One day, I found a relic from the pre-Microsoft era – my first fountain pen.
A solid, hefty fountain pen – the kind that fills a man’s hand. Not the horribly expensive, anorexic excuse for a pen we get these days. You know, the ones with plastic bodies and ceramic balls. No, a real pen, with a real nib.
For a change, I thought I would actually write instead of tapping away at a keyboard. Pulled out a sheet of crisp, white A4 paper from the laser printer, dug out an ancient bottle of royal blue ink, rolled up my sleeves, and got down to work.
The end result looked like Hosur Road on a bad day. Letters completely illegible, words in disarray, sentences awry, the page liberally smudged with ink from my fingers.
And the horrible truth hit me on the face – I had forgotten how to write.
This is the price we pay for cyber-conformism. We, blissful Net-heads of the Third Millennium, have become so used to tapping away at keyboards, so used to clicking on mice, so used to Spell Check and drop-down menus, that we have actually forgotten how to write.
This is our e-world. Telecommuting on an InfoTech superhighway, dipping into each others’ e-wallets; a world in which the words ‘I Love You’ in our email cause cardiac arrest, a world enclosed by firewalls, nourished with cookies, beans and applets.
I remember another world. The world of my college library. Where one could thrill to the sensuous caress of book-leather under the fingers. The musty smell of old paper. The cheerful sneeze on ancient bookdust. The genteel graffiti of colored light cast by stained-glass windows upon a flaking wall. The homely gloom of lonely bookshelves on a rainy afternoon. The reassuring creak of seasoned teak. The warm lustre of century-old varnish.
The serene dignity of the old library in sunset repose. The graceful architecture, history oozing from the antique mould. The stooped librarian, silencing my noisy rustling with a benign glare. The childish exhilaration in rushing to see the latest books just arrived from ‘University’. The indefinable aroma of new gum and unread paper.
I remember the thrill I felt when I actually held The Special Theory of Relativity written by one Albert Einstein. Somehow, e=mc2 doesn’t feel the same on a Kindle.
Will Gen-Next ever understand the excitement of discovering real books? The awe that only the touch of a truly great book can send through your being? Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. Asimov’s I,Robot. Nehru’s Discovery of India. Charaka’s Samhita. Gray’s Anatomy. Finar’s Organic Chemistry.
Cyberia’s idea of history is a 32-bit cyberbimbette offering a ‘tour’ of Globe Theater in the comfort of your own desktop. Virtual reality, indeed.
Impressive progress we have made, very impressive. In one single generation we have gone from reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic to megabytes, mice and msoffice.
And I, self-styled writer and nostalgic dinosaur from an earlier millennium have, by the grace of Bill Gates, progressed too.
From Writer’s Cramp to QWERTY Fingers.
No cheers … Srini.