Yeah, in pre-historic days, long before the Internet, we actually learnt to type. In our small town, it was normal to enrol for typing and short-hand classes as soon as one finished the tenth grade. There was a long gap between end of school and joining college. These were the days before, 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 typing and shorthand 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 typing 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 typing 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 typing 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!


13 thoughts on “Nostalgia series – The typing class

  1. Hey Rekha! This totally teleported me back to days at Nagpur Times. The typewriters there were like monster trucks. But I’ll have to admit, despite those ancient machines – which had to be really punched hard to get that character stamped on your paper – I picked up my typing skills and in the process, my fingers got themselves six-packs!!! But thanks to the hard workouts at Nagpur Times, I type with two fingers at speeds compared to turbo-powered Bimmers that has my colleagues in awe! Hats off to those Remingtons!!!

  2. A S D F G F ; L K J H J

    Another excellent Nostalgia series, i too studied in same institute under same Madhavan sir after the tenth grade. Started with Remington and graduated to Halda and FACIT.
    I think there is not a single typewriting institute in Kochi now. But i am lucky enough to own a HALDA typewriter at home, but not in working condition.

  3. I know how lucky you are. Not knowing typing how I would envy your transcribing skills. When you would finish the entire tape i would be into the first 5 minutes of the tape. Remember the RO 5 offer?

  4. From susmita De my colleague who sent it directly to my mail.

    Gone through your blog and found it quite amusing! As I can relate to your experience, I would like to share mine with you. I very much appreciate the power of typing with 10 fingers, more so, because I can type with only four fingers of mine. I am thrilled if I can use my fifth finger for the ‘shift’ key!

    Being lazy to the core, I never went to a typing class though I had a liking for the very profession of journalism. And I justified my laziness by referring to journalists whom I have seen racing their four fingers in awesome speed, completely oblivious to the fact that I am no match for them.

    Now coming to transcription, I have found a way to escape the drudgery of it. You take the interview, but don’t transcribe. Just listen to it and take down only that much which is needed for upgrading your data or for enhancing the quality of your article and of course for incorporating a sentence here and there, worth quoting. But this we can do only when we have done our homework well.

    I was a freelance transcriber for sometime in the 70’s. You know how much I used to get for that? Rs 50 per cassette! I used to hate the job but loved the moolah which was actually a pittance! Money is sweeter than honey, as they say.

  5. Your skill for detailed description is amazing. Yeah, I also went to The Modern Institute, for four days. I dropped-out because I was not given a Remington but a machine on which when the keys are pressed, remain so until I dig it out with my index fingure.

    Good post and a great style of narration.

  6. Hi, Nostalgic indeed. I also studied in the Cochin Commercial (read Com-me-ri-cal) by joining the institute in 1981. I tried my lucky in 1979 (while I was in sixth) but the same ‘Karadi’ (with luv) refused to give admission to me. Eventhough my home is just behind the institute, he was reluctant to give admission to this thin and pale boy. Sad to say the institute is ‘no more’ now (Madavan Sir too). Rekhabala forgot to say about Ravi Sir (from Vaikom)? I do not know his present condition.

    Just bcoz of the typewriting Lower & Higher, I could join a central PSU and my sincere thanks to both the rude but loving Madavan Sir and cool & charming Ravi Sir.

    I still remember the TW Lower Examination (immediately after Xth exam) eventhough I was ready to appear for the exams, Madavan Sir insisted me to complete the Xth. The examiner pinched me on my cheek. She did that saying “you are the youngest in this examination hall”.

    1. hello, thanks for your comment. made interesting reading indeed! so you are from mattancherry too? how did you chance upon this blog? I only remember Madhavan sir since he was an overpowering personality… but have to dig deep into my memories again 🙂 anyway, nice meeting you through this blog 🙂

  7. Hi Rekha,

    If you don’t know Umesh, he is the son of our most respected and ever smiling ” Puthu Modhalali” whose eating joint remained my favourite for years. He is now with IOC.


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