Recent Writings: The Times of India and TOI’s Speaking Tree
Give Me Back My Old Typewriter
Oh! How I wish I could get back my old, mechanical Remington Rand typewriter. I miss its musical clang as its majestic carriage responded to my strokes on those seductive keys that inspired me to write words that I can never recreate on my hi-tech but cold laptop.
It was the typewriter that my father gifted to me when I turned 18 with the fond hope that I would become a writer. Its notable feature was the ‘tring’ sound that it made when the carriage had reached the end of the line. That sweet ring brought in good tidings, as it said, ‘go on boy, you’ve completed a line.’
I disappointed my dad and became a scribe instead of a writer as it seemed the easier thing to do; and the job was more paying too. So hack I was for decades, churning out news stories and features that were forgotten soon after they were read. I had mastered the craft of embellishing banalities of politicians and bureaucrats with attractive news pegs that had the shelf life of an overripe mango.Bad news sells. And I had one helluva time writing about tragedies, riots, bloodshed.
The more the death toll rose in a tragedy or communal riot, the more the newsroom echoed with excitement. We reporters thrived on disaster and our wings of fame were propelled by the misfortune of others.
All was not that bad and evil, though. We did do some good stories – or so I would like to believe – in a genre that was dubbed ‘investigative reporting’.
But my best stories were written on old, mechanical typewriters – Remington was the favourite brand in our newspaper The Times of India. Typewriters teach you discipline in writing – to think straight and clearly. You have to get it right in the first shot or your page will be full of crosses. Too many crosses would make the page look untidy and you would have to unroll the paper and start afresh.
A typewriter is so human. Its clatter is so very energising. It jumps with excitement as you increase the pace of your writing. It seems to echo your sentiments and keeps pace with your heartbeats as you reach a crucial part of your writing. When you reach the end of your story and pull out the paper, your typewriter rings again, saying, ‘job well done, my boy.’
On the other hand, my computer is so full of risks. It spreads viruses, it is full of bugs, it fusses and hangs and crashes if you overload it. It is cold and calculating and it shows no emotion even when I punch my best lines into it. It tempts me to be lazy, to cut and paste instead of being original. It kills my creativity with its efficiency.
The computer has bred so many copycats and plagiarists because of the ease that it gives to access other peoples’ work on the Internet that it’s time that all writers boycott this crime-prone machine and go back to our old typewriters – if only we could.