During the 1930s, when the Swadeshi movement was at its peak, Gandhi was looking for locally-made ink to write letters and petitions.

He shared this need with Satish Chandra Das Gupta, a freedom fighter from West Bengal, who came up with Krishnadhara, India’s first Swadeshi ink.

Gupta shared his formulation with the brothers Nanigopal and Sankaracharya Maitra, who had just been released from jail.

And when Nanigopal moved to Calcutta, he started selling the ink, which eventually came to be known as Professor Maitra’s ink.

The name Sulekha (Su – good and lekha – writing) was given by India’s cultural ambassador, Rabindranath Tagore.

In no time, the fledgling pen makers became a household name and the company grew between 1970-1980, witnessing monthly sales worth one million bottles.

Kaushik, Nanigopal’s grandson and current MD of Sulekha Works Limited, says the aim has always been to perfect the hand-made manufacturing process.

The ink, he says, would be filtered twice, unlike machine-made ones, which take barely five minutes.

“Then we would add a secret solvent that ensured the ink dried quickly on paper and wouldn’t clog the refill. We use the same solvent and process even today,” he adds.

After a shutdown in 1989, the company formally relaunched its famous Swadeshi line of inks including Scarlet, Red, Executive Black and Royal Blue in November 2020.

It also added a patriotism flavour by packing the ink in another symbol of resistance, the khadi pouch made in Santiniketan.

The brand received an overwhelming response from Greece, Australia, the UK, the USA, Bangladesh, Nepal and of course, India.

As the future of handwriting looks bleak with the advent of e-notes, emails, and laptops, Sulekha’s comeback seems almost nostalgic.

It may be one of our last chances to regain the charm of physical writing.