One of the tools that Dr Sreekumar, a consulting anaesthesiologist now, was most interested in were the dye strips, which involved mixing a small strip of paper with a water-based solvent to produce one particular dye. This was how his love for inks and dyes began, and when he was 10, Dr Sreekumar had already started preparing his own ink for fountain pens.
“When we were younger, we had to use fountain pens to improve our handwriting. But, more than the pen, what fascinated me was the ink. Although nobody shared my interest when I was in school, I met like-minded people when studying MBBS and they would ask me to prepare the ink for them as well,” he said. Initially, Dr Sreekumar made colours that were not easily available in the market for his friends. By 2010, he had begun distributing it to a larger audience, and by 2014, he opened his store, Krishna Pens, on eBay.
In Palakkad where he lives, the 47-year-old prepares inks on his balcony, which he has closed off to make a room. With his wife and a staff member to help, they produce up to two litres of ink. “By this time, I had learned how to make fountain pens from AC Ramachandran, from the prestigious Kim & Co, a stationery shop in Kerala. I began selling pens online as well, and it got a lot of positive response.” This also caught the attention of Chennai-based Aditya Bhansali, founder of The Pen World. “In my first year of studying mechanical engineering, my roommate, who was from Haryana, told me that his dad would travel to Delhi once a month just for pens. I realised there was a gap in tier-2 and tier-3 cities for pens, and so, in my second semester, I started The Pen World,” said the 25-year-old.
Dr Sreekumar collaborated with Bhansali to market and sell his inks to a predominantly foreign audience, while he focused on producing more kinds of inks. Recently, the ink enthusiast developed a waterproof ink without gallic acid, which corrodes nibs. It is Dr Sreekumar and Bhansali’s dream to have more youngsters take up writing with fountain pens. According to Dr Sreekumar, fountain pens are more environmentally friendly. “The advent of technology has erased any need for writing. Calligraphy and writing with fountain pens can be a very relaxing practice,” said Bhansali.