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Typists in India. Image source: www.youtube.com
  • A handful of Indian typists keeps the tradition of typewriting alive in India
  • Every year, Typewriter day is acknowledged on June 23
  • The world’s last mechanical typewriter manufacturing company, Godrej & Boyce was closed down in Mumbai, India, in 2011

A 70 year-old man in Kolkata works on his aged but gleaming typewriter, typing the neatest of the documents in exchange of a meager amount. When the whole world has made computers part of their lives, these men kept the age old tradition of typewriting alive through their love for it.

Typewriter day is acknowledged on June 23 and recognizes the US patent granted to Christopher Latham Sholes in 1868. Thus it becomes crucial to recognize people who keep the spirit of the ancient device up.



An underwood typewriter with its qwerty keyboard. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

A report records that “The world’s last mechanical typewriter manufacturing company, Godrej & Boyce, which produced 12,000 machines in 2009 alone, closed down in Mumbai, India, in 2011. The warehouse has since been converted into a refrigerator-manufacturing unit.” However, the machine has not taken a last breath yet.

The most noticeable idea arises when one sees the typewriters still being a part of many people working outside the courts. For them, earning 5 dollars a day is an achievement. The most interesting thing to note is how these people have this sole occupation to rely on for their livelihood, hence the will to type the documents make them passionate for the work and also for the device.

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It’s not that they didn’t try their luck at several other occupations as that of clerical jobs in several government offices. However, they felt content being a typist as it fetches them enough for their livelihood. They do not own a cabin inside high-rise buildings but sit under blue plastic sheets opposite to the street tea-stalls, juice corners and ‘pan bhandars’.

The reason with their sticking to the same place, whatever the season is, brings one to the fact that it’s a hub for them. To put it as their statement, “We must stick around these court offices, else who will give us the work?” An organisation called the High Court Freelance Typist Association used to protect the right of these typists for which the internal politics resulted in dissolution 15 years ago. However, ending of the official association didn’t break their unity and now they work in the direction of being settles avoiding outsiders to enter their domain. They proudly claim, ‘We do what the computer people can’t’.

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Somenath Adhikary, a lawyer described their importance as, “Earlier we had shorthand professionals and we could dictate the text and get them typed later. Now good shorthand writers are not available so we have to make do with hurriedly written notes that turn out to be quite illegible at some point,” he explains. These typists, having worked with us for so long, know our handwriting; they can figure out the letters and the strokes. They have also learned a lot about the vocabularies we use, the sentences we frame. So when they turn in a typed document on the basis of our scanty and handwritten notes, the typed sheet looks neat and perfect. They make our jobs so much easier.”

These typists do not go through an easy life and they travel long distances from home to work. They rent a space to keep their assets safe overnight. What they give the world are not just inked words on a white paper, but they tell how a tradition can never be escaped, by keeping it alive.

-This article is compiled by a staff-writer at NewsGram.

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