eventful…
I keep hearing murmurs and rumours about other already extinct and soon to be extinct pen brands in many small towns in Andhra Pradesh…this is a small effort to rescue some of that entrepreneurial legacy of hand made fountain pens in India…I have sent out feelers to my friends and acquaintances across the state, something interesting might turn up…who knows…
I hope this entire narrative was not too boring for you…
Shrujaya (Jayasrinivasa Rao)
Posted 07 November 2008 - 16:46
PS: can you post some pics of the celluloid pens too?
Edited by hari317, 07 November 2008 - 16:49.
Posted 07 November 2008 - 18:54
Posted 07 November 2008 - 19:10
Posted 07 November 2008 - 19:11
Danitrio Fellow, Nakaya Nutter, Sailor Sailor (ret), Visconti Venerator, Montegrappa Molester (in training), ConwayStewart Champion & Diplomat #77
Posted 08 November 2008 - 04:04
Tom...I have seriously thought about compiling a history of FPs in India, at least of FPs in Andhra Pradesh, and I have talked about this to my partner in crime, Hari, too...I have put together a substantial amount of information about Ratnam, Guider, Deccan, Sultan, and now Prasad...lets see what happens... we should maybe try and put them in newspapers as articles...and take it from there... I have a problem though, I am a researcher and as research goes, I am not satisfied till I feel that I have enough information for a good rounding up...but sometimes, enthusiasm gets the better of me and I forget to ask for info...Thanks Tom, for your support...
Hari...Thanks yaar...the Prasad celluloid pics will be posted soon...
Shadows...all thanks to Hari for nurturing this friendship...and we hope we are giving all of you a glimpse of the FP world currently, and leaving you to viasualise what it would have been 40 years ago in all these small town FP manufacturing units...an urdu saying goes thus..."the ruins tell us that the edifice woud have been magnificent."
Thanks all of you...
Posted 08 November 2008 - 05:41
Not, Shrujaya, that I'm trying to talk you out of your book about Indian pens!! That is one volume I would jump at the chance to own!
Posted 10 November 2009 - 22:05
Your article has inspired me start collecting fountain pens. thanks to Hari, I have one of the Prasad pen now !!
Posted 14 November 2009 - 14:40
Posted 15 November 2009 - 02:41
There is indeed the need to preserve the history of pens made in the Indian continent.
Short of newspaper articles, a blog might be a good idea.
It could save short or long accounts of pen brand hunting, manufacturers finds and truly unique pictures of pens.
I also think that keeping the story and history of manufacturers is paramount.
It would be great to have a Pen from India subforum.
Posted 15 November 2009 - 07:08
with some great pics of some nice looking pens...and this must be the best story ever of how i came about this pen..
I feel this is the kind of story that can be passed on with the pens and told by generations to come, this pen .........
Thank you so much shrujaya for taking the time to post what is the most interesting pen story i have ever read.
Posted 13 December 2009 - 10:52
Its sad to learn that these already obscure indigenuous brands are nearing extinction.
PS: your photography is simply awesome!
Parker VS (rust)
Parker "51" aerometric (navy grey)
Sheaffer Snorkel Saratoga (burgundy)
Sheaffer Imperial IV Touchdown (green)
Posted 25 April 2010 - 01:48
I found a few more Prasad pens, these are of the Flattop variety, size the same as a modern Pelikan M400:
(subarashii) wonderful pens..
Where can I buy these pens? any website? contact info?
Let me know.
Posted 29 May 2016 - 23:20
I come to this conversation very late, and yet I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to know some of the details of the research that went into finding the Prasad pens as well as more Indian fountain pen history. Truly remarkable.
Remarkable that you were able to receive what may be the last batch. Such a historic collection.
I too would very much appreciate a compiled history of Indian pen making.
Posted 01 June 2016 - 09:10
Thanks a lot, AD ... I am pleased to see that an 8 year old post still has interested readers ... yes, AD, those were the days of FP frenzy when I wanted to collect all the local FP brands that were available in my part of the world and it was an exciting search ... I am happy that you found the search as well as the account of it remarkable ...
Posted 01 June 2016 - 09:31
This is a great post Shurjaya. It is such a shame they have presumably now ceased making pens. I really like the care and pride they show in their product by marking the feed and nib. Thanks for sharing.
Posted 01 June 2016 - 15:52
I can only imagine that there are many other small shops, like the ones you discovered, scattered all over India.
It is wonderful that you have honored this company, their pens, and the makers in such a heartfelt way.
Please don't stop! There must still be many places like this left. It would take time and research (as anything does), but what rewards to speak to these craftspeople about their long lost arts.