Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fountain Pens of AP - Prasad Pens (Part 2)

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…

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