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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

UK, other countries buy first made in India ink again

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An ink produced during the Swadeshi Movement of India has been relaunched. The company that makes the ink has started getting orders from Britain, and other countries.

Two brothers joined hands in the 1930s to produce the first made in India ink. The ink, called Sulekha, a Hindi word for good writing, has again launched its famous Swadeshi line of inks. The company received a huge response and orders started pouring in from various countries.

What began as a response to Lord Curzon’s infamous Bengal division in 1905 evolved into a full-fledged Swadeshi movement, birthing legendary brands such as Asian Paints, Tata Steel, Lakme Cosmetics, and others. These brands hampered the selling of foreign goods when they were created during the Swadeshi movement. They also symbolised India’s unity and independence and are well known in the country. But, many people might not be knowing about the story of Sulekha ink. 

The Swadeshi movement was at its height in the 1930s. During that time Mahatma Gandhi, who started the movement, was desperately looking for a made in India ink to write letters and petitions.

Gandhi spoke to Satish Chandra Das Gupta, a West Bengal freedom fighter, about the ink. Gupta, who made India’s first Swadeshi ink, Krishnadhara, shared his formulation with Nanigopal Maitra and his brother Sankaracharya. 

The Maitra brothers, who lived in Rajshahi (now in Bangladesh), had recently been released from prison and leaped at the chance to resist the British once more.

They eventually met Gandhi at a public rally and received his blessings.

Nanigopal was a teacher at Rajshahi University, but he left that job after he was told to change to a suit from dhoti (traditional clothing). Nanigopal also relocated to Calcutta (now Kolkata) and began selling ink.

The product’s popularity grew exponentially, and it became known as Professor Maitra’s ink.

The ink was named Sulekha for the good writing produced by its users, after shopkeepers inquired about the brand of the ink.

The Maitra family say the name was given by Rabindranath Tagore, who also gave India its national anthem. 

Over the next four decades, the corporation expanded at an exponential rate.

It was at its peak between 1970 and 1980, with monthly sales of one million bottles.

As a result, the company’s closure in 1989 came as a surprise to many.

Sulekha reappeared in 2006 with a new line of homecare and solar-powered items, but things were never the same.

But the story was far from over.

The company publicly revived its iconic Swadeshi line of inks, which includes Scarlet, Red, Executive Black, and Royal Blue, in November of last year.

It also added a nationalistic flavour by packaging the ink in another emblem of struggle, the Santiniketan khadi pouch.

The company got a huge response and started getting orders from all over the world, including the United Kingdom (from where the British rulers came), as well as Greece, Australia, the United States, and several Asian countries.

Every day, around 2,000 members of a Facebook community called ‘Sulekha Ink Lovers’ share their wonderful recollections with the ink.

Nanigopal’s grandson Kaushik Maitra, currently serves as managing director of Sulekha Works Limited.

Kaushik says that the firm never truly stopped producing ink. It was done in small quantities at first, but in recent years, the demand for fountain pens has increased as individuals seek to replace plastic pens, which pollute the environment. 

He also said the self-reliance sentiment has risen. Several former Sulekha users have contacted the company.The news is spreading on social media, and the company is back to delivering across India.

Kaushik added that his company is also in discussions with schools about introducing fountain pens to pupils and ensuring that writing does not become obsolete.

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