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Pit-man & I In A Date

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by Thyagarajan, Sep 27, 2020.

  1. Thyagarajan

    Thyagarajan IL Hall of Fame

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    :hello:PIT-MAN & I IN A DATE:hello:
    I thank Lord Ganesa, considered as world's first Stenographer, who took down what Vedaha Vyasa dictated non-stop and presented to the posterity an invaluable treatise known as Mahabharata.

    Like cycling, once you learn the skill, it is bound to remain intact in memory. You just can't forget.

    It is quite effortless for those who studied in an institute to say English alphabet in reverse Z TO A and they would also remember those sentences using every letter of alphabet.
    Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs & The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog.

    In retrospect, I thank my father who guided me to Typewriting Institute in summer vacation after my writing SSLC exam in March 1959.


    I remember Mr. Gurumurthy - my instructor for stenography and his son Mr. Vedamurthy for typewriting but for their guidance, I could not have secured first class in Madras Government conducted exams of these two skills in lower and higher grades. He corrected me when I typed at the commencement of typing practice on the top centre of the sheet “
    Whale MURUGAN Thunai”.
    (வேல் முருகன் துணை) that was the moment I learnt Whale is a huge fish.

    I learnt few social things and befriended many in the institute many of whom were already working in private and government offices. It was interesting to listen and write in short hand as instructor dictated the editorial from The Hindu. Interesting because ...you listen to succeeding six words at least ahead while you write strokes ...


    It was interesting rather encouraging to learn typing sitting on stool in the midst of many boys and girls - clad in half sarees withe their plaited hairs decked with Jasmine and satin ribbon.


    Later in my BSc degree class and engineering, I surprised class mates and lecturers by taking down their lectures in shorthand. This impelled a few of my class mates including girls to join the same institute, where I learnt Pitman shorthand in English & typewriting in English & Tamil.


    In my three decades of government of India Service, I happened to have services of as many as dozen stenographers who all have been hailing from Kerala. All of them experimented with me and failed to match my speed of taking down dictation.


    My friend and schoolmate later collegemate Ram had a different experience. When he returned home with the SSLC-failed result, Ram found dad waiting at home. He was ready to take some rebukes but surprisingly, irrespective of the result, his dad was more concerned what Ram should do next.


    “Go to Maya Typewriting Institute at our street end. I have already registered your name there”, he said. “Whether you pass or fail in SSLC, your only option is Stenography”. That was the instruction rather direction.


    The situation was more or less similar in all Brahmin families down South those days of 1940s to 1960s and those who had the potential to become Journalists, Accountants, Professors, Lawyers or Doctors were all uniformly trained to become Stenographers. It is a different matter that their inherent qualities surfaced later and there were many cases of Stenographers becoming Chief Executives, Journalist and Engineers.

    When Ram came to his dad after completing his stenography course, he was fortunate because this time dad suggested him two options. “Calcutta or Bombay; choose whichever you like”, he had said.

    Ram had no idea of either Calcutta or Bombay. Dadar, or Matunga to be precise, was the most preferred destination those days. His friends said that "even if the Board of Secondary Education has failed you, Bombay would never fail you. It is believed that whoever lands at the abode of Goddess Mahalakshmi would definitely get placement somewhere".


    When Ram was contemplating on the possibility of going to Bombay, something incredible happened. A well-wisher from Calcutta had said that he was prepared to provide Ram a shelter. That settled the issue and he landed at Howrah station one fine evening. Years later, he realized that Rasogulla tasted more delicious that Bombay's Vada Pav.


    Ma Kali was equally generous as Mahalakshmi and tram-ride was more peaceful for him rather than a nine O'CLOCK local suburban Double fast train to VT -Victoria terminus from Kalyan.


    Coming back to the central question, stenography, Ram says that it is used not only as a means but an end in itself. There were many who used stenography as a ladder, climbed up and occupied top echelon of power. Ram was of the opinion that there were many who became stenographer - par excellence and stuck to their profession just for the love of it.


    It reminded him of a candidate, Ramakrishnan. When the interviewer asked Ramakrishnan, what his highest aim was, prompt came reply: “120/60”. When the puzzled interviewer asked him to explain, Ramakrishnan replied: “It is my life’s ambition to write Shorthand at 120 words per minute and Typewriting at 60 words per minute”. Observing his obsession with his profession, he was readily offered the job.


    But Ramakrishnan was not alone. There were many like Ramakrishnan’s calibre in South India and most of the advertisements in national dailies appeared like: “Wanted Stenographer, preferably South Indians....”

    “What exactly is Stenography?” Some of the present IT professionals might ask. Stenography can be defined as an art of instant converting speech into strokes, dots and dashes and transcribing them into good readable notes using typewriter.

    It was Sir Isaac Pitman (1813-1897) who invented the system of Shorthand. Perhaps, he would never have dreamt that far and far away from his land of England, there would be innumerable South Indians to perfect this art and perform it successfully in the corporate world.


