You Know When it Clicks

The Mighty Fountain Pens from Click Pens


Fountain pens may be a fetish in 2021. In stark contrast, the era of the 1990s wasn’t kind to either fountain pens or their makers. And unlike most of the manufacturers who faded into the books of our long-forgotten history, a few not just survived but flourished and sailed through the turbulent tides of time. One such story of the might of the fountain pens and the determination of their makers is of the Gagwani family, the owners of Click Pens. They couldn’t be happier sharing their experience with me. Harsh welcomed me to meet him at his workshop — an offer I was not going to reject. Amidst the prevailing circumstances of COVID-19, I couldn’t have expected any warmer welcome.


The Timeline

The first-generation of Gagwanis, Shri Gokuldas Gagwani, came to Indore, Madhya Pradesh and set up a manufacturing unit that acted as OEM for local, national brands. His brush with the renowned Wilson Pens made it relatively easier for him to look into the whole process with a keen and observant eye. For a considerable part of the then-growing business, Click Pens continued to bring industry-first innovations, like India’s first Matt-finish writing instrument and were amongst first in India to introduce aeromatic ink-filling mechanisms. All that while the demand for fountain pens continued to plunge into the seemingly never-ending gorges.


With an undying spirit, the Gagwanis chose to continue to invest in the no-longer flourishing business units. They bought, for example, Blue Nile in 2009 and Serwex in 2015 to expand their portfolio up to over 80 models. And if this wasn’t enough, they introduced their very own — conceived, designed, and manufactured — product from Click Pens, the Aristocrat series. This, as the youngest Gagwani likes to call, the “no-nonsense pen.” He demonstrated how despite him shaking the pen, the ink didn’t spill through onto the section. But — unlike the ink — that’s not the only instance where the quality seeps through; more on it in a bit.

Click Pens also works as an OEM for some well-known fountain pen brands in the United States of America. Even though I am bound by the condition to not reveal the names, I deduce two things: one, that workmanship and consistency are top-priority for Click Pens, and two, even if I happen to buy a pen from ‘that’ brand, the Swadeshi in me will still be getting a high-quality India-made pen.


The Quality that Speaks for Itself

Through my professional experience, I realize that I can sell a product only once. That is, if the product is outstanding, it will continue to sell by itself. Aristocrat isn’t any exception; the product sells itself. Given its asking price, the construction quality is top-notch. The pen neither squeaks nor spills. It doesn’t burp. In fact, you can choose from an assortment of colors and nib choices. And, because there isn’t any harm in asking for more, the pen — entering 2021, that is — comes with a replaceable nib unit. So, you can swap any nib unit of your choice from the Falcon or Renaissance series.


All pens come with a multi-threaded design. This means, even if the threads are noticeable, they are neither obtrusive nor any pain in the opening-and-closing operations. You can pick any pen from Click. I repeat. Any pen. And it opens and closes in less than two-and-a-half turns. I have, for the comparison, a Guider Medium Ebonite. It has an equal number of threads, and it takes me about four turns, at the very least, to open or close it.

The Work and the Workshop

The workshop spans a structured, well-laid-out area where production and assembly are carried out. The storage area is well-secured and contains all parts for all current and previous models, including some old, discontinued pens made using cellulose acetate butyrate (CAB) plastic.

There is a dedicated aisle for injection molding. Aside from some industry-specific machines that I could not take a picture of, the remaining workshop area is divided equally amongst the molding, tapering-and-turning, and polishing-and-buffing sections. A part of the workshop is also reserved for the final assembly and quality-check processes. 


The Target

Success isn’t a day’s affair. You have to continue to invest yourself in it. Harsh invested himself into this business when he turned 16. And, he hasn’t had to look back since then. First Aristocrat, then Falcon, and now Renaissance. With each iteration and every model that Click Pens has introduced since they have continued to build better products. Harsh is also working on a few innovations, a couple of which, if he is satisfied with the quality (I like how he continues to focus on it), will see the light of the day “very, very soon.”


I remain one fountain pen enthusiast who will wait for more products from Click Pens more frequently. I am, at least, relieved that my purchase proposition will be a “no-nonsense” product of good quality. And — because I am speaking of quality — I will say that with sufficient references to the stories and learning from the history of Click Pens, I will know when it clicks. 🙂



One more thing! I also had a chance to buy (and try) a few pens from them. I the upcoming reviews, I will share my thoughts on and experiences with those pens.

Until then, happy writing.

Show me the Way

When the dark skies of uncertainty
Don’t let the light gleam through.
And it’s impossible to see, decipher
In the absence of any hope-resembling ray.
I, with folded hands and eyes tightly shut,
Shall look up to you and thus begin to pray.

