The Holy Trinity – Prof Yashwant Pitkar, Yusuf Mansoor and BESC makes the fountain pen the common cause
What can a professional architect have in common with a marine geologist that would attract students by the droves to hear them speak, that too on a holiday? Prof Dilip Shah, the Dean of Student Affairs of the Bhawanipur Education Society College (BESC) asked rhetorically right up front. “Passion” he said, “an all-encompassing passion that has made the two speakers of the day what they are – globally acknowledged authorities in their chosen fields of excellence”. The same passion, the unending quest for distinction that drives the BESC.
Prof Yashwant Pitkar – architect, teacher, photographer has many distinctions. But the one moniker that is his favourite is the one that calls him the “travelling inkpot”, for apart from his collection of fountain pens, he also as painstakingly gathered inkpots – inkwells, inkstands, blotters – a collection that is literally peerless in the world. Prof Yashwant Pitkar shared his knowledge and love for the subject with the audience through a presentation – “Fountain Pens – instruments of writing, objects of desire”.
Yusuf Mansoor – known as the “Grand Daddy” of fountain pen collectors in India, has more than ten thousand fountain pens in his collection built over more than three decades now and is a walking encyclopaedia on the history and evolution of the fountain pen, apart from the growth and development of the industry in the country. Yusuf Mansoor, who had travelled from Patna only to address the students had brought with him a hundred and fifty fountain pens that covered the entire spectrum: from rare through vintage to antique.
Also present on the occasion were select members from the fraternity of fountain pen lovers in Kolkata who joined the students of the BESC and lapped up every word that was said by the masters by way of their presentations. Prof Yashwant Pitkar, who has also had the honour of conducting a twelve-day workshop in one of the country’s premier management institutes, that had dwelled exclusively on the design elements that go into enhancing the aesthetics and functionality of fountain pens, enlightened the audience with such fine nuances that the exclamation of wonder was audible. His presentation – a culmination of a journey spanning many years of hard-core research that only the most passionate of lovers are capable of embarking upon, was not only brilliant in terms of thought, but also unparalleled in the richness of its content.
Yusuf Mansoor rued the unfortunate “elitist” tag that has somehow come to label all lovers of fountain pens. “We would rather be known as users. Users of fountain pens. People who write and sketch and doodle and communicate with fountain pens. People who carry fountain pens they way others wear their watches and carry their mobile phones”. And having said that, he went on to spell out his life’s mission – to get more people to wield the fountain pen, to get more youngsters to write with them, to elevate the fountain pen from being an object of desire, a hobby, to one that is put to daily use!
His presentation – where he highlighted the rich and varied legacy of fountain pen making in India, backed by actual demonstration of the pieces that symbolised particular eras, was “amazing” as the college students murmured in hushed wonder. The next part, which dwelled at length on the different ink filling systems – their efficacy and the reasons behind their development was equally breath taking, for the raw students and the collector-connoisseurs in the audience alike. And even if that didn’t have the audience gasping for more, the spread of fine writing instruments that was laid out for all to admire, even touch, feel and scribble their names with, certainly did.
The selection of fountain pens that are currently (read proudly) Made in India and possessed by the savants around the word, was the most pleasant take-away for the students who had assembled.
“I will be failing in my duties if I do not acknowledge, that too with the deepest gratitude, the way the BESC went about facilitating the organisation of the event. The Bhawanipur Education Society College (BESC) is known to be one of the most progressive among the educational institutions in these parts of the world and the way it is going about in its efforts to help students embrace the fountain pen is not only commendable, but deserves a salute from us lovers of the fountain pen. We are humbled by your gracious hospitality and honoured to become a part of your efforts to expand the horizons” said Yusuf Mansoor in parting.