Thursday, 30 October 2008

Remembering Ramnath


Ramnath was the best stenographer in the company.

A small-made man with a prominent nose and wiry, steel grey hair, Ramanth lived in Mulund and had to take the overcrowded and notoriously unreliable Central Line every day to reach the office in Ballard Estate. Ramnath also acted as the de facto personal assistant to my boss Gana and lived in mortal fear of Gana catching him arriving late to work, which was often, due to the unpredictability of the suburban railway system.

Humble, honest, and always happy to be of help, Ramnath could be depended on to deliver a neat, flawless letter every time and was in great demand among the managers. He rarely used a whitener, never typed over a mistake and abhorred carbon smudges and greasy thumb marks.

Ramnath harboured a cynical disdain for those managers whose working knowledge of English was poor or whose dictating skills were not up to scratch, even though he was careful not to show such feelings in public. I must have shown some promise in both departments because very soon Ramnath took me under his wing and patiently chiselled away and smoothened whatever rough edges I had, when it came to official, written communication in English. He freely edited my drafts, sometimes replacing words or even whole sentences and often, playing around with entire paragraphs. I did not mind this at all because every time, the final result was much superior to my original draft.

A few years later, I knew I had passed the test when Ramnath stopped editing my drafts.

I will conclude this post with this interesting story: One day Ramnath is on leave and another stenographer called Sathe is forced to take dictation from Gana. Sathe is terrified of the great man who dictates in a clipped accent at breakneck speed because when he goes back to his typewriter and looks at his own shorthand, he can comprehend nothing. Finally after several attempts and with a little help from fellow stenographers, he completes the letter and places it reverentially in front of Gana.

There is a moment of silence as Gana scans the letter before signing. Suddenly he sucks his breath in sharply and screams: “Sathe! What do you mean by this? Please check your piles? Please check your piles?”

Sathe realised only too late that he should have typed, “Please check your prices”!

Sathe never took dictation from Gana again.

8 comments:

Cynic in Wonderland said...

freudian slip?

stenography - or typing rather, is my back up career plan. i have come to the conclusion thats probabaly my strongest skill.

Velayudhan said...

I dont know whether G Aravindan was knowing what is happening these days. Viswan is only a small passing charactor, but those who went through CMVL will never forget. Those days I watched you dictating to Ramnath with ease. Now for me it is only cut and paste and print. The art of drafting is still a long way away from me.

awingandaprayer said...

Uncle dear. Enough with the typing stories. I thirst for more tales of drunken debauchery (yeah, pun intended!) and general revelry in the printing industry. Pliss to oblige.

Iya said...

This specie has been non existent since I started working 3 and half years back....I remember my nanaji had a typewriter at his home.. I loved the sound it made when typing was done… I myself tried doing and that’s when I realized how pathetic I was at it…

Rada said...

@Cynic: Touch typing will surely be an asset when you start writing that Booker prize winning novel, I'm sure!

@Velus: Indulge an ignoramus: What is CMVL?

@Shalini: More tales of drunken debauchery? Tsk..Tsk..child!

@Iya: You don't know what you are missing! :-)

Cynic in Wonderland said...

rada - thats the sweetest thing anyone has said to me ever. *blush*

Velayudhan said...

Cheriya Manushiyarum Valiya Lokavum

Anonymous said...

Sir
I have been working as Stenographer for the last 26 years with sheer love towards shorthand ofcourse I am English Literature. It is an art in a word.I enjoy myself every letter I type.
Thanks
Surendra

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Stepping Sideways... by K. Radhakrishnan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.