India Printing Works

It was in 1981 that we walked into the office of the India Printing Works. It was sprawling premises in Fort and the place was full with machines making noises, that a printing press would make. In the office was Anand Limaye, seating next to his uncle. These were some of his early days after joining the IPW. As we discussed the aspects of printing the Himalayan Journal, what struck us most was that this was a press with a long lineage and traditional values. Thus began a long association with them.

Our Journal is read more abroad, it covers mountains and a variety of insertions like fold-outs, long panoramas, maps, colour and black and white photos. Quality and correct time for delivery was essential. It was complicated to publish this as many things had to be tied up. With this is mind we started working, improving the printing and quality. Soon as the editor of the HJ, I was in regular contact with Anand Limaye, and as his name implied, he was Anand (happy) to be with. Rules were framed: once you enter his office you must have plenty of time as before we talk shop there would be many other gossips preceding. In between laughter, ringing of phones and people popping in and out of his cabin we talked a variety of subjects. Other rules were also in place: one must consume as many dishes of snacks as number of photographs in the Journal. We drank cups of tea to count number of pages in the Journal and laughter was resonant with counting the words.

We also had a gentleman’s agreement, if the publication was delayed Anand will have to climb a peak. To his credit Anand never had to climb a peak except once. To mark the publication of my popular book Trek The Sahyadris (Published by IPW) we went up Tikona fort. Anand Limaye was thrilled to have a climbed his first mountain in the Sahyadris and went about celebrating it for week. After a week he learnt that a party of blind persons reached the top of Tikona, to open eyes of Anand to gentleness of this peak.

The Press shifted to Wadala and better technology. The tradition continued though. The staff was almost representing a family. Mr Kelkar, in his eighties was a task master. Like the older generation he was always non-committal but exact in work. The person who was just the opposite and energetic was Bahukaka Limaye. Excited at everything and worked fast. If proofs were not delivered to me in time all I had to do was to talk to Bhaukaka on telephone and the manuscript will reach me, let it be old and uncorrected ! There was Surendra a proof reader who refused to understand anything but spent most of his life just reading the proofs. In the days of letter press and aftermath we made mistakes which Surendra refused to pick up. The name “Doug Scott” was printed a “Dong Scott”. A lady mountaineer from Mumbai was a fierce competitor. When defeated at climbing she was quoted in the Journal as saying “So what you are a guy”. The compositors had made it “So what you are a gay”! These mistakes and near mistakes made the process interesting and intellectually stimulating. Discussions with Ashok Gokhale and later his daughter Aparna always ended with lunches. Designs for cover of the Journal and all other matters will follow – they would have followed in any case, but why miss a lunch! Thus in last 30 years I saw the entire changes in the printing world through eyes of the India Printing Works.

The best learning however was through Anand’s mother. She was a wise lady with as much long experience in printing press as the IPW itself. While we were praising a volume of the Journal, her remarks made me understand the fundamentals of printing. She asked “Has the production as good as to what you imagined it to be”? That was the test of a printing press, whether they can execute a job to match the imagination and expectation of an editor or author.

Today IPW with new team, new machines and new premises is marching ahead into the 75th Year. I am sure still the cups of tea, dishes of snacks and laughter of Anand rules. That is the family tradition and excellence personified.

Harish Kapadia