Clackety-clack

The typewriter once belonged to my great-grandfather. It is a portable Remington from the early 1920s. The burnished black frame still glints. The keys — pale yellow discs on thin metal strips are as sprightly as ever. Years after great-grandpa’s demise, my grandfather retrieved the typewriter from the attic and handed over to my father who went to work on it — oiling, replacing worn-out springs, fixing the latches on its case. He brought the typewriter back to life late one night and the sudden clatter of the old Remington woke the entire household.
  
As long as the typewriter was working, my father refused to buy a new one, a more efficient model. I recall him saying that he did not want the Remington to go back into the attic. So he nursed it along with a silent tenacity. He stubbornly kept the machine from sinking to disrepair and obsolescence.

The little portable is a living bit of my father’s past. He associates the machine with a time I can only glimpse through sepia-tinted photographs in the family album: our ancestral country home, grandpa during his school years and great-grandpa standing straight-backed and mustachioed — the portrait of a patriarch.

When my relationship with my father matured into friendship, I realised that much of my father had rubbed off on me. His writing, for instance. I began by helping him check facts in his pieces by scrounging for information in libraries and later on the google. As my father transferred his stories from longhand to type, I would proof the pages. Between us the Remington rang with its busy staccato as the typefaces crashed on to the white foolscap and left their indelible impressions.

My dad gave me the typewriter when I left home to study at St Xaviers in Calcutta. Faced with a busy academic schedule, I worked long hours to complete research assignments. I became adept at using computers and text files. Software packages took over the chore of setting columns and paragraphs. But I continued to use the Remington sparingly mainly to correspond with my father.

Our exchanges continue, even as I settle into a job in another city. The old typewriter has accompanied me. Somehow, I don’t perceive it as just a utilitarian piece of machinery anymore. The old portable has become part of the familiar and reassuring in my life. Perhaps, my grandpa felt the same when he took the Remington out of the attic years ago.

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