It is that time again.
I must choose.
That time to commit — Yay or nay!
Believe in belief.
Tread towards my true north
Amidst walloping winds that are at play.

I must go the extra mile:
Beyond my boundary.
Accomplish the impossible,
for that’s how I’ll make a merry.
Then I churn into gold what’s my stack of hay.
You lent me the idea. Now enlighten my way.

©Suyog Ketkar
September, 2021

Twenty Words Tuesday: Week 40 Prompt

Thank you, Bulbul’s Bubble, for this week’s writing prompt.

So, here’s my entry for #TwentyWordsTuesday, a 20-words-story-prompt. which for this week is Wall.


Wall

It took him years to build the ladder to climb and look beyond what lay behind her mental wall. Nevertheless.


If you, too, would like to participate, just:

  • Write a story in exactly 20 words, excluding the title. The story must highlight the prompt of the week.
  • Tag her post
  • Leave a link to your attempt in the Comments section in her post.

I hope that you like my humble attempt.

Product Review: Guider Medium Ebonite Handmade Pen

I had always wanted to write with an ink pen. More so, a handmade pen. After all, anything handmade is, more often, made with a little bit of extra care. My search, as of now at least, has concluded with something that fits my pocket, budget, and requirements. It is the Medium Ebonite Handmade pen from Guider Pen Works that I am talking about. Let’s delve.

Built and Construction

The pen seems built solidly. It’s just one single piece of ebonite, crafted like a cigar with a difference that the cap is a bit larger than the body.

The top finial is crowned to extrude out of the clip. Fashion is subjective, and so is the way this pen is crafted, for it looks a lot like the Montblanc Meisterstuck. But that’s not important, anyway. This pen looks like it will age well.

The pen comes with a butter-smooth nib (spoiler alert) and a Schmidt international converter. I had seen them ship an extra nib, but I guess that’s applicable for only ED pens. Mine came with a German nib unit, which is costly. And I am more than happy with what I got.

Here are a few specifications of the pen:

  • Length of the pen (closed) – 144 mm
  • Length of the pen (open and unposted) – 127 mm (including the nib)
  • Length of the Grip Section – 18 mm

The best part is that the threads on the section are unobtrusive. If anything, they help you grip better. The pen opens in about 3 and a half turns, which isn’t bothersome either.

Nib and Nibbling

A better part of describing a pen should be about how it performs. And, we could hardly keep ourselves from talking about such great nibs. Yet, when Mr. G Laksham Rao told me that all his pens in the ebonite series came with German nibs, it lent the required food for thought. What is the use of “food for thought” if it doesn’t make you hungry to explore any further?

For such reasons, I got myself a Schmidt #6 in Broad (update: Lakshman Garu told me later that it is #5 and not #6). The nib is sufficiently wet and transfers words effortlessly on paper as it glides smoothly as a hot knife glides through butter. The nib is so smooth that it demands me to write faster. In my case, it yearned for me to nibble bites from my thoughts one after another. I wrote five long pages of nonsense the moment I picked and unscrewed the pen.

The feed is plastic. And until you reach the break-in stage for this pen, which should be as early as a couple refills, the pen will tend to skip a bit. But then it could also be because of the combination of the thirsty Broad nib, the plastic feed, and the quick-drying Parker Quink.

If you want, you can order the nib unit separately and interchange it easily by unscrewing the old one and replacing it with the new one.

The Right and the Write

The pen is a lightweight champion. Even though it is front-heavy, the weight appears to be balanced evenly throughout the section and the barrel. It is also that the weight is just right enough for you to not bother about pressing down for the ink to flow: the pen writes well under its own weight.

I ordered the pen via the WhatsApp number of G Laksham Rao himself. He shared with me the entire list of pens he made. From that collection, I selected this all-black design. He had it shipped immediately. In less than seven days, I had received my order. He has been facing issues with procuring ebonite because of the COVID-19 situation, but he confesses his honest commitment of investing 100%  of his heart and soul into fulfilling all orders he receives. In his own words, “it is a matter of pride. I cannot spoil my father’s name.” They have been making pens for the last seventy-five years, and he wants to continue to do it for as long as possible.

I am happy that I, as a customer, could be a part of his long journey. After I received my order, he gave me a call to ask if I was OK with it. He took so much care that he even asked me to return the pen to him, and he would customize it to suit my requirements. For a newbie FP enthusiast like me, that is more than I had bargained for!

Conclusion and How to Buy

The pen makes a permanent place for itself right from the first word it wrote. I’d recommend an Indian handmade ebonite fountain pen to every possible person. Only a few companies chose to listen to their customers. Still, fewer treats their customers as respectfully as Lakshman Garu.

