More times than not, great dramatic events are not responsible for great (or even, simple) realizations. A loaf of bread left unattended and uneaten by one Mr.Fleming, piqued his interest in the fungus growth on it, which eventually led to the discovery of penicillin. Same was the case with Mr.Becquerel and his accidental discovery of radioactivity. And many more stories about Mr.Nobel and Mr.Edison and their bumblings, resulting in discoveries and inventions that are spread out on the spectrum ranging from necessities to luxuries, confirm the theory about simple facts leading to great realizations. Though my realization is not going to alter the course of human history hereon henceforth, and does not rank alongside the creations of the aforementioned men in overcoats and funny beards, I consider it important to myself at least nonetheless. As Gandhiji once stated, revolutions start with cleaning up our yards first. It all started with an occasion that warranted a pre-printed greeting card from the nearby departmental store. As I chose to express a feeling that wasn't exactly conveyed in the already printed matter in the card (the content of which can be easily extended from everything to the new arrival to the latest burial), I set out to add few more lines to the make the matter a little more personal, giving the recipient a little satisfaction, that I had indeed thought of the occasion for a littl more time, than it takes to drive to the nearest store and purchase the card. Ladies and Gentlemen, that incident set the ball rolling. As I whipped up the pen and wanted to scribble something on the card, I felt that the neurons inside responsible for the firing of ideas, thoughts and expressions have taken a little coffee break, leaving me speechless, thoughtless and wordless.
They call it, the scare of the white sheet. Take a blank paper, and try to write a few lines about anything. The first few moments are, when the white paper rules over, refusing to be written over while getting its clean image besmirched. Once the paper is tarnished with a few words, it starts giving in, wallowing in its own sullen sorrowful image. But until then, it is pure agony. For writers of some repute, it is called writer's block. But in their case, it is just too many ideas trying to get through a narrow door of legitimate expression, that the mad scramble at the door disallows any to get out to the other side. For the rest of us, they call it constipation of expression. The words simply refuse to come out. It is quite natural that events and words (at least in the concept) are closely tied together. Mention marriage - and the words bliss, heaven, happiness automatically arrange themselves. Bring up death - and the words inevitable, courage, and sorrow stand up in the line. It is a tossup, whether thoughts are stored as words or vice versa, but it is for certain that the association is pretty close, closer than we think. So given the situation, the words should have automatically come up, when I was staring at the blank page of the greeting card, with the pen deep in my mouth, lost in serious thought. Yet they refused to make an appearance. The event that I was trying to write was a pretty generic one. It wasn't about Land Rover's success on the surface of Mars, stumbling upon the prospect of life on the Red Planet. After the exercise in futility, which included but not limited to, walking up and down the aisles, buying a confectionery product in the hope of providing an artificial stimulant to the sleeping mind, perusing the Books section of the store, I eventually gave up, hopped in the car, and drove back home, all the while thinking (cursing is more like it) my inability to come up with any sort of expression (leave alone, right) for the most standard of events. I refused to give up. This time I opened up the lid of the laptop, beaming in inside, bathed in its warm glow for a while, and within no time, the words found their way out, without too much trouble. I then carefully transferred the contents back to the printed matter and considered the job done. But the job wasn't done.....
So strong was the force of the sudden realization that it took me a while to settle down and think about what just hit me. The problem wasn't the mind, or the neurons on their coffee break. The problem was the medium. So used have I got to the soft clicks of the mouse and the soothing comfort of the keyboard, that I have developed a mental block for anything other than a computer. When it came to the matters of writing, whenever the need arose, open the text editor, wait for the good friend, the blinking cursor, at the left most end of the screen, and the words started to come out, playing tag game with the cursor, in a game that the cursor always won. And the satisfaction of the few paragraphs, at the end of the hour, wiped off the little discomfort in the fingers and the wrist joints, as the blinking cursor danced its way up and down the screen. In a way, the cursor became my muse. And now, when the medium changed to the old fashioned pen and paper, I felt like the kid who started his first lesson in writing. Writing - the act itself has transformed itself so greatly that it longer means the literal act anymore. Typing substituted writing, in the current day technologically modified lexicon. Type up a few passages from top to bottom, neatly arrange them using the features provided by technology (that even does a great job at correcting the horrible spelling blunders) and call yourself a writer. Which brings us to the question - is writing mere expressing, or does it include the physical act of putting the metal to the pedal, the rubber on the road and other such metaphorical terms? If writing is indeed merely expressing, should reading constitute listening alone?
