A lot of people were surprised when I wanted to buy a typewriter. “Why do you need one?” they asked. To type, I said matter-of-factly — why else would anyone want a typewriter? “But don’t you have a laptop?” I like the sound of the keys clacking, the smell of raw ink, the experience of my thoughts crudely printed on paper — what can I say? “Illogical.” “Pretentious.” “Arty-farty.” No matter — old school is still cool, at least for some people who enjoy collecting (and using) items that were once for daily use and are now perched on the cliff of oblivion.
Naresh Narasimhan is a managing partner and the principal architect of Venkataramanan Associates in Bengaluru, and is well known in TED circles for his interesting lectures. He also swears by HMT watches. “I have about a hundred HMTs” says Narasimhan, who stores his watch collection in his office. “I also have classic timepieces by other old watch brands, like West End Watch Company, Jayco Watches, Allwyn and Hegde and Golay watches. And I wear them regularly.” Well, he is of the older generation, you might say, and surely young people don’t have such interests?
Meet Ankit Chauhan. He’s a 25-year old R&D professional from Bengaluru, and he has a total of 35 fountain pens. “I have not used ball point pens in over three years. There is something about the touch and feel of fountain pens. Yes, they might be inconvenient, but that is a part of the charm of using them.” This is not just a random hobby for him, neither is it unnecessary pretence.
He’s like Mayukh Agarwal, a screenplay writer from Delhi, who has four typewriters for his daily writing needs. “I am not trying to come across as an intellectual. I genuinely enjoy typing on a typewriter. I work at night, mostly, and the rhythm of the typing, its sound, and the more forceful use of my fingers all help me concentrate. Also, the fact that I have a printed hard copy right in front of me helps. All of us don’t have printers at home, and I love to proof read on a hard copy. It’s all about personal choices, I guess,” he says.
Chauhan agrees. “Each pen has a different character and feel, something that you cannot enjoy with ball points. Also, each nib is different — some people like needle-sharp nibs and some prefer a juicy double broad. There’s so much to choose from — oblique, italic, flex, stub and so on — as also a variety of inks. These are wonderful writing instruments, and once you use them, going back to ball points is just not possible.”
This passion is evident in Vishal Kumaraswamy too. A professional photographer, he has several film cameras, which he uses for personal work. He processes black and white film himself and goes to GG Welling, an old lab in Bengaluru, for his colour film needs. Do clients ask for film? “I rarely propose it to clients, due to the cost factor. Some clients do like the depth film provides, but they rarely want to use it since digital is quicker. Also, I exercise some sort of restraint, since film is hard to get in India, and expensive if you do manage to find some.”
Hiten Jaiswal, a Mumbai-based businessman, still uses hand razors with disposable double-sided blades. “I really didn’t find the need to move to the Mach 3, Mach 4 and whatnot you get these days. I enjoy lathering with a proper brush before a shave, and I still use Palmolive shaving cream. Gels and foams are really not my thing.” Deep Chakraborty from Delhi agrees. “I wish I could use those cut-throat razors you see in Indian saloons. They give you such a smooth shave. I did try one out, but I nicked myself horribly. I guess I’m not trained enough.”
It might seem hard to believe, but some diehards still use audio cassettes and vinyl records. Ashwin Kumar fondly talks about how he enjoys listening to old Hindi film songs on his Philips cassette player, on Sundays. “It’s nostalgia. The noise, grit, sudden fluctuations in volume… the overall clunkiness and bad quality reminds me of simpler times,” he laughs.
Film maker Arjun Mukerjee owns over 400 LPs. “When I was a teenager, I used to listen to heavy metal music on audio cassettes. One day, my father got frustrated with the noise and pulled out his old Garrard record player, with built-in speakers, and presented it to me along with two LPs. That changed the way I listened music.” And where does he buy records these days? “In the 1980s, I used to buy records from Chor Bazaar in Mumbai and Free School Street and Gol Park in Kolkata. Later, I purchased a lot of records in England from flea markets. These days, I go to Rhythm House in Mumbai, but they are exorbitantly priced.”
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