Yeah, in pre-historic days, long before the Internet, we actually learnt to type. In our small town, it was normal to enrol for typewriting and short-hand classes as soon as one finished the tenth grade. There was a loooong gap between end of school and joining college. These were the days before makemytrip.com, double income families with disposable incomes or marketing people out to make a fast buck with summer camps.
While we whiled away most of our time outdoors, we were literally forced into these typewriting and short-hand classes for two hours every week day. I dropped out of short-hand classes within a week, saying that the tutor’s English was terrible (yes, I must admit that I was an awful convent-educated snob back then!) and how could he teach me short-hand with bad English. I couldn’t wriggle out of my typewriting classes because as Appa kept reminding me, ‘If you want to become a journalist, how are you going to type your reports? With two fingers??’
And so, I reluctantly went to Madhavan’s institute. Madhavan of the short and stocky frame, vile tongue and the foot ruler to rap errant students on their hands! (I remember the students called him ‘Karadi Madhavan’, karadi in Malayalam meaning bear!) Learning the keys took some time, and Madhavan’s weekly speed tests didn’t help one bit. Especially when he peered over your paper and chided you for typing on the keys too hard (It’s a Remington for God’s sake, he used to say, much like how we talk of the Sony Vaio or the iMac these days!). We slogged our way through many sessions before we learnt to type without looking at the keys. We even grew to like the clickety-clack, clickety-clack of the typewriters singing in unison during speed tests.
Well, this was in 1989… and after a year of typewriting and passing the lower exams, I dropped out. I had just learned to type and that was enough. Also, by then I had enough of the boys there (who had joined my college as well) … handing out chocolates on flimsy pretexts (I never had a sweet tooth, anyway!) and wanting to walk me home. (That’s stuff for another nostalgic story!)
Years later, I joined journalism and discovered among other things, the value of those typewriting classes! At the newspaper, I was able to type out ‘instant’ reports while for some other colleagues, it was ‘touch and go’, or even better, ‘touch and see’.
Also, I wouldn’t mind if someone rambled on and on during an interview. I knew I could selectively transcribe and type away at ease. My brain and fingers after years of practice and Madhavan’s raps now worked in tandem. There were constant offers in the newsroom too. “Rekha, we will give you five rials to transcribe one cassette!” Ha! Ha! In hindsight, I would have made more money that way… especially from one colleague who had tons of cassettes on his table to transcribe.
I remember Madhavan with a certain fondness these days. Especially when I am multi-tasking and churning out more than four stories a day. This is an ‘art’ one can never unlearn during one’s life-time, much like learning to ride a bicycle. The only thing, however, my colleagues insist, that I should unlearn is to stop banging on the keys. “You use a laptop, for God’s sake,” is the constant refrain!
Ha! Some things never change!