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The vanishing tribe

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by sln, May 12, 2009.

  1. sln

    sln Platinum IL'ite

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    Full sleeve shirt tucked inside a dhoti secured with a thick belt having two pouches,one for holding the reading glasses and the other for small coins:clean shaven head with a few strand of hair to remind others of the glorious bygone days of curly hair and a sharp blackboard pen placed safely in his shirt pocket-That was Narayanan, stenographer to the chief justice of one of the high courts.Narayanan was one of those old matriculates with a strong sense of devotion to the English language and an addict to the fast disappearing habit of referring to the dictionary whenever he crossed a word beyond his ken and any sentence eluded him.To recall and remind ,those days quite a few judges reveled in expressing themselves in choice English as one observes connoisseurs chewing Calcutta pan these days.
    Hours of work or overtime was unheard of those days.There was also no conveyance allowance and walking or cycling to the office was considered good for maintaining good health.Eight in the morning to be precise, saw Narayanan briskly cycling to the Chief justice’s house to take dictation,deriving his stamina from the freshly roasted and ground filtered coffee.He would return around 10 AM,in time to have a hasty meal before pedalling five kilometers to the high court.

    Narayanan was 55 and he had nothing to look forward to, by way of career..No sir-you are mistaken.For him,every new word for which he mastered the stroke was an additional increment.A voluminous judgement initialed without a scratch was like a new bill passing through parliament without a hitch or walk out.In fact taking dictation was his work,checking and correcting the strokes was his way of relaxing,neat and accurate typing was his religion.It was not a surprise therefore he was the only matriculate steno in the High court,more so attached to the chief justice.History was made when Narayanan was granted extension after retirement as the CJ wanted his services till he himself retired.
    All this flashed through my mind when I was promoted as Manager and entitled for the services of a steno.[Secretary came much later].I pressed the buzzer twice and there she was ,immaculately dressed,carrying a pad and two sharpened pencils.I was impressed and the same time felt nervous like a baby taking the first step.Sweating and faltering I completed the dictation and waited anxiously for the typed report.Alas-the typed report did not have even remote resemblance to what I remembered to have dictated.I put it on my Madras accent and vowed to improve myself.The next few days however saw a depressing and worsening situation.I walked into my senior colleagues’ cabin and my sagging spirits received a boost.I found most of them spending their high cost time in correcting reports.
    I n the later years I have had the opportunity of recruiting many stenographers.Right from using a Dictaphone to engaging the services of a professional dictator[typing institute]I have tried every thing..The result- my bosses pinched my steno or got their work done by my steno.The only time I felt inadequate was when I had an excellent steno at Hyderabad with her high speed qualification and good command of English.She is now a house wife and well placed as the wife of Managing Director of an MNC.She joined an MNC after my departure on transfer.

    I learnt a bitter lesson.The tribe of Narayanan has vanished.I tried to content myself with an attractive selection which went well with the panelled cabin and the expensive interior décor.My visitors were impressed.She made coffee for them and arranged flowers in the flower vase when VIPs visited my office.The icing on the cake was a bouquet of flowers greeting me on my birth days.

    PS1:Narayanan did not consider himself as steno-he was writing judgements.We all know the story of stone cutter vs sculptor and potato peeler vs potato chip maker.That is what makes the difference in life.
    PS2: Life has become simpler now with the arrival of PCs andLap tops.Even then when over 20 letters are to be done in a day or major reports are to be made, the good old stenographer is needed.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 12, 2009
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  2. iyerviji

    iyerviji IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Sir

    Your description of Narayan was so good I felt as if Narayan is standing infront of me. Rightly said good old stenographers are difficult to find now.
    Old was gold. With the change in everything , somethings we really miss now a days. Those days people used to work hard. I joined office as a Typist, then learnt shorthand in the evenings and because of my boss got promotion as Stenographer. I had good speed in typing. Later our Vice President made me Senior Assistant and I was totally in a different job of doing Bank Reconcilition. Your post brought me the old memories back.

    Hope I have not bored you and I think I am the first one to give fb. I am not so good in giving fbs.

