Skip to main content

Writing without pen and paper

My little world

When I was a little kid, I saw my elder brother using palm leaves for learning the Malayalam alphabet. That’s how the preschools in Kerala worked in the early 1960s. Those preschools were a far cry from their counterparts of today; they were terror centres. The teacher, known as äsän (guru) in Malayalam, was Kerala’s version of Dickens’s Gradgrind. The äsän didn’t teach, he ground the alphabet and numbers into the tender skins of the little kids. He used a cane when he thought all those pinches on arms, earlobes and thighs were not enough incentives for the little ones to master the bizarrely twisted letters of Malayalam.

The äsän was such a terror that I refused to go to the preschool. I was fortunate to have a father who accepted my stubbornness. He, my father, decided to teach me. He was a good teacher. I learnt the outlandish twists of Malayalam alphabet [have a look at the first few letters to understand how tough it was for a kid to reproduce them; and they always began with these first letters: , , , , ] without my arms, ears and thighs being subjected to perverse pedagogical pleasures.

The palm leaves were replaced with books and slates by the time my little fingers began to associate themselves with the agonies and ecstasies of learning. My fingers grew used to letters and words. They must have written a few million pages before I acquired a portable typewriter in 1989.

The typewriter was for typing out articles which I wrote for some local newspapers in Shillong those days. Actual writing was continued for years. Letters to friends and relatives were always handwritten. When was the last time I wrote someone a handwritten letter?

I don’t remember. When the telephone became common enough, I stopped writing letters. That was some time in the early 1990s. Shillong was still a backward little town with hardly a phone in private homes. People made use of kiosks called PCOs [Public Call Office]. The rates were exorbitant. I remember paying Rs 80 per minute for making a call from Shillong to Kerala during daytime. At night the rates would be half. Shillong was not a town that had much night life in those days. So your conversations on the phone were measured and weighed. Just the right words. Maximum info in minimum words. Laughter was out of question. Sighs were suppressed. Letters were better: they could carry the sighs between the lines.

But letters died a natural death as the phone became common and the rates were made comparatively more affordable. The inland letters and stamped envelopes disappeared from my table. With the arrival of the computer at what was called rather ominously as the cybercafé, even the greeting cards disappeared. Greetings went digital.

Do I miss writing/receiving letters? I don’t think I do. I don’t even use my phone nowadays except to connect to the social media and the blog and the omniscient Google. Virtual relationships that remain somewhere in the miasma beyond the clouds of physical reach are good enough for me.

The smiley in that virtual world is as hollow as the gif. Words are hollower. Truth has been appropriated by the bigot. The sterile thunder in a bleak sky has arrogated love to itself. There are too many slogans that sound nice and burst like bombs somewhere in the netherworld of your longings.

I have withdrawn myself from the marketplace of love. Let patriots and nationalists trade in love. And truth. Social distancing has been a blessing for me for years. Words are virtual reality that doesn’t require pen and paper. What a journey has it been from the palm leaves of my kid-days  to the 4G phone on which I'm poking in this...!


  1. I came late to your blog this year but your posts brought back a rush of memories related to books. I'm still a pen and paper writer. Even today, the first outline of my stories are always on paper. Congratulations on the successful completion of yet another A2Z challenge.

    1. Congrats to you too, Sonia. It was nice being with you this month.

  2. Congratulations on completion of the challenge... I had been visiting your blog before the challenge and will continue to do so... To derive some inspiration to write... And to write better :)!

    Pen and paper... Well, has got replaced for me with the mobile now... Virtual world has taken over!! I don't think I miss pen and paper but yes virtual world and phone keypad may be convinient but pen and paper is and has always been that lost first love which I only reminisce now for nothing is as therapeutic!!

    1. Thanks and congrats to you too. Your poems engaged me in april.

      I use the laptop more than the phone. Pen and paper are out anyway.

  3. Congratulations :)
    Beautiful written.
    Stay well.

  4. I miss writing letters...not many I've written just handful of them. I was in the middle when internet came in and yes the telecommunication was a costly affair. I remember that as well.. Thanks for bringing the 90s. The much evident change was 20s, the drastic one as well...ahh nostalgic..

