Flavor of Handwriting

When I say that I write, I lie. It has been a long time that I “wrote” something good- mostly, I type. Like most people around me, I have moved from ‘pen & paper’ to computer. The keyboard is supposedly a wonderful substitute- all characters in the exact place as you used them the previous day. Once you get used to it, it’s a cakewalk; it lets you finish your work on time. When it comes to work (and by “work”, I mean serious office work that would require you to avoid spelling and grammatical mistakes), the computer does an incredibly accurate job. But, consider the case when you want to write a letter to your loved one. Do you want to be grammatically correct or express the right feelings?
When I request a leave, I write to my manager- “I am planning to go on vacation from 23rd of December, 2011 to 2nd January, 2012.” And blah, blah.
Would I write the same way if I had to write to my mother that I was coming home during Christmas? No. None of us would. I would write- “Maaaaaa, good news! I’m coming homeeee on christmas! loooong vacation to spend with Baba and you!! Will return after celebrating new year with you very excited !!” 
I can see the difference. In the second case, the word processor I am using has drawn squiggly lines of different colors on at least five different words (a couple for deliberate spelling mistakes, one for incorrect capitalization, one because Bill Gates doesn’t call her mother “Maa” and one for an extra space!). Forget the fact that my smile looks nowhere close to the smiley that’s drawn here.
The personal flavor that goes into handwritten material is irreplaceable. Time was when I was very proud of my handwriting. I practiced calligraphy- on letters to grandparents, on notebooks while taking class notes, during examinations on answer-scripts. It was like my signature. So was it for many others. But no good thing stays in place unless cared for; so it withered because of insufficient use.
Words will fail me if I seek to explain how emotions are conveyed through the flowing ink or the sharpened graphite; how the way we hold the pen or the pencil between our fingers determines our handwriting; how the changing color of the exhausting ink and the blunting head of the pencil exudes the flow of time; how carefully written words in the beginning which deteriorate to illegible symbols toward the end of an examination paper beg for a few more minutes from the teacher; how strikethroughs reach out to the reader, whispering into his/her ears to bear with his/her lack of vocabulary; how differently spaced words, differently spaced letters in a word and differently spaced lines in a paragraph reflect our state of mind; how a reader reads “sophisticated” and then struggles to read the same word in another part of the same paragraph because the “s” looks different there.
In fact, there have been futile attempts to replicate handwritten words by introducing myriad fonts and even strikethroughs. But who said that strikethroughs could only be horizontal lines? Dirty that I was (now? don’t ask embarrassing questions, please), I used to roll my pen over and over again, making spirals and circles to hide an incorrect word behind- literally- a bush! That “bush” not only loomed large on the face of an otherwise neat paper but also left its impression on to the next page. I have seen images from Tagore’s work where he used his creative genius to draw pictures of leaves and animals to get rid of an “unsuitable” word in a piece! (P.S: The above image is taken from one such Tagore manuscript) Ah, today’s word processors delete those words for ever, thanks to delete and backspace keys! Our computer memories in gigabytes and terabytes do not have space for our deleted words! Sigh!


(8 yr old: Maa&Baba wish at 6 AM, 8 candles on the cake in the evening;
20 yr old: Friends wish at midnight, Maa&Baba at 6AM, a candle shaped as “20” on a cake in the evening;
24 yr old: Fewer friends wish at midnight, Maa&Baba still wish at 6AM, don’t like cakes anymore)

There was a time-
When birthdays meant balloons,
Colorful dresses, candles and boons;
Distributing chocolates in school,
Receiving gifts in wrappers uber-cool!
When birthdays meant family outings,
If they fell on holidays;
Picnics and playful mornings,
Delicious delicacies post noon,
Payesh by Maa in a teaspoon,
Snacks and games with friends,
Evenings which now feel like blue moon!