You can just give him a call and talk to him about fountain pens. At least for me, his care and passion poured out from my cellphones microphones as he continued to describe why he had sent what he had. I could well have begun and concluded this review in one sentence: despite not receiving what I had wanted, this pen continues to receive the praise it truly deserves.

Here’s how you can order a pen from him:

  1. Go through their website: https://guiderpen.com 
  2. Choose a pen category.
  3. Give him a call or WhatsApp him on 09390163779. He usually responds immediately.
  4. Select the pen of your choice and pay.
  5. He ships the pen to you.
  6. Write away to glory.

I hope you like the review and his craftsmanship.

Happy writing.

The Interview and the Strange Feedback

Last month, I attended a formal interaction for a job opportunity within my team. One of my teammates is looking for an instructional designer. Since it is a small team, they included us to review the candidate. That’s how and why the interaction happened last month.


In India — specifically in all the interviews that I have attended either as interviewee or interviewer — there are a few things that have gone unnoticed, unsaid, or but understood:

  • The interviewer asks more questions than the interviewee
  • The interview process has to cover all questions relating to the candidate’s professional life, including if and why was there a gap in their career
  • The interviewer has to have an upper hand or can interrupt


Thankfully, I have never followed any of these rules… and thankfully, organizations are evolving. Come 2021, I have rarely heard anyone facing such questions.


I am of a firm belief that first, it is an interaction and not an “interview,” and two it has to be two-way communication.

But, the recent interaction went from an interaction into an interrogation. And I am speechless.

So, here is how it went.


My first impression was that even though the candidate had over 20 years of experience, she didn’t have the positivity I was expecting her to have. So, I motivated her to talk more or elaborate right from her first answer. It might be true, after all, that the interview is over in the first 50 seconds.


Then, I asked her a few questions, which she answered promptly. And answered a few of her questions. Hopefully, I answered those questions satisfactorily.


Then I happened to ask her about the Oxford comma. I expect that a technical communicator with over 20 years of experience will have, at least, heard about it. She didn’t know what it was. To which I told her that I would have expected someone of her experience to know such things. Nevertheless, she appreciated me for pointing that out, and we moved on.


Then I picked up a few sentences from her resume and asked her to find out if and what was wrong with those. I was prepared to hear her say that the sentences were OK, which they weren’t. To which I would have said nothing.


But when she could not point out the oversight, I pointed out those to her and told her that she could correct those. Even though I realize this is an interview, I thought this helping hand would be acknowledged as a welcome gesture. Besides, I even clarified that the answers to those questions would not impact the interview result.


On a side note, let me tell you a secret. For all the interviews I have attended, I have purposely asked for the interviewers to point out the instances where I could have gone wrong or improved myself. I have always received welcoming replies. In the process, I have made friends with the interviewers… Selection or no selection, we have gone above and beyond those social boundaries to create a collaborative environment. I still talk to a lot of them, more as friends.


So, back to this interaction. I told the candidate how I committed mistakes and overcame those by asking the right questions. I also told her how I liked the interaction to be two-way, and not one-way. Within a week after the interaction, I heard from my boss — during our weekly interaction — that she found me to be aggressively authoritative and egotistic. Although we did clear the confusion between us (my boss and I), and even he felt nothing wrong with my approach, I have since learned a few hard lessons the hard way.


At least I now know one more thing. It is OK for me, as an interviewee, to ask what mistakes I committed. But, as an interviewer, I must not point out the scope for improvement, despite how objective and positive my intentions maybe because not everyone shares my state of mind.


Let me know what you think.

Twenty Words Tuesday: Week 38 Prompt

Thank you, Bulbul’s Bubble, for this week’s writing prompt.

So, here’s my entry for #TwentyWordsTuesday, a 20-words-story-prompt. which for this week is Wish.


Wish

There she was. All alone. And then she looked up in the sky and regretted, “what if we’d left together!”


If you, too, would like to participate, just:

  • Write a story in exactly 20 words, excluding the title. The story must highlight the prompt of the week.
  • Tag her post
  • Leave a link to your attempt in the Comments section in her post.

I hope that you like my humble attempt.

Product Review: Submarine 939 Fountain Pen

God knows I have been itching to review a fountain pen for a long time. And when I did get the one that fit my budget, they sent me one with a Fine tip. Damn!

And, so began my review even before I had filled the pen with ink. But the support was kind enough to let me know that Submarine Pens didn’t deal with Fine nibs and were as shocked as I was. They kindly agreed to send me a Medium nib, which should be on its way right now.

So, here’s the review.

