Among my few possessions is the Underwood typewriter on which I have been typing this column for 20 years and more. It was old when I acquired it and has grown older since.
I bought it second-hand at the typewriter shop of Mr. Dias in Gogha Street, by some strang coincidence not very far from where my office is now, I remember the occasion clearly, like they say in books - as if it was yesterday.
The shop was filled with wrecks of typewriters, in various stages of disrepair. Since I could not afford a new typewriter, I had gone to Mr. Dias, for a second-hand one, and, since I had been recommended and come through a friend (actually, Mr. Dias's brother), he uncovered and recommended the Underwood to me. It cost me Rs. 1,200, which was an investment I have not regretted.
As typewriters go, it is not much to look at. It is fabricated on the classic Underwood style, without a top cover and requiring all the skill of a meticulous craftsman to thread the ribbob. After all these years, I am still unable to change the ribbon and depend on Mr. Shankar Nair, a peon at the Times Of India to do so. Once every two months he comes to my house and performs the task.
The typewriter looks battered (used would be a more appropriate description), large parts of it are rusted, most of the letters on the keys are erased, it rumbles and groans as I type on it every morning. But it types smoother tham any brand new Godrej or Facit available in the market. It is like an old and much-used Rolls Royce against a new Ambassador.
When I bought it, I had only one idea - that I should recover the Rs. 1,200 I had invested in it any earning money through in the beginning this looked an impossible task, I have now done so several times over.
In the process, I have bought myself a Cannon electronic noiseless, with a built-in memory, keys that bleep every time I make a mistake, an automatic carriage that sets the margin, the spacing and all the other minor details on its own. I have kept it locked in the cupboard. I have also acquired a PCL electric, which I use to type reports, letter, but not this column.
For the column, I use the old Underwood. People sometimes ask me how I write. I will now tell. I roll the paper in the Underwood, set the margin, and sit back. The Underwood then writes the column.