Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Moving Finger Writes

One of the admirable qualities I possessed (among others : )) in childhood, was a beautiful handwriting.

I remember once, during my visit to my mom’s sister’s place, a village in Hassan district, I had filled two foolscap sheets with the names of all my cousins, aunts, uncles on both father’s and mother’s side in Kannada. I must have been seven years old then.
I did not have anything else to write, but I knew I had to fill the sheets with closely written words for the writing to look beautiful.
If you know the Kannada language, its script - rounded, loopy, curvy, swirly - like ‘Jalebi’ as the North Indians in Bangalore describe it, you can imagine how it must have looked.
When I was in Gujarat, in Ahmedabad, my classmates had asked me to write my name in Kannada and when I had finished, they had commented ‘Oye…this looks like some Mehendi design’.

While filling in those foolscap sheets, I had taken care not to make a single mistake, not to strike out a single word, and thus avoided all ugliness and then shown it to my aunt after finishing. She had gasped, said my writing was so beautiful, that too, for someone my age, and passed it around.
Everyone took it in their hands, looked at it and nodded their head in approval.

Coming to think about it now, that must have been the first thing I wrote, if you exclude my school homework.
I must say I have come a long way :-)

My brother’s writing was always bad. It was incredibly bad – my father called it kolikal – cock’s feet. The new proper spelling would be ‘kozhikaal’.
It was so illegible. We hoped it would improve with time. But it remained the same throughout. I don’t have the right adjective.
It looked like a scattering of disfigured alphabets.
His marks in class exams remained poor – even when he had done well – because the examiners could not understand what he had written and I guess they were offended or angered that they had to go through pages of that annoying script wondering if they were holding the answer sheets upside down and if they should rotate it by 90 or 180 degrees.

My mother, after lamenting his writing, her face contorted and all, would invariably change her expression in the same breath to remark about my beautiful writing to my father.
My father would purse his lips and remark that people with beautiful handwriting did not lead very happy lives.
I don’t know where he picked that up from!
I don’t know if my father was right but today, as I look at my brother, I feel he is happier than me. People who simply live their life are usually happier than those who think about life. Isn’t it?

Though my own writing was good, I was more than once, tempted to imitate the writing of some people whose handwriting impressed me very much.
The first one, as I remember, was a girl called Kira, my classmate in 7th standard when I was in Ahmedabad, and my best friend for a while. Her letters were disjointed. Medium sized letters, neither long and narrow nor short and broad.
It was probably closest to the Calibri font. I did adopt that writing. But I can’t remember when I discarded it and returned to my own.

The next time was quite recent. When I was studying B.Sc. in Teresian college, Mysore. I had a classmate called Alby Meera Thomas from Kerala. Her writing, I will compare not to a font, but to a beautiful aristocratic lady.
Tall, slim, continuous and flowing gracefully. The loops were the best part. Not too generous. Not really rounded. Sharp at the inner end and slightly drawn out at the outer.
Whenever the college or the class needed posters to be put on notice boards, it was her calligraphic writing that adorned those posters.

Although it was the same hand doing the writing, I now realize with wonder that the result varied from pen to pen.
Certain pens, mostly ball point, caused my writing to be less beautiful. The realization would result in effort on my part to restore beauty in the writing, but after a while, the pen asserted its right to leave its mark.
And then there were pens that seemed to possess a strange capacity to make any writing beautiful. It was like magic. You pushed it across a paper effortlessly and the result was beautiful. Always.

That’s when certain pens came to be preferred to others.
The hero pen.
Into which you had to fill ink using an ink filler. The older the pen, the smoother the writing and lesser the friction.
I had just one and how I coveted a few beautiful hero pens when I saw them in a stationery shop!

And then there was the pilot pen – with micro-tip - and another cheaper kind that looked like the pilot pen but had a fibre tip that spent itself with time, became smaller and smaller and had to be replaced. I used to covet these pens too.

What I coveted as a child but never possessed was the double-decker pencil box. I don’t know if that’s what it was called or I had given it that name.
We had moved to Gujarat from the South since my father had been transferred. And suddenly we were surrounded by these rich kids possessing all sorts of fancy accessories in school.
They had more clothes than us and also more beautiful ones.
They ate fancy looking and sounding stuff that made our Idli and Dosa and curd rice seem so plain.

This double-decker pencil box was a box that could be opened on both sides. Top as well as bottom. And on each side, there were two compartments alongside – one long for pencils, pens etc. and another small for rubber and sharpener. All the lids had magnets inside to close them. Opening the lids required a gentle push upward. The box was finished with glossy colourful designs – pink, red,…and looked beautiful.
For many days – I think as long as I was in Gujarat, I dreamed that I would possess it one day. It was expensive. So I don’t think I asked my dad to buy me one.

