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 J 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!