Heating to somebody talk about something should automatically make you a reader of that material, in just the same way as expressing your thoughts in a medium of your choice, should implicity make you a writer. That little thought troubled me a little bit. All this time, I thought I was actually "writing" something whenever I sat infront of the command box and let it translate my thoughts in a way it saw fit. It reminded me of the little cycle that we kids used to rent, when learning how to cycle. It had a couple of support wheels on extension rods on either of the rear wheel, guarding the driver from falling from the bike. Technology has taken over as the crutches of our thoughts and expressions, without which the idea of taking a step is tantamount of jumping down from a great height without any fall back protective mechanism. In all the ways I thought that the lifeless computer has been helping me all these days avoid the painful exercise of actually putting pen on the paper, it has in fact been lulling me into a comfortable sleep inside a safety bubble. Computer has become a life support mechanism for me, of sorts. The consistency in the lettering, the spacing of the lines perfectly equidistant to the former and the latter, the suggestive prodding in regard to the structure - the grammar and the spelling, all combined (colluded is more appropriate) to give my expression a faceless, styleless and a toneless feel, that only machines are capable of. And no sooner did this thought occur, I went back again, to the same departmental store, and bought a bunch of yellow legal pads, and took out from the pouch (that has all but been abandoned from the time since I bid farewell to formal education and struck up an affair with the command box) my erstwhile favorite - 045 Reynolds Fine Carbure, the red lettering over a white cylinder, flanked by a soothing glow of blue on the screw and the cap. Even though I have completely forgotten how to write, the first few squiggles on a blank paper by the pen proved one thing - it didn't forget how to write.
It was like learning to walk all over again, without the instinctive impulses that pushes the first leg forward, keeping the other one back, and then the other forward, holding the first one back. The association with the pen dropped dramatically over the years, and the little signatures on the checks are taken over by the command box, without automatic deposits and deductions. I took the pen up, and gripped it the same way I remember holding it from way back and started writing the alphabets in a neat and legible fashion across the first line of the blank legal pad's sheet. By the time I reached the letter N, the index finger that was tightly gripping the screw of the pen ached badly and the resting of the pen against the middle finger caused a little bump to appear along the side. What a tragic state at display here - the reams and reams of paper that I had scribbled on while at various stages during my life in educational institutions haven't come to up rescue here. Along with the intense pain in fingers, the wrist, which I strongly held suppressed to the legal pad, held its hand up, complaining about a throbbing pain right at the joint. The straight line that I started the alphabets on started to make an angle to the normal and by 'N', I came close to making a 30 degree angle and still flourishing. How did it come down to this? Can mere lack of practice completely decimate a skill that I have learned, braving all odds (marks, punishments, impositions etc), to the point that, finding the slightest of traces would take hours and hours of practice and dedication?
I became adamant. I didn't care about the shooting pain in the finger and even bigger pain in the wrist and the worst pain inside. I wanted to find back my original form. Here there was no blinking cursor at the left most end of the paper enticing the words to follow its way. The rabid shaking of the wrist decided the line, the shape and the form. Here there was no auto-complete feature, wherein a push of the tab button or hitting the ENTER button would save time and energy expended in coming up with the entire word on your own. The squiggle of the pen stroke had to come up with everything from the birthing of the word to the finishing of it. Here there was no equidistant spacing that would make reading a pleasurable experience. What you sow is what is you reap - the handling of the pen, the positioning of the tip, the angle of the print and the patience to write - each of these collectively decide how readable the final output was. By the time I was done, writing whatever I set out to write, the result was bunch of unintelligible lines, whose spacing had a harmonic progression about them and the roundness and sharpness of each word are pretty mediocre at best. In spite of all these, it felt good. I didn't care about how childish the handwriting was, how furious it would make the language teachers at school if I showed them this, how completely lost I was when it came to writing - because I remembered; I remembered how long it took for me to write in a straight line, back when I picked up the pencil for the first time; how hard it was to abandon the cursive style and adopt the (more mature) block letter form; how hard it was to finally settle down with what finally became my style of writing. And all it was sheer writing - reams and reams of it. I know I can never get back to the original style in its original form. But if I could even come close to it, it is well worth all the pain - the shooting variety , the throbbing kind and the one inside. (which certainly beat the carpal tunnel syndrome, hands down, any day). Because, after all, writing has to mean writing.