The Missing Art Of Traditional Writing

August 10th, 2012

Writing, a traditional form of communication is being gradually losing to computer-generated communication. This has brought advantages no doubt, but has lost so many facets of human touch in this path of transformation.

Just by opening the facebook page of my Medical College group, I closely noticed for the first time, at the very top it is asking the viewer to act on an inviting phrase: ‘Write Something’.

Before I responded to it, I found to play with these words for a while. The phrase seemed to be a literal flaw to me. It should ask us.. ‘type’ something and not write. Had it been 15 years back, till when writing with a pen was the custom for most of the writers (as PCs and laptops were unaffordable for most), people used to say ‘write’ (meaning using pen and paper) and say ‘type’ when using a typewriter.

From a book ‘The Continent Of Circe’ I am reading now, by Nirad C. Chaudhuri, I came across a juicy story. Once, his friend writer, Khushwant Singh had lent his new typewriter to this economically poor, talented Bengali friend. All was nice until Khushwant in an interview with a journalist mentioned Chaudhuri’s name as one of the writers he loves to read. But this wasn’t without a pinch of salt. He said, “Poor man cannot even afford a typewriter, so I had to lend him one.” Nirad was flabbergasted that his state of abject poverty was made such a delicious dish for the readers, while also enhancing his (Khushwant’s) image. This ‘poor Benglee’ was made to lose his last possession… his pride and prestige.

From this story, I got the evidence that ‘writing’ on a typewriter was not so uncommon ( here I take a small diversion. During my early MBBS days, I used to visit one of my friend’s house quite often as he liked to have a joint reading session with me. I was ever ready to be at his place, as his mother was an extremely good cook and I never wanted to miss the chance to taste those delicacies. While studying, we came across this term ‘Not so uncommon’ and I really had to struggle to imbibe in him the real sense of this phrase, typical of British Modesty!

(coming back)

But as these gentlemen were ‘writing’ (rather typing) in English, it was possible.

The vernacular writers I think till date prefer to write (literary with a pen and paper). But, if we talk about people in general, in current time, it is correct also as the terms have become synonymous. How many of us are really writing letters or even posting a birthday wish card with hand-written scribbling of our emotions?

Life has come to be on a fast forward mode for most, communication explosion has connected people many a time and with a click of mouse one can communicate with N-number of desired receivers in a fraction of a second. Naturally, it is now customary to invite relatives and friends through mails (via internet) rather than taking the trouble of completing the ‘tiresome’, ‘lengthy’, ‘organized’ way of writing scores of letter to many and then fix them properly with gum (most often we see most of these paraphernalia are hardly spotted in the house when needed) before dropping those in a letterbox at a mile away, hoping at least half of them would see their destinations in time. All these miseries have become things of past thanks to modern technology.

This morning, being a Sunday, I had a broad scope to chat leisurely with a 80-year old who is a good listener. I was expressing how the charm of looking at the old letters, manuscripts are gradually getting rarer and rarer over past decade or so. In those manuscripts, a loads of other hidden charms one could taste… like the quality of handwriting, the mood and character of the person while writing the matter (is it faultless, organized, soothing, or otherwise). In Tagore’s manuscripts we see a commonly that the writer used to convert his cancelled parts of the lines, words or a full column into various figures in a unique art-form… which is adding to the charm of his mainline poetical creations and its theme. Had Tagore sat with a computer with an Avro software to create Bengali poems (I got to know about the software from my dear buddy Siddhartha M. whom I fondly address as ‘Sidhdha Mukh’ and most importantly, he doesn’t mind the name being used and… may be abused by me), where on earth these gems would come from his fingers (and not ‘hand’…again, I am trying to be ‘clinically honest’ as we use the whole hand in writing, and only fingers while typing ). We would, as a result obtained a part of that genius through modern ‘writing’ technique. That would be abjectly an ‘un-Tagorian’ product.

Conclusion drawn is, with our all-round development we have unconsciously accepted typing and writing as synonyms. But in this smooth transformation of norms and practices many a charm has been lost which bear the flavour of humanity that includes varied qualitatively inspirational, thought-provoking dimensions (like a multicoloured rainbow), and offering in its place a bland, blunt, stereotyped, charm-less, colourless method of expression.

Things to ponder!!

Not for all, but for the ‘lazy bums’ as I am being addressed by my Mom, when she is disgusted with me sitting and scribbling ‘abol-tabol’ and not putting my efforts in more fruitful ways, like helping her in the house or getting some stuff she needs urgently from the grocery… unlucky, poor I am, the old lady will never know the meaning of ‘brain-storming’!

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