Monday, October 29, 2012

In search of the nostalgic MISAK Fountain Pen (in Hyderabad, India)...PART 1


For old-timers in Hyderabad (India), ‘Misak Pens’ is a major nostalgia item among many other things Hyderabadi...this I came to know during my visits to Deccan Pen Stores when on more than one occasion a customer would come in asking for Misak Pen (and added ‘patte-wala’ pen, meaning ‘pen with nib,’ ‘patta’ being the local and/or traditional Hindi/Urdu word for ‘nib’), and the salesperson would pick out an ebonite fountain pen (a smaller sized brown mottled ebonite Deccan FP) and give it to him...and that person would go nostalgic and say things like ‘in those days we used to write with Misak Pens, and nowadays the pen is not easily available’... and surprisingly he would pay for the pen and take it...I didn’t know whether the customer knew that he was buying a Deccan FP...or whether he bothered about it at all...after a couple of such occasions, especially at the DPS Secunderabad branch, I realised that for the customer ‘Misak Pen’ meant an ‘ebonite pen,’ especially the brown mottled variety...and finding a brown mottled ebonite FP in a shop in Hyderabad itself was a big deal for the customer, which took him back to ‘uss zamana’ (those days)...

My own interest in procuring at least one Misak FP for my collection started with my friend and fellow FPNer, Hari’s response to one of the posts on Indian FPs on FPN...who informed me that he had managed to buy a couple of Misak FPs (probably the last pieces in that shop) from a shop somewhere near DPS Secunderabad and he had also mentioned the name of the shop (Gupta Pen Stores)...so, one evening, I went around that area looking for Gupta Pen Stores and found none...there was another pen shop nearby and I enquired there and the husband and wife duo (owners presumably) there told me that they no longer have any ebonite pens to sell, let alone a Misak FP...I went to DPS Secunderabad and asked them about the shop...Zubair tried to remember and told me that there is no such shop in the vicinity and there could be a shop similarly named somewhere in the older part of the city... I was disappointed...I asked Hari and he confirmed the name of the shop and the location...maybe I missed it...

Hari is the main source of information on FPs for me and he told me that he had also tried to find out about Misak Pens on the internet and found an address in Hyderabad where the Misak Pens shop/manufacturing unit is located...a place called Chappal Bazar...he promptly wrote a letter to the owner asking him about the brand and if they had any stocks left, but disappointingly and unfortunately the letter came back with ‘addressee not found’ scrawled on the cover...

Hari had also informed me that he had got to know that the brand name ‘MISAK’ is actually the name of the owner written in reverse...KASIM...maybe the Deccan people told him this... and he was also informed that Misak Pens is closed now and no more Misaks are being made...

The search for Misak was getting more and more disappointing...at that point in time, I used to enquire at every suitably old looking stationery shop for Misak pens...and the generally common answer I’d get was a nostalgic one tinged with regret...‘arre saab, Hyderabad mein bahut chalta tha Misak Pena-n...bandh ho gaya ab...koi bhi patte ka pen istemaal nahin karrein...’ (oh sir, Misak pens used to be very popular in Hyderabad...it is closed now...nobody uses ‘nib’ pens anymore...)

The night has to end sometime...and that daybreak happened one innocuous day when on my rounds checking old looking stationery shops, I found a really shabby looking shop in a very busy general shopping area...all kinds of note books, ledger books, cardboard boxes, stationery boxes, paper sheets, stacked here and there...it looked like an angry bull had entered the shop... I asked the man at the counter if he had any fountain pens...he showed me some cheap plastic ones...I asked for ebonite FPs...and he brought out a cardboard pen box and showed me some ebonite pens...I read the name on the clip...MISAK...oh man oh man oh man... I forgave the shop for looking so shabby...only if more shops were shabby, but held old treasures...well, I am getting ahead of myself here...he had some 6 similar looking thick mottled brown ebonite pens with the name MISAK on the clip...I opened the cap and looked at the nib... disappointment... not a Misak nib...the immediate conclusion was ‘not an original Misak’... I asked the person about the pen and asked him if these were new...he said they were new pens...I then told him that I had heard that Misak had closed shop long back... ‘yes, indeed,’ he said... ‘but one of my customers is based in the US and had asked me to locate some Misak pens for him...I managed to locate somebody in the family and they made me a small batch of FPs...and these 6 are the last ones...’ I didn’t want to ask any further questions... I checked all the 6 pens for nib smoothness and bought 4...at least the clip has MISAK on it...some consolation...

But as you can see, I was not satisfied...the soul of the pen was missing...and it was a kind of a reminder...‘your search doesn’t endeth here’... I left it at that... no point in running after a mirage...or a misak...for that matter...

It was not that easy, you see, to dismiss Misak totally out of my mind...though the spirit was willing, the flesh was weak and so the intensity got dimmed a bit... and all this was happening around two and a half years ago... and one evening I was in an auto-rickshaw travelling towards the older part of the city...the driver was somebody whom I engaged regularly for my book and pen explorations around the city and he knew my regular shops and my strange hobbies...there is this stationery shop which looked old enough and I had always wanted to stop and ask if they had any FPs...and moreover, the board had ‘Pen’ and Stationery on it, so that gave me some more hope...so on this day, I asked my driver to stop near the shop...there was a middle-aged gentleman manning the shop and I asked him if he had any FPs...he gave me the familiar nostalgia-laden answer...I asked him if he had any ebonite FPs from the olden days...he said ‘no’... and then he stopped himself for a second and said ‘let me see’...aha... a sliver of light seemed to appear at the end of the tunnel...I waited with bated breath...he seemed to be searching for something and seemed to have found it and came up with a dusty plastic pen folder...he then dusted it with a cloth...suspense was killing me...arre, clean it later, na...he then unzipped the folder and there were 4 pens there...3 of them mottled brown ebonite pens... he handed me the pens... did my heart skip a beat?...ALL THREE BROWN MOTTLED EBONITES WERE MISAKs...


(The rest of the narrative and pictures in the next and last part...)

2 comments:

Srinivasa Nagar Colony said...

Thanks a lot Srinivas garu. I also live in Hyd and using FP since last 20 years. I am also searching MISAK pen since last two years, but not as resolutely as you. Recently found MISAK pen in Himalaya-Mehdipatnam. The pen is good but not the original.

Will you please tell me where you got MISAK Ebony FP. pvrajshekhar@rediffmail.com

Shahbaz Malik said...

Sir

I have genuine Misak FPS as well many more antique brands.

If you are interested, please call me at 9848467422.

regards

Shahbaz Malik