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Literature

A TICK-TOCK NARRATIVE

Years ago, Pramod, my eldest son once said to me: “Daddy, I still remember that in E-1/92, University Campus, Chandigarh, (India) when I went to sleep in the smaller bedroom upstairs, the last sound in my ears was your portable typewriter’s tick tick..tick-tick, and when I got up in the morning, I found that you were busy working on the typewriter again.”

 I couldn’t tell him then that  portable typewriter that I had bought for Rs.500 only was the best trade tool I had as a writer. Not only did I typed on it the entire manuscript (500 pages) of my book “Modern Approaches to English Grammar & Composition”, (a textbook for B.A.), but also such books as “Promises To Keep”, “Great Testaments of India’s Freedom Struggle”, “Some Shallow, Some Deep”, “The Asian Identity” and “University Without Walls”, all told about 2000 pages. 

I also wrote, very regularly, the entire weekly newspaper of Kuldip Singh Sandhu’s Northern News, for which I got a pittance of Rs 500 a month for four issues. His work I continued doing till the year of my daughter, Daisy’s marriage, i.e.1981. 

Back in 1962 I had also taken up part-time teaching at IndoSwiss Training Centre in Sector 30, a 7-mile distance from my house on the university campus in Sector 14. The two hour-long classes I taught began at 6.30 a.m. To get ready to go for this assignment, I rose at 4:30 a.m. After teaching for two consecutive hours, I drove top speed to reach the Department of English for my first period beginning at 9 a.m.

 It was a hectic schedule but the extra money it brought was worth my time’s while. Driving to Sector 30 so early in the morning I saw numerous milk vendors with their drums dangling on both sides of their bicycles paddling furiously to bring milk to their customers before sunrise. Hardworking that I was, that, indeed, was the world I had in common with others. 

All around me, Chandigarh slept through and I never saw a babu-clerk stirring from his abode all the way. They slept through their sweet slumber in the early morning hours while the poor professor was going to work.

And that was not all. Back from the Department at 1:30 p.m., I would have my lunch and go driving again for tuition work. I always had two to three tuitions of undergraduate students, mostly girls, for whom I had to go to their residence.

 Poor Mom of my children! She had to carry the burden of getting the three children ready for school, put them on the bus with their lunch, and then wait for them to come back, wash their clothes, look after their other needs – and on top of it, look after her own Mom who stayed with us, off and on, for years. 

I couldn’t help her at all because, with my meager salary, I had to work extra hours to keep the three children in convent schools and also keep up appearances. There were, of course, dozens of other colleagues who got two salaries, their own and their wife’s, and thus could run the household without working extra hours like me.

Getting back to the tick-tock of my typewriter, I still remember that my colleague, Mr Seth, who lived in a D-Type house at the back of D-4, once complained to me in the staff room: “Anand Sahib, the tick-tick of your typewriter at the unearthly hour of the night disturbs us all. Can’t you do your typing work in the day time?”

 Today, when I look back I feel that with hack-writing and writing of help books for college students for which publishers paid a pittance of Rs.10 per page, I must have written no fewer than ten thousand pages in all. Well, my portable typewriter was faithful to me till the end. I sold it for Rs.200 after 25 years of service before I came to the U.S.A. Doesn’t thereby hang the tail of a tale, for I work on a $1,500 computer now?

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