An ode to the typewriter

A new book documents the history of the typewriter in India

March 27, 2017 09:04 pm | Updated 09:04 pm IST

In late 2009, Godrej, one of the largest typewriter manufacturing company in India decided to wrap up its typewriting business. It marked the end of an era as the once ubiquitous typewriter took the curtain call. Photojournalist Chirodeep Chaudhari got in touch with Godrej for a story on the last typewriting factory.

“I was very keen on documenting the journey of the last typewriting machine. I got in touch with Vrunda Pathare- the head of Godrej Archives- and discussed documenting the final journey of the typewriter. That did not materialise, though I began to think about a book that will carry stories and pictures of the typewriters and document the people using the machines.”

Godrej agreed to the document the typewriter and that was the genesis of With Truth and Great Regards , a book that traces the 150-year-old journey of the typewriter in India, a machine that served as the lifeline of the country for many years before advanced word processors and computers made their mark. It has been authored by by Chiordeep Chaudhuri and Sidharth Bhatia.

Talking about the book at the launch in Bengaluru, Pathare, who has also contributed to the book says, “We collected the information presented by travelling extensively across India and documenting the stories of typists, dealers, typing classes and repair shops - the entire ecosystem that developed around the typewriter. There were many stories covering a vast range of human emotions.”

She adds, “The typewriter was a very important device in my home when I was growing up. Our first typewriter was an electronic typewriter my brother got when he was studying outside India.”

It took about five to six years to complete the book. Chaudhuri points out, “It is a technology tale. We wanted to go beyond the ordinary stories of typists. We researched quite a bit and discovered people and very interesting stories. When I began my career as a journalist, typewriting was considered a necessity. In this time and age, in an attempt to relive the typewriting era, word processors are incorporating sounds that mimic the slide of the machine.”

Narrating an anecdote, he says, “A mechanic spoke about a man who had a house, the roof of which looked like a typewriter. I was apprehensive and wondered if it will appear like a typewriter in the book. Getting the angles of shooting the typewriters was also challenging, we were always thinking about whether to shoot from the top, sideways or from behind.”

Talking about the cover of the book, Sarita Sundar, designer of the book, says, “This cover marries the visual aspect of archival content and the tactile quality of the machine - and also plays on the various idioms and expressions associated with the typewriter.”

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