August 21, 2020: This week we open the J’s La Quill Closet at the museum to talk about my collection of pens and inks one by one. I initially began writing about my very first ‘calligraphy’ pen bought as an amateur. Somewhere I got diverted to musing over memories of my very first collection of the Rotring Art Pens which I bought much later. I recall that this set was stolen from me on August 13, 1996 – The night before my birthday!
The first set of Rotring art pens that I lost, had the complete collection of 7 pens with broad italic nibs varying from 1.1 mm to 2.7 mm. It was bought at the Indian Drawing Equipment company where I usually bought the Rotring Isographs and ink. The rarely available set, cost nearly Rs 500-700 per pen which was very pricey for me then.
Those were the days I was briefly appointed as the Honorary Corporate Ambassador for Model Chit Corp, a chit fund and finance business run by Adusumilli Krishnamurthy, a dear senior friend. For the work errands, I drove a company-owned Maruti 800, the car that trended the 90s!
That night on August 13, 1996, I had to handover a pre-launch press release of Model Chit Corp to the various newspaper offices in the city. Late evening on my way to The Times Of India office on M G Road Bangalore, I parked my car in front of Spencer’s building and stepped out.
For the Record: I never walked out of my car for professional assignments without my big portfolio bag in hand. Whatever content you see on my website, till 2005, I used to carry them physically in my bag along with the pens I used.
My good old friend and veteran journalist – Rajan Bala had even described me in one of his perspective editorials as “…He carried a bulging briefcase that seemed to have innumerable compartments”.
But on that night, I left the bag inside the car for the first time ever and stepped out. I was really tired. My wife Kavitha had also accompanied me. Returning to the car later, we found that the keyhole position in the car door was changed and… My bag was missing! I quickly went up and informed the TOI crime reporter, then lodged a formal complaint at the Cubbon Park police station and returned home late at night.
Next morning on my birthday, TOI carried a special report on the crime page reporting the theft of a calligrapher’s bag. I also had to deliver certificates for The Oberoi annual day celebrations. In between all this, I received a call from a wine shop vendor in Kalasipalayam — an adjacent locality, confirming that he found a lot of documents in my name along with a cheque book and diary lying outside his shop. I went there with a team of four police staff in mufti from the Cubbon Park police station to complete the recovery procedure.
I think whoever stole my bag was an ethical thief, perhaps marginally so at least – for what he left behind outside that shop for me was much more valuable than whatever I lost. These include the certificate samples (originals), testimonials of clients, press clippings of articles on my calligraphy – all of which have now been digitized and added onto this website. He also returned my handwritten diary of events for the year 1996. Reading this again now gives me so much happiness. I couldn’t have got them all again!
He stole only the encashable commodities in the bag (my big portfolio bag included!) and a couple of National Savings Scheme certificates that I had purchased for Rs 50 and Rs 100. They could be encashed by anybody producing the certificate.
Going forward, I made enough money to repurchase the lost pens, cassette and the cassette recorder cord. However two of the pens in the new set of Rotring Art Pens were not from the same model that I originally had.
Looking back at this entire experience has now given me yet another seed to sow in this cycle of Saptha Beej, as handwritten by me below:
A Quick Confession:
My search for some ‘still missing’ links in this experience continues. I am very regular with my diary entries. However this episode is not recorded in my 1996 diary under August 13. Reason: It was stolen that night and when found I was a bit too overwhelmed with whatever had happened.
The paper clipping I had of the theft reported in TOI edition dated August 14, 1996 is also currently unavailable – not found yet even in the online archives of TOI. Will update it here whenever I find it. It’s a promise.
Seed for a Saga: I also learnt some important life lessons that night which I still follow for 24 years now:
- Compulsory cable operated manual locking system for all my car doors. Simply put, when my car is locked even the car manufacturer cannot open it.
- I Never-Ever leave my bag in my car… Even if I have a digital back up now!
Here’s me Signing off with a beautiful memory from the year 1996 which I found while hunting for the missing links in this blog – Lost & Found. It’s my wife Kavitha and myself posing with Dr Claes Nobel (the grand nephew of Alfred Nobel who established the Nobel prizes) & Mrs Claes Nobel from the Nobel Foundation, Sweden.
(As Told to Aarthi R Nandakishore)