The pen is of brass and is a tad on the heavier side for my liking. The build quality is solid. And all parts feel they there made to measure. If the pen didn’t have the pattern, I reckon it would be a lot slippery to hold. So, good, thoughtful design.

The opening mechanism is pull-and-push. I like the tactile and acoustic feedback of the ‘click.’ The cap’s finial has a studded Swarovski element, which adds a nice touch to the look. I’d be OK without it, but I know a lot of Indians would love to have some embellishment on the pen. After I ordered the pen, they called to ask if I’d like to personalize it, which I did. The font size and style selection were theirs. Yet, my name just shines through: no pun intended. 🙂

The nib, as I mentioned, is an Indian Fine tip and should sit between the western Fine and Indian Medium nib. Considering my shaky hand, I’d prefer either a Medium or Broad nib, but even this nib is a joy to write with. It is a platinum-tipped nib that’s made of stainless steel and feels more toward being sturdy than flexible. For a Fine nib, the sweet spot is relatively large enough to write at any angle.

Reverse writing is possible. This pares down to two things: the nib is smooth, and the ink flows through the feed’s channels. The website advertises the pen comes with a Medium, dual-tone nib, but I got a Fine, gold-colored nib. A Fine nib has its advantages. One, the ink dries faster. Two, feathering and bleed through to the other side of the paper reduces.

One more thing! The nib is smooth for its first use but I reckon it will soon break in. Until then, the flow through the feed’s channels will not be consistent and the ink’s color will not come through.

The feed and converter are plastic, and the pen came supplied with two cartridges of company-specific ink. I had an old bottle of Parker Quink Blue, so I chose not to purchase Submarine’s ink, which was about twice as expensive (twice as good?). Anyway, the two supplementary cartridges are sufficient to judge the ink’s quality if I compare it with the Parker’s.

For a section and grip that’s carved out of brass, the grip is a perfect combination of shine and comfort. I can write for a long time without fatigue. The pen’s weighted toward the tip, and you will have to adjust the weight even when you might have posted the pen. Usually, I don’t post my pen. So, I will continue to try different combinations to get the best writing.

In tests limited to my knowledge, exposure, and technique, Parker’s Quink won. I had used a regular 60~70 GSM printer paper. Through the first, second, and third passes, Quink flew better and was more saturated. But I used a cartridge for Submarine ink and the converter for Parker’s Quink. So, I’d give a point to the converter because it did the job it is meant to do.

I have a doctor’s handwriting (Sorry, doctors!), and the Fine tip doesn’t lend a lasting impression in that regard.

Should you try this pen? Why not. Especially given that they acknowledged that they accidentally sent a Fine nib and would happily replace it for free. Customer service goes a long way in assuring repeat purchases. After all, you can sell a product only once! After which, the product has to sell itself.

I got the pen for 600 rupees, plus shipping. To buy the pen, use this link: https://www.submarinepens.com/product/939-fountain-pen/

So, that’s my first review of a fountain pen. Please pardon my handwriting, and let me know if I missed anything.

Happy writing.

Thirst for Words

Worst for the words,
It appears to me,
Is for them to cease to exist.
Pressing as your heart ever may.

Worst, indeed, for the words,
It is, you must know, for they
Will no longer turn into gold
That once was hay.

Worst, yes, for the words,
It is, you discover, that they
Will not unearth—never anymore—
Buried thoughts that lay.

Worst, surely, for the words
It is, I confess, that they occasionally
Witness the dry beds that once
Flew hundreds of gallons away.

Trust, but I must, in the same words,
For it is at their own fancy that
I awoke, avowed, and will ever await.
Never leave me, I ask. Stay.

Trust, I will, in those words,
For it is their humble selves that
I will reach where I’ve yearned to go
As the words will pave my way.

Trust, surely I will, in those words,
For when they will bless me,
They will have me drenched, and
Quench my thirst for the day.

©Suyog Ketkar
July, 2021

The Art of Living: Online Happiness Program

It has been more a couple of months that I enrolled for and completed a four-day online happiness program. Through the program, I got introduced to the Sudarshan Kriya and a host of other Yogasana techniques and postures. In this short review, I share my experience.

The Course and the Contents

Given the COVID-19 situation, and the lockdown, our group was initiated into the Kriya via the Internet. And, while the process was straightforward, there were guidelines that we had to comply with throughout those four days.

We all have heard at least once that we are what we eat. If that is true, we need to be extra careful with what we consider as ‘food.’ Anything that we intake then must be of a value precious enough for our consumption. Whether it is food (for the stomach) or food (for thoughts). The first step, the initiation that is, is a carefully crafted exercise of introducing yourself to a new source of power and learning. And, for the reasons I just enlisted, it is always advisable that you do it over a clean bowel, with a fresh mind, and a clear air passage from your nose through your lungs.