There was a time-
When birthdays meant waking up in the morning
To “Happy Birthday” wishes, Maa’s and Baba’s kisses;
Expensive one-minute STD calls from relatives
“For the birthday-boy, best wishes!”
When breakfast to dinner was gluttony
Life was as perfect as symphony.

There was another time-
When birthdays meant GPLs
Friends dragged you out of your bed
At midnight- cruel smiles on each face
While carrying you to virtually a deathbed!
In the midst of this laughter and noise,
Attending calls from forgotten friends.
Face smeared with cakes,
As sounds of- “Treat! Treat!”
Reverberated from the campus lakes.

Times have changed-
Birthdays moved from the small room
To the world outside,
From family, relatives to friends,
And now to "non-friends"
From home-made food to college-gate vendors
And now to posh restaurants,
From games to GPLs and treats
And now to refined silence;
From cards to phone-calls and SMSes
And now to the cyberspace.
Over the years, one thing hasn’t changed-
The sense of joy of having born
In to this beautiful world,
Isn’t it an achievement in itself?

Deceived into sleep

Yearning for a holiday
Which I always promised myself,
“You deserve to get it someday!”
(Or is it every day?!)
Forced my eyes wide open
Rubbing incessantly with fingers frozen,
Looked outside through the glass window
From the cozy comforts of my bed
Oh, news! ’looks cloudy outside
Low visibility and promises of shower
Which means- no terrible classes to bear
No boring lectures to hear.
Thus I slept-
Back to the dream where kites flew high;
Two hours later, when I woke up-
Had it already rained?
Yawning, I got off the bed with a leap
But walking to the window, half-asleep
With many a slow short stride
Slid it open wide-
Surprised to find no sign of water,
Nowhere on the road, no splash in the gutter,
Looked at the sky above
Clearly devoid of clouds
What was it that deceived me
Into believing the sky was cloudy
When I hadn’t even looked at it?
It must’ve been the window
With its blue glass!

At the payment counter

There’s nothing called a free lunch in this world. Literally. The meal at my office costs me forty rupees- a subsidized amount, they say. This is India- so we waste paper and pay by cash. I had the exact change today. At different points in my life, I have been surrounded by people who would not give you the balance (i.e. when the person has it) even in exchange for his/her life! (Exaggerated? Reconsider!) Now, when someone actually doesn’t have the change, there is nothing more panicky than to be in a situation where (s)he is asked to pay fifty-three bucks for a burger and (s)he has in the wallet only five-hundred rupee notes, fresh out of the ATM. (S)he would curse the taxation system for the price of the burger culminating into such an incredibly absurd figure. Such a situation is not uncommon; I have seen frowning helpless faces at both ends- the buyer and the seller. Thankfully, I wasn’t in this position today: as I said, for a change, I had change today.
Now that should have made both the guy at the counter (to be read henceforth as “G@C) and me happy (the former should have been elated, in fact). But I handed over a couple of twenty-rupee notes: one impeccable, as if fresh out of the mint and the other tattered, hoping to sneak past a couple of more hands…somehow.
Oh boy, you should have seen the expression of the G@C; it was a mixed response for sure. I had deliberately kept the “old” note underneath the “good” note while handing them over. Obviously, he is an expert when it comes to handling notes- he slid one note over the other and instantly found what was hiding beneath.
G@C gave me a look which clearly said-“Man, I do this every day- you cannot deceive me” but smiled. I must say- he is a courteous gentleman!
He held the “old” note and gently said, “Sir, ye note change kar di jiye”
I knew I had two more twenty-rupee notes (now you know who would die for change) in my wallet which would pass on as “average”. I was sure they were acceptable. I took them out and before handing them over, asked him to return both the notes. He was startled. I saw it in his eyes- he didn’t want to part with the “good” fresh currency note. He only wanted to exchange the “old” note for an “average” one.
What happened next- whether he accepted my offer or kept the earlier notes- is another story. But what would you have done?
Are you willing to part with the “good” because it comes with the “not-so-good”? Or do you want to settle with the safe bet: the “average”?