    1. We can expect more drastic changes in days to come.

    2. order food online near me

      Your favorite restaurant's pickup or delivery you choose! We have our local Pig's Breath Grill online which offers you special food with a discount, from local favorite restaurants, you can easily order food online with us get.

  5. I never got to write letters with pen and paper. The only letters I've written are to pen-pals through email. Now letters seem pointless with the ease of instant chatting. But I like hand-written letters. There being no backspace when writing with a pen, I find it raw and authentic. I have an occasional habit of writing letters to my future self. I find it fun to check how much I've changed when I read it much later.

    1. Handwritten things are personal, they exude that personal touch. Digital writings lack that touch. But the world has to go on ahead, not backward. Even I have given up writing by hand.

    2. So fluid in its flow...the narration turns poetic...nostalgia paints the past into present....leaving a suspense that it might soon paint the future....the change, whether physical, psychological, emotional, perceptional or philosophical or some or all, may happen in a life or in legacy it adapts itself to it or takes refuge to its fallen leaves...but, it leaves a path behind to trace remeber those pebbles on the way...and, they tell more tales long forgotten....of losing something, gaining something, ignoring something and loving sketches life upon life....for the future to roll into a large canvas of life
      My regards


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Advani and Modi

Cartoon from Deepika This morning's Malayalam newspaper, Deepika, delighted readers with the above cartoon on the front page. Modi is portrayed as Bhima in quest of the Sougandhika flower.  He encounters Hanuman on the way and is unable to meet the challenge posed by Hanuman.  Finally Bhima will understand the real power of his interceptor and seek his blessings. Fabulous cartoon, I mused.  It depicts the present situation tersely.  And there's a deep irony too in it. Neither Modi nor Advani is worthy of any comparison with the epic characters.  Both have acted from selfish motives thus far and continue to do so. But the nature of the Kurukshetra has changed too today.  Today our heroes are no better than these characters.   

The Ugly Duckling

Source: Acting Company A. A. Milne’s one-act play, The Ugly Duckling , acquired a classical status because of the hearty humour used to present a profound theme. The King and the Queen are worried because their daughter Camilla is too ugly to get a suitor. In spite of all the devious strategies employed by the King and his Chancellor, the princess remained unmarried. Camilla was blessed with a unique beauty by her two godmothers but no one could see any beauty in her physical appearance. She has an exquisitely beautiful character. What use is character? The King asks. The play is an answer to that question. Character plays the most crucial role in our moral science books and traditional rhetoric, religious scriptures and homilies. When it comes to practical life, we look for other things such as wealth, social rank, physical looks, and so on. As the King says in this play, “If a girl is beautiful, it is easy to assume that she has, tucked away inside her, an equally beauti

Reading Comprehension for Senior Students

 Let me present the reading comprehension test I gave to my 12th graders recently.  1.        Read the passage and answer the questions that follow .                      1x10 = 10 1.     On 1 Oct, India launched 5G services. It was a low-key affair even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi was launching it. Natural, perhaps, since it came after 70-odd countries had deployed it in close to 2000 cities since 2019 when South Korea kicked off the new era of connectivity. 2.     Attempts to get 5G going in India have been botched by muddled policies. The biggest bottleneck was the high reserve prices for airwave sales. The 700-megahertz band, which is needed for 5G technology, was priced so high that it did not receive any bids in the March auction and even in the recent auction, only one company, market leader Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio, has been able to cough up the asking price despite a scaling down of rates by the government. Telecom companies are bleeding after the cutthroat tar

To a friend

Vincent van Gogh - self-portrait of a man who suffered much This post is dedicated to a person who was very dear to me for quite some time. We were good friends. But certain situations affected that friendship adversely. Years later, he contacted me recently. There is a lot of frustration, anger, sadness and rebellion in his psyche, as I sense it. Dear Friend, Your present situation grieves me as much as it worries me. I knew you as a benevolent individual who went out of his way to help friends. I received much help from you for many years. You were an inspiration for me in more ways than you might have ever imagined. What happened to our friendship was inevitable to some extent because I was passing through a painful phase of personality deterioration and your efforts to assist turned out to be counterproductive. It was not your fault at all. You meant well, I know. I knew it at that time too but my psychological condition made it impossible for me to continue our friendship. I n