Of This & That : Past Perfect Of One’s Hand

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handwritten scrip university of arizona

When we were younger, in the decades of the eighties and nineties of the last century, a person whose handwriting was good, was deemed to be an intellectual, a respectable individual. This was before the advent of the iPad, laptops and smart phones. Children were given lessons on cursive writing in triple-ruled pages. A good handwriting was a tradition that was handed down from parents to their children. 

As soon as we had done away with chalks and slate, graphite pencils (then known as lead pencils) arrived. Sharpeners, to sharpen the lead ends, were kept separately in much-cherished pencil boxes. The latter were most often birthday presents from the elders – aunts, uncles, cousins. Those were the days when we ogled at the Barbie dolls, sitting petite in toy shops. Today’s children are drawn more to tablets and laptops. But that is a different topic of discussion.

Our emails today are short, crisp and to-the-point. It seems both sender and recipient are in a mad rush to catch up with the act of living itself.

Even to this day, an examination paper written in good and legible handwriting, pleases the examiners considerably. We can only hope that the future of our education system doesn’t get affected by the ravages of the pandemic; and the art of a good handwriting doesn’t die a slow death like the art of letter writing. We have stopped waiting for the postman to arrive in the heat of sleepy and sultry summer afternoons.

This is an age of e mails, WhatsApps. Even text messages have become all but obsolete. SMS now stands for Sanitizer, Masks, and Social Distancing – the mandatory rules of living in the current, prevalent situation. Our emails today are short, crisp and to-the-point. It seems both sender and recipient are in a mad rush to catch up with the act of living itself.

So even if one has an almost-illegible handwriting otherwise, it doesn’t alter matters. The computer has made our lives less complicated. Then there was the trendy fashion of using black ink in pens. Even though our nation has banned the use of Chinese apps in our smart phones, Chinese ink fountain pens were very popular when we were students. These made for smooth and effective writing. Now-a-days, most medical practitioners have handwritings which become hard to decipher for the general public. The use of ball point pens, which paved the way for quicker and faster writing, is primarily to blame for this grievous malady.

Fountain Pens - Because They're There. - Blog
The ink fountain pens of yore

In a recent study, researchers are assigning the lockdown and the mental stress related to the prevailing situation, for the worsening of people’s handwriting. So meditate more, and never let stress have the better of you, to ensure a good handwriting lifelong! I don’t know how many readers here had the experience of having a penfriend!! Those were the days of writing and receiving long letters. It is indeed an extinct practice. As for myself, I never had a good handwriting. It was just about legible enough and so I always prayed that the examiners would give me the benefit of doubt, always. Hence I sighed in relief when my parents purchased a PC for me. Here it didn’t matter whether one had a good or a bad handwriting. The only thing that mattered here was speed and a reasoning mind.

A good handwriting bespeaks, supposedly, of a beautiful mind. Calligraphy is not what I am speaking about in the present context. The legendary film maker, Oscar-winning Satyajit Ray had developed two kinds of calligraphic scripts and had named them Ray Roman and Ray Bizarre. Ray himself had an impeccable handwriting – elegant, poised, and highly intellectual. When handwritten letters were the order of the day, some men took all the pains of emulating a good handwriting. Thereby these were called ‘effeminate’ ones. Frankly speaking, I never found any reason behind their being called so. I had assumed that since those were revolutionary days of struggle and hardships, a man/boy’s attempt at writing well, was considered to be rather ‘going against the tide’ as it were. Those were the days when the cause of the nation had many a mind embroiled and steeped in thought and contemplation as opposed to the present trends of sitting back and relaxing before the idiot box.

The legendary film maker, Oscar-winning Satyajit Ray had developed two kinds of calligraphic scripts and had named them Ray Roman and Ray Bizarre.

Before the computer arrived, authors used the Remington typewriter to write down their manuscripts and send them to publishers with trepidation in their hearts. These were usually submitted in longhand. During early to mid nineteenth century, women writers like the Bronte sisters, hailing from the village of Haworth in Yorkshire, England, took pseudonyms like Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell to publish their novels. Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is a personal favourite. We read Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights as a text for our Masters Class at the Calcutta University. 

I still feel that women face more hardships than men, in publishing their works. Even to this today. The bastion of patriarchy, quite sadly, has all but prevailed. When activists are championing the cause of women’s rights, and films like Neerja and Raazi are being made on the lives of female brave hearts like , the scenario should been different altogether. When thinking about women and their freedom of expression, Anne Frank’s The Dairy of A Young Girl first comes to mind. The book is as much for young readers as it is for adult minds. Writing dairies is a very good form of self-expression, in young, highly impressionable minds. Anne Frank addressed her diary as ‘Kitty’ and all the entries in the book are there in the form of letters addressed to her dear ‘Kitty’. 

Museums preserve the original handwritten manuscripts of famous writers of world renown. We are all acquainted with Tagore’s perfectly scripted poems which often paved the way for artworks, born out of his habit of doodling. To possess a good handwriting is a feather in one’s cap, undoubtedly. And it’s never too late to perfect this craft. So all of us, let us make hay while the sun shines!!

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