By Shevlin Sebastian
Pics: Parents in their prime; the good old days of the typewriter
Throughout my childhood, my father would bring out a community magazine. So I would see him type up the hand-written articles on his Hermes typewriter. ‘Click Clack’ went the keys at high speed. Then it would be sent to the printers. They would bring the proofs and I would watch as my father made corrections in his clear handwriting using red ink. And then one day the copies would come, in neat bundles, tied with string. I would flip through one and feel amazed at how the hand-written articles had ended up in a neat and compact way inside a magazine.
So, is it any wonder that at age 16, one morning, I borrowed my Dad’s typewriter, rolled in a piece of paper, at a table in the verandah of our ground-floor apartment in Kolkata and wrote my first words? Astonishingly, I went to the end of the page. I read what I had written and liked it. But I knew, from my father’s example, that I needed to edit it. So, I used a pencil to correct and improve the text.
I retyped it and sent it by post to a weekly newspaper which used to come to my house. So imagine my shock and surprise, when two weeks later, the article appeared, without a single word being changed… and I saw my byline in print for the first time. It ignited a passion in me.
My mother also played a role. A few years ago she told me a memory which would be impossible for me to recall. She said that as soon as my father, who was an entrepreneur, left for work, she would sit on an armchair, put me, a few months old, on her lap, and read the newspaper. “I could do that because you always remained quiet and still,” she said.
So I can imagine sitting against my mother, who later became a teacher, listening to her heartbeat and looking at print. Mother and son in a loving meditative silence with the only sound being the rustle of paper, as she turned the pages. Is it any wonder that reading is one of my most cherished habits and I ended up spending my life in the print media.
Nowadays, at 10 p.m. I have a chat with my parents. The conversation revolves around the people we have met, news of relatives, and events in the newspaper. But, always, sometime during the talk, my father will ask, “Is any article of yours appearing tomorrow?” If I say no, he looks disappointed. But I am happy that, after 4500 bylines, my father, who is 93, is still pushing me…
(Published as a middle in The New Indian Express, South Indian editions)