The course began with a customary introduction of the participants and the trainers where the trainers, specifically, ran us briefly through their experience, learning, and benefits of the Kriya. Then, we warmed up to the Kriya by practicing Yoga postures, the Sun salutation (or Surya Namaskar), and other breathing techniques (Bhastrika Pranayama and Naadi-shodhan Pranayama, in particular). That is when we were initiated into the Sudarshan Kriya.

The Experience of Sudarshan Kriya

The Sudarshan Kriya is a set of three powerful rhythm and time-based breathing cycles technique with variable intensities (Slow-Faster-Fastest). It helps push the capacity of our lungs to absorb more oxygen. And because most of us don’t use our lungs to their maximum capacity, we were told to rest ourselves against the support of walls. The technique is so powerful that a few of us even felt dizzying or nauseated toward the end of it. But, that is why it is always advisable to only get initiated formally with the help of a guru.

It helped that I had been regularly practicing Naadi-shodhan for the past ten years. Just that because I had trained my lungs into practicing fuller breathing, my experience was a bit mellowed down than others. I didn’t feel the instant magic. But the overall experience of doing it with a host of others like me, even though it was online, was still encouraging enough. That feeling of becoming a student: I had felt that for a long time.

There are a few dos and don’ts associated with the technique. And because I am writing my review on the online happing program, I feel it a duty more than an option to state them:

  • Do it every day; be consistent with your timing if possible.
  • Do not perform the Kriya more than once (Slow-Faster-Fastest is one cycle; you must perform 3 cycles in one sitting) every 24 hours. If you wish to get initiated, do not search for YouTube videos. Seek a guru and ask to be formally initiated.
  • Once you are initiated, do not try to initiate others into the practice. There are levels of this practice that you must pass before you can become a trainer yourself.
  • Perform the Kriya on an empty stomach.
  • Sukhasana, or the usual posture of folded legs, is more than sufficient for you to experience the technique.

The trainers were well-versed with the course contents, and the format and they constantly helped and guided us with how to accomplish our purpose. The question-answer sessions addressed our questions and cleared our doubts.

The Impact & My Observations

I’ve never missed my practice since the initiation. And over time, even though it is just two months, the improvement is worth noting. I am:

  • Assertive and confident
  • I feel less drained out by the end of the day
  • I feel more sure about what I do; the self-doubt is still there but with an unexplainable sense of assurance
  • More relaxed
  • My course-mates, at least those whom I have spoken to since, have had similar experiences. Some of them told me that they even reported an increase in their productivity. Even I’d agree to it to an extent.

Conclusion

The teachings are restricted to the premise of an online workshop, and so the Kriya length (time and scale) takes about 40 minutes to complete, including the Pranayamas. The timing and scale will vary for those who got initiated in person and are practicing since. My friend who introduced me to the technique, Deepak Patil, has experienced Advanced level breathing techniques. He is a daily-practicing follower of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar for the past eight years. His is an elaborate practicing regime that takes about an hour for him every day.

These are testing times for all of us, and if only breathing in a certain way can help us better ourselves, then it definitely the technique is worth a try. For me, it is an experience that has increased the pace of my spiritual growth. I am a better person. And I’ve begun valuing myself even more since the initiation. All that, without losing the degree of compassion I hold for others. That is my biggest takeaway.

If you, too, wish to enroll, I can happily usher you to the right person.

Tourists

It was at the first light of life
That they took the baby step.
And continued to walk along
Even as they slept.

Still bright and breezy
Were they at the wee hours.
Trudged through while
Still learning their powers.

Amidst the blossoming yellow
Bathed, fed the fellows!
Then around the noon
Their lives began to bloom.

Their gaily souls traced the trails.
Still young at hearts, very hale.
The afternoon arrived, though pale,
Blessed with occasional bursts of the gale.

Until evening, their routine was set.
Along with pleasure, closures were met.
Truths were told. Masks had fallen.
Even the hardest had begun to soften.

Wearied souls came upon a bridge.
Living each episode unabridged.
Twilights coated with burnt orange.
Forgiveness tasted sweeter than revenge.

The night, it seemed, soon fell.
Such that no one could foretell.
It was time to pack the bags—
It was time to bid farewell.

The tourists then made the choice
For how long were they to dwell?
Death then enrobed those
Who had managed to quell.

The tourists then sojourned the bright tunnel.
They seemed to cope. And well.
What lay beyond that comfort, now
How were they to tell?

©Suyog Ketkar
June, 2021