    Regards
    Viji
     
  3. iyerviji

    iyerviji IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Sir

    Your description of Narayan was so good I felt as if Narayan is standing infront of me. Rightly said good old stenographers are difficult to find now.
    Old was gold. With the change in everything , somethings we really miss now a days. Those days people used to work hard. I joined office as a Typist, then learnt shorthand in the evenings and because of my boss got promotion as Stenographer. I had good speed in typing. Later our Vice President made me Senior Assistant and I was totally in a different job of doing Bank Reconcilition. Your post brought me the old memories back.

    Hope I have not bored you and I think I am the first one to give fb. I am not so good in giving fbs.

    Regards
    Viji
     
  4. Lalitha Shivaguru

    Lalitha Shivaguru Platinum IL'ite

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    Dear LN mama,

    Your description of Narayanan was to the T...felt like seeing him personally. The stenogrphers have got a face lift now...secretaries have become Executive Assistants and gone are the days of making coffee, EAs have become an integral part in handling the executives' office. With the advent of laptops, dictations are a passe, independant correspondence is the rule of the day. Working as a EA for past few years we too have undergone lot of transformation. There are offices where EA play an equal role like a manager and earn quite handsomely.

    Just few of my observations to add to your post.
     
  5. Padmasrinivas

    Padmasrinivas Silver IL'ite

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    Dear LN sir,

    Your wonderful pen-portrait of Narayanan reminded me of another gentleman Mr. Seshachari, (my dear MIL's Athimber), who was also A Personal Secretary to a High Court Judge in Madras, I think he was British.
    Amma (my MIL) always spoke about his wonderful command over English and vast vocabulary, so much so that the Honourable Judge made a special request to have Athimber-Mama type out all the judgements...

    Brilliant portrayal, the Steno (the Executive Secretary, as they are called nowadays) was the main cog that kept the machinery running smoothly and at optimum speed!

    :thumbsup! LN sir!

    Warm regards,
    Padma
     
  6. Jpatma

    Jpatma Silver IL'ite

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    Sir,
    You have brought back yesteryears style of work. I do remember my chittappa who is very good steno and then became a PA with such an immaculate english. My mom used to praise abt him.
    But today steno does not exist, secretaries too are fading especially in western countries ,typists hardly exist.Since everyone works on their own PC or laptop, you hardly need a steno.
    My work scenario is such that my boss just makes a draft and pass it to me to vet thro' , secretaries are called admin assistants now.
    My boss calls secretaries as coordinators , no need to make tea or coffee since machines are there to dispense drinks.
    There is absolute change in the role, however, i assume some companies do have secretaries making teas.
    Something i found in my working life is that it is easy to work with a westerner than a local.
    Jaya
     
  7. sln

    sln Platinum IL'ite

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    Dear Viji,
    Dont feel diffident about giving FBs.FBs are to show that you have read the article and express what you liked about it.Old always complain against the young.The present generation have to face far greater challenges and have far greater capabilities.Thanks for your FB.
    Regards
    LAKSHIMINARAYANAN
     
  8. sln

    sln Platinum IL'ite

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    Dear Lalitha,
    You are right.Executive assistants are multi taskers and some times organisations cannot run without them.Some of the EA's write better than their bosses.I know an EA who has become Executive president of a top company.Allof us are aware of thehumble beginnings of Amalgamations group.You will however agree thatEAs are at the service of the top echelons of the organisations whereas steno pools cater to others.This is the latter category which still faces problems.Wonderful addition to my post and thanks for giving me an opportunity to pay tribute to the EA who is now EP of the company.I enjoyed the intellectual exchange of ideas.
    Regards
    LAKSHIMINARAYANAN
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 14, 2009
  9. sln

    sln Platinum IL'ite

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    Thanks Padma for writing about Seshachari.Ultimately it is all a question of commitment and willingness to learn.
    Regards
    LAKSHIMINARAYANAN
     
  10. sln

    sln Platinum IL'ite

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    Dear Jaya,
    PC's have robbed the pain and thrill of dictation and correction.The role of a secretary has expanded multifold including fixing an appoinment with a Dentist.My last secretary an oriya gentleman was so good that he operated my bank account,made my credit card payments etc apart from other secretarial responsibilities.When I retired ,there was a stiff fight among VPs to grab him.As my last tribute to him I found out his preference and made sure that his wish was fulfilled on my last day in office.
    Regards
    LAKSHIMINARAYANAN
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 14, 2009

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