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When the running hand dropped out of the race

Writer writing on computer paper sheet vector illustration, flat cartoon person editor write electronic book text top view, laptop with writing letter or journal, journalist author working

Writer writing on computer paper sheet vector illustration, flat cartoon person editor write electronic book text top view, laptop with writing letter or journal, journalist author working  

“Your language is good, but running is bad; try to improve your running.”

I was never good at sports, so my schoolteacher was obviously not referring to my physical education but to my cursive handwriting (often called “running hand” or just “running”).

And after I got admission to a medical college, back-to-back classes, interspersed with bedside clinics, and frequent exams led to a progressive increase in stress, a matching increase in volume of notes and a further decline in the legibility of my handwriting.

The problem multiplied several folds when I joined the MD programme in Trivandrum Medical College. The medical journals carried review articles in huge numbers, with often conflicting conclusions. Our job was to keep a note of all those and present them in the weekly “journal club”. Every day ended with a huge pile of notes, mostly unreadable. My running hand by now had deteriorated to a scribble.

Never lost

Most notes could not be located when needed, and those few which were traced could not be deciphered even by me. But a faint trace of the articles and their context remained somewhere deep inside the brain.

Writing a note or a scribble leaves an indelible mark somewhere deep inside the amygdala and hippocampus, areas of brain which consolidate memory. But then, for people like me who were congenitally bad at the running hand, came a breakthrough: “photocopy”. The technology excited us, and as every corner shop got a “Xerox”, costs dipped and every journal article was photocopied.

By the time we got addicted to photocopy and degraded our running hand, Bill Gates offered us a life-changing gift that changed the transaction of data forever. Now there was no need for a running hand or scribbles, but just taps on the keyboard would do.

Fast but ineffective

A recent study has shown that students who took notes in a laptop or tablet were faster than those who wrote in cursive. But the flip side is, when the students were asked to answer a set of questions on the said topic, those writing in cursive fared far better.

In an era when a “how to write a love letter” search returns a million results in four seconds, a cursive handwritten letter is like a hand-crafted gift. The shiny, backlit keyboard steals the show but not the heart.

But still the keyboard has won, and the running hand has dropped out of the race.

My bad handwriting could be due to poor dexterity or a thinking process that is too fast for the hand to match. My hospital pharmacist swears that it is the former, but I still believe it’s the latter.

tinynair@gmail.com

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2020 4:39:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/when-the-running-hand-dropped-out-of-the-race/article32302590.ece

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