You know, parents have a cruel way of exacting good behavior from children.
They will attribute a quality to you they want you to possess even before you have made up your mind whether to possess it or not. And they will appreciate you for it before friends and relatives. You, the child, having no other identity nor accomplishment at that age will strive to live up to that praise which is the only thing you have.
They will say things like ‘this fellow never asks for this and that when taken to shops unlike those children of our neighbours who cry stubbornly before all public until they have it’.
And sure, once you have heard your mom say it, you will never ask for a thing when you go to a shop even if you want it with all your heart.
You will, of course, be praised again and again, from time to time and you will carry the burden of that praise.
So I did not ask for that pencil box.
Or may be I asked for it and was rebuked.

I did of course possess a pencil box that was shaped and coloured like Cadbury’s dairy milk chocolate. It caused other problems, like increasing my craving for dairy milk chocolate, but of course, I refrained from asking for chocolates too.

Once I joined the software profession, writing meant only one thing. Rough notes scribbled in a hurry on the Cognizant notepad during team meetings. Soon, hurried scribbling became a habit and my handwriting, unceremonious. And shabby.

There was this colleague from another team who had done some course in handwriting analysis and even taken exams.
When he told me about it, I asked him if he would analyse my writing. Sure, he would. I looked at my notepad and knew I could not give that to him.
I asked him to give me a minute to write ‘properly’ in my ‘original’ writing.
He shook his head and gently took the book from me. He said ‘that is your writing too’.

He turned the pages, scrutinized the words and established patterns.
Of all the things he had said, I remember one very clearly, for it had surprised me.

It was my ‘t’. He had commented that the cross on my ‘t’ was low. I had low self esteem.
I was surprised and tried to convince him that I had never had low self esteem and in fact, I actually suffered from a slight superiority complex. The analysis was not always perfect after all. There had to exceptions and cases where the analysis went wrong.

He did not assert himself but suggested that I could help the problem by consciously putting a high cross on my ‘t’. Gradually my self esteem would become higher.
This was difficult to believe. I was incredulous.

I did believe in the possibility that writing was characteristic of the mind and not of the hand. It was an attribute of the mind. If you tied someone’s right hand and forced him to write with his left, for a long time, he would in the beginning struggle to write but eventually write in the same handwriting that was his when he had used his right hand. Because writing was a quality of the mind, not of the hand or of the fingers or of the pen.

But it was the first time I was hearing that it worked backwards too. That you could change your mind, by consciously changing your handwriting.

I did not try. But I did think about what he had said afterwards as I always do when I am told something that angers or hurts or offends me - dismiss it as impossible and then think about it for long after.

Now the whole place being infested with the keyboard, there isn’t a need to write.
Now, I only write for myself when I read books and take notes and meanings of words that I don’t understand from the dictionary.
I am scribbling in a hurry most of the time, so my writing doesn’t eat into my reading time.
I start on the first page in a writing almost calligraphic and before I know… : (
I actually don’t know what my ‘proper’ handwriting is. As I write this, I realize I am in a crisis!

I do check the cross on my ‘t’ once in a way and wonder if it is too low! But I am unable to decide because it’s not my ‘original’ and ‘proper’ handwriting in the first place.

It’s perhaps time to visit the stationery shop and buy myself a hero pen and a pilot pen and a fibre tip. It’s perhaps time to start writing again.
I should check if they still have those double-decker pencil boxes or something as fancy and buy one.
And buy everything else that I had once coveted…Except those that cannot be bought. And such of those, I must have coveted many…many more than the ones money could buy.
If only I could see the moving finger that wrote my destiny, I would get my friend to analyse that finger. Why is HE such a sadist? Why did HE put beyond my reach things that I coveted? And why did HE make me covet what was beyond my reach?


Rishi said...

You write even this topic, I am sure before you started writing blog you would have never imagined yourself.
I liked the very clean observation about parents influencing kids. Has happened with me by never thought that way till now. The fact you say the decision whether to possess a quality or not is so true.

Now coming to writing I saw someone write fast with both hands, one the mirror image of the other (laterally inverted). I thought the man is gifted. But then I tried and it came out. I was not fast but realized if I practice can become fast. The best part was both the hands had same writing though laterally inverted. So its true that your writing reflects the mind.
Yesterday (day of this blog) was Kishore Kumar's B'day, thought you will write something about music and him :-).


ramesh said...

Sowmya, It seems you feel less happier than your brother? little desperation in your words. No need. You are such an intelligent, cute and sensible girl with such sharp observations of life. You can feel proud of yourself.
I came very recently into your blog and since then a regular visitor. This is one of the excellent blogs I ever came upon. Keep it up and best of luck.