    One can never under-estimate the power of a Stenographer. This is evident from an instance where the Stenographer even over-ruled a Supreme Court Judgement.


    The judge convicted an accused and pronounced his judgement thus: “Hang him; not leave him”. But the Stenographer at the Court did not agree with the judgement and he typed: “Hang him not; leave him”. The clever usage of semicolon by the Stenographer saved the life of a convict.


    Stenography may have flourished in Calcutta or Bombay but it was erstwhile Madras now Chennai which provided a foundation to it. Chennai had the unique distinction of fulfilling over 80% industry needs of Stenographers in India, followed by Palakkad and other towns of Kerala. All my stenographers from 1970 to 1998 in Delhi/Bombay were Keralite sisters/daughters.


    The Stenographers’ Guild at T. Nagar at Madras is a living testimony to the dedication shown by Stenographers. The hall always used to reverberate with speeches of great leaders being dictated to students at varying speed. The sound emanated from the Typewriters was music to the ears of all.


    Few years before, the Guild organised a grand function to mark the 107th death anniversary of Pitman, the Creator of Shorthand and invited his great grandson, Mr. Christopher Miller to preside over the function.

    Mr. Miller was too willing to oblige and he came all the way from England to Madras, the land of Shorthand lovers.

    “It is an extra ordinary situation in India” Mr. Miller said addressing the gathering “While in England, the birth place of Pitman, most people have forgotten him and his invention, it is rejuvenating to note that far from England, here in South India, there are people who continue to patronize Pitman passionately and keep his memories and works alive”, he added.


    It is a different matter that even Mr. Miller did not learn Shorthand and is actively engaged in stock-broking business now.


    The Stenographer’s Guild had all the qualifications to be declared as a Deemed University but then the tragedy occurred. The IT Tsunami came and swept away all stenographers.


    While some notable Stenographers who participated even in major decision-making of the company quietly withdrew from the scene, some others threw away their note-book and pencil and opted for mouse.


    When the young professionals, carrying a bundle on their back, came to the centre stage and indulged in mysterious applications like Java and Oracle, the Stenographers have become the endangered species.


    The But Stenography is not a dying art. It is at the base of all professions. The act of dictation and transcribing takes place in some form or other.

    Slightly adapted From the Archives of A R Ranganathan
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2020
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  2. jayasala42

    jayasala42 Finest Post Winner

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    A wonderful snippet about the Steno category of those days!

    My cousin brother was a stenographer to the Chief justice.He was the thickest devotee of English language.Early at 7.30 A. M. he visited the Justice's house for dictation.

    For him every new word for which he mastered the stroke seemed to be an increment.Pages and pages of judgement typed by him passed without a single scratch was a vara prasadam.
    Checking and correcting were considered by him as relaxation.Neat and accurate typing was his religion.

    His command over English and his vast vocabulary -simply superb!My father who was a post graduate English Teacher used to admire him a lot.
    • Now in big corporates the secretaries have become Executive assistants.The pain and thrill of dictation have been robbed off by PCS.The role of secretary is multifold
      which may include fixing of appt with ophthalmologist or dentist.Many of the bosses have these secretaries as 'INTEL INSIDE' and become totally helpless once they retire.My Anna passed away in 1985 when he was 70.
      I can assure that
      all these post graduates with Personnel
      management degrees, can never be a match to
      my matriculate Anna in vocabulary ,crisp and
      refined tongue.
      jayasala42



      n,
      deriving his stamina from the freshly roasted
      and ground filtered coffee.He


    • PCs
    • ,in time to have a hasty meal
    • [​IMG]
      Chittur Venkatachalaiyer Subbaraman <subbu291@rediffmail.com>
      To:vathsala jayaraman
      Sun, 13 Sep at 8:00 am

      I entirely agree with you about the olden days of Stenographists and typists. Higher education beyond matriculation was a luxury which most families could not then afford. So, most of the students in the socalled forward community would learn typing and shorthand when they were in the ninth standard and by the time they completed matriculation public examination, they would book a ticket either to Madras or Bombay and in some special cases to Calcutta, where the offices both in government and nongovernment establishments they would successfully complete a dictation test and accept the job offered! Their success or failure in matriculation examination does no longer matter. I am also one of those who studied typewriting and though completed the old "intermediate examination" with credit could make an entry into an office in Chennai in Parry's Corner as a daily wage typist on Rs.2.50 per diem! And if I took leave for one day, I would not get pay for the day and for the following Sunday provided my employer found there was work for me on the following Monday onwards. I worked for more than 23 days like this, before I could get a job on a long term basis in the Madras office of a London incorporated company doing multi agency business in Madras. As a clerk in that office, I had to handle independent correspondence in their Shipping Department, which included replying to enquiries about freight rates, issue of bills of lading for exporters and delivery orders for inward goods, dealing with claims by importers for short landed goods or damaged goods during transit. I had the services of three stenographers to whom I had to dictate the letters which would be straighway fair typed (no putting up draft letters or notings!) and if there were any mistakes they would be pointed out by the British Officer in charge of the Department on the following day when going through the office copies of the letters issued on the previous day.
      My knowledge as a typist helped me to deal with typists in RBI who would often claim that a work would entail three or four hours when it would actually take less than half that time.
      A stenographer/typist had better knowledge of the working of the entire department or office as he or she had full knowledge of the entire gamut of the type of letters received, the manner in which they were disposed, etc. They knew the policies and plans of the companies/offices. They could
     
