Pecking Away

by Ashish

Of the many things that I do not like to do in life (and you’d be surprised at how long a list that’ll end up being), writing comes at the very top of the list. When I say writing, I mean, of course, the act of taking a pen in hand and actually scribbling out the words. Stringing words together in order to form sentences is rather a pleasing task, particularly when performed on my own laptop (remind me to tell you more about this in about 400 words or so).

But when the stringing of words is to be done with a pen or pencil, my enthusiasm for said task is lower than the chances of Narendra Modi contesting the Lok Sabha elections on a Congress ticket. I’ve never been an enthusiastic exponent of the art, and I’m not about to begin now.

Frankly, and I say this to you without hedging my words, writing with a pen is a fool’s business. The odds that your handwriting is going to be pleasingly legible are slim at best. The chances that you will be able to compose entire paragraphs without having to correct a spelling here and a punctuation mark there are virtually non-existent. Its a cinch that you’ll have to crumple up at least one sheet of paper if you plan on writing more than ten pages. In short, you’re going to have to be grubby, anal and frustrated if you’re going to write using pen and paper. Then why, pray, would you want to do it in the first place?

School’s another story. You had no choice back then. You had to use those pencils that would always break down, those fountain pens that would always leak and those ghastly Reynolds pens that would always lose themselves at the most inconvenient of times – and with all of these beastly instruments of torture, you would have to fill out multiple notebooks of utter tripe during each interminable school-day. And come exam time, you would have to fill out page after unending foolscap page with your regurgitations, singlehandedly using up enough supplements to denude a rather sizable corner of the Amazon rain-forest. Do you remember that dull ache in your palm that only comes after two and a half hours of scribbling away manfully about deciduous trees and the tundra region in your geography paper? You do, don’t you? Why put yourself through something like that when you don’t have to?

Far simpler to just type out your magnum opus (or that short email, for that matter) on a nice, convenient laptop. Laptops come with my nomination for the invention of the century, the backspace key. Typing out on laptops involves no hunching over desks, no dirty emendations and certainly no crumpling up of paper. An improvement of considerable magnitude over paper, in other words. Except for the fact (and this pains me immeasurably) that each laptop manufacturer chooses to place the delete key in a completely different, random location based on little more than his own dastardly fancy.

My current machine, for example, has it at the very top, right. Without having to look at the keyboard, I just know that if I extend my pinky to the far right reaches of my keyboard and peck away, I will start to delete stuff. That’s how my brain remembers it now, its built into my muscle memory. But if I were to use somebody else’s laptop, I guarantee you, the DEL key would be in a completely different lat-long combination. Stop reading awhile and take a dekko at your keyboard right now – is it at the far right, up top?

Of course it isn’t.

Which is why, on keyboards foreign to my sensitively attuned fingers, I use the Peer-and-Peck (TM) method patented by everybody born before 1965. You have observed this yourself, of course. Elderly folks at the keyboard look like a cross between a stork and a Buddhist monk. They have all the concentration and focus of the latter, and all the mannerisms of the former. Their head will begin the ritual dance, falling forward slightly, in desperate search of the letter that comes next in their train of thought. Having located said letter, a hand is raised to strike, with one talon-like index finger raised in anticipation. The hand falls down rapidly, so as to not let the hapless key escape, and the head bobs up to take a gander at the screen, in order to verify that the expected result is seen. And so on and so forth, one painful letter at a time.

I don’t use Peer-and-Peck for every key, of course. But if you ever catch me, hand raised and index finger extended, staring in utter hapless frustration at a keyboard, be sure to congratulate me. I’ve probably bought myself a new laptop.