If somehow the title of this post made you think it’s about the writing and about great writers, I have a simple one word answer, ‘NO’. When it comes to writing, I am a Jon Snow, I know nothing, I am a nobody. The post is rather about writing, the verb. Pens, papers and actual writing with the hand. I came across this article shared in twitter today about the relevance of handwriting and it got me thinking, about my childhood, obsession with writing and its current (sad) state. While I mostly agree with the writer’s conclusions I try to recollect in this post about the teachers’ obsessions with our writing as children, the struggle of my friends, my own battle to better my mom at writing and how obsolete it became after we passed our high school.
Writing is like the part 3 of the communications module parents take us through after speaking and reading. They never treated the communications module as a regular task, like say, walking. Communication was no walking. For walking it was the means, it was the end goal. Not so easy with the communication. You were expected to improve as you grew up. You were expected to read faster, faster everyday than every yesterday. You were expected to speak more words, better words with every additional sentence you speak. You were expected to write better, clearer and sometimes cursive or italics depending how your mom and dad liked it. My mother was no different. Being a teacher and a person who has the best handwriting among everyone she knew, was in fact harsher. I was asked to write random English lines which she would dictate day after day while I was getting used to my first standard. Yes that’s right, I was practicing handwriting in my very first year of schooling. Although I liked the process and I thought I actually wrote well, everyday, she could find something, a less curvy ‘y’ or a little taller ‘t’, everyday. It was like music to her, an art form, and she was set to perfect every single note of her son while I just wrote not understanding what I wrote and not knowing why I wrote. As Steve Jobs said, I could only connect the dots looking backwards. I could feel the music while in high school and there after. They were no longer letters and fonts to me, they were notes and tunes and I enjoyed playing them. I still do.
Being the kid with the best handwriting in the class was like ‘my thing’. I was possessive about it. It felt like my moment, when friends asked me to write their names on the first pages of their books. With each passing year as new kids joined my class, I was on the lookout. If there was a kid with a better writing, I looked for what made their handwriting better. During my 8th, my handwriting wasn’t italics and I heard one new joiner could. I learnt it in the next week. Sometimes I adapted few specific letters from people. While studying 9th, my teachers concluded that a girl in 10th standard had the best writing in the school. I managed to get my hands on a notebook of hers and worked weeks trying to match hers. Being asked to write for the school notice board was my achievement, Not cricket, not athletics. While English was easier and I was adapting and bettering it, I could never better my language, Telugu. I envied my friend who could write the famed ‘bapu’ font at ease while I never could. Once computer was introduced in lives, I even tried to copy the fonts and match them. The teachers encouraged every bit of it too. For they assumed handwriting might get the additional marks that everybody wanted. I actually tested pens and found out when they wrote better during their lifetimes. Such was the obsession during high school. I was playing music, bettering my notes.
The way of judging a kid turned objective from the age of 15. Nobody cared how you wrote anything. Your entire life dependent on how well you could choose one of four options and pencil a tiny circle, some 100 – 150 of them. My mother still cared a bit though, just a bit while not thinking how I failed miserably in not choosing one of the four options correctly, some 100 – 150 of them. The obsession remained in Engineering too. Writing my practical record, as absurd as it sounds technically was when I got to write, to play music again. Despite being the last ones to certify my records every semester in my class, I in fact took great care of them while writing and I have stored everyone of them at home. They are my records after all, musical I mean, not laboratory.
Writing literally ceased once I entered workplace. There’s excel for everything. There’s no art in typing. But workplaces care as much about art as much as they care about you. Zilch. At the maximum, people scribble, yes they actually call them scribblers. I am nothing like the 15 year old I used to be, I scribble too for the lack of time. But the obsession is still around. Last week in a team event when HR asked us to summarize a discussion on a A3 paper, I took the pens to do ‘my thing’.
While handwriting is glorious and an amazing art form, I had a problem when it was imposed on friends who had no interest to better their writing. Art can’t be imposed. As long as the handwriting was readable to a non drunk eye, it should be okay. Considering how technology is shaping up the way we learn and communicate, handwriting shouldn’t be imposed even at the school level. The next generation kids should be good at communication not experts at cursive writing. No stopping if they do want to write better, but I hope writing would be replaced in the communications module the parents teach their children. I am not asking to scrap it altogether, just have a look around reassign the priorities to match the realities.
I still do love to write, My mom still writes better than me.