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  3. Srama

    Srama IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear @Thyagarajan sir,

    That certainly made an interesting read. Unfortunately I am also from that generation who did not acquire any of these skills even though they were still widely used. I found this father of ramakrishnan you speak of very interesting. That look ahead attitude in a parent is such a blessing to the children and you declaring no matter, eventually everyone finds thier talents to fruition is a good mindset to have.

    Interesting to peep into your days!
     
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  4. HariLakhera

    HariLakhera Platinum IL'ite

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    I took shorthand/typing as a subject, Intermediate Commerce, just because it was a must for getting a clerical job (LDC)in the Government. I was not good at it but somehow passed the exams in first division at a speed of 30 words per minute if I remember correctly.
    It never came handy in life as after doing my M. Com I joined Marketing and after a few years was dictating to my own PA (dear Eshwaran fro Madurai) who took notes in shorthand and was smart enough to make his own mark while typing.
    I must admit it was fun. The typing practice is helping today on my laptop keyboard.
     
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  5. Thyagarajan

    Thyagarajan IL Hall of Fame

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    :hello:Kudosto madam sister @jayasala42 feed back always distinct different and unique.
    Super quote. With slight modification to suit one’s profession, it could turn to be a maxim at the entrance of an office or industry.

    That travels via gene. It is in DNA.

    1. V erbatim true. I am graduate. But my dad did only British Time SSLC IN 1930. My vocabulary could never match his functional and recognition vocabulary. I learnt correct pronunciation from dad and meaning too .
    2. Though I used to read few pages of LITTLT LIFCO dictionary every day as insisted by dad for a year or two, yet pronunciations taught by dad only.
    3. So dad used to insist that I read English lessons loudly. On one such occasion when I was reading “Mis kell ya nouz ” dad corrected me to read it as miss- a-lane-ouz. Ie the word MISCELLANEOUS. MOTE, FLEDGLING are two of words he taught me.


    I too belonged here.


    1. Many of boss secrets known to him or her as secretary of those days.
    2. A boss would insist to his steno to return used carbons and her shorthand book every evening lest the secrets go to third persons via dustbin and notes.
    3. He demonstrated how carbons used ones can be read holding it against illuminated mirror.!

    I had an officer who dictated from his own written drafts and the steno insisted that she needs transfer from him. Reason he refused to simply handover the draft to her and insist for taking down dictation as he read from his draft. She also claimed that the officer not capable of dictating and merely reads.

    Yes. Your mail friend Shri. CV Subbaraman
    has projected indeed the picture of those times.

    I remember during 1958, my dad took me to a friend installed a stall in island ground exhibition in Christmas holidays. He was assembling radio listening to mail vahanan’s presentation of cine songs from Tamil movies in radio Ceylon.

    I was paid a consolidated salary of ₹5 for 41 working days just for inviting visitors to stall to buy product CHANDRIKA soap from noon to nine pm besides typing few invoices daily at his stall.

    Thanks & Regards to all respondents.
     
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  6. Thyagarajan

    Thyagarajan IL Hall of Fame

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    :hello:@radv thank you for clicking like button.
     
  7. Thyagarajan

    Thyagarajan IL Hall of Fame

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    • :hello:Thank you.
    • Those days dads could not think beyond stenography to be the highest education that they could think & offer to their boys and to some extent girls. It was a society neither progressive nor regressive.
    • But from generation to generation things and thinking changed altogether from its nadir to a different kind of evolution.
    • Parents could teach their children those days. I too conducted tuitions and contributed to the family kitty.
    • But now parents are all working and hardly they devote time for tuition or teach their own kids.
    • But tutorials far and few between in my student days but now it is mushrooming everywhere.

    Regards.
     
  8. iyerviji

    iyerviji Finest Post Winner

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    Awesome post. Congrats for being nominated. Glad to read your experience. I learnt typing because of my best friend who died recently in August. After Xth she said let us learnt typing .For her it was pass
    time as she was very rich but down to earth. She only paid my fees. I got a job as a Typist and later when I came to Mumbai learnt shorthand. Though I did not give exam because of my boss got promotion as Steno.
    Can't forget my friend and my boss for helping me
     
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  9. Thyagarajan

    Thyagarajan IL Hall of Fame

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    :hello:@Viswamitra
    At the outset I must thank you for expressing your delight while nominating this post for current month. Looking forward to your valuable comments preferably annotated.
    Regards.

    God Bless us All irrespective of whether one worships Him in long hand or short hand.

     

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