Lost art of penmanship

Note: This article first appeared in the print and online version of Gulf News.

http://gulfnews.com/opinions/columnists/lost-art-of-penmanship-1.723376

Lost art of penmanship

There is something special about a pen in your hand, a beautiful notebook to write in, and a hot mug of coffee on a peaceful winter night — an inexplicable dreamy, almost sublime feeling that beckons you to fill the pages with your innermost thoughts.

By Mehmudah Rehman, Special to Gulf News

Published: 00:00 December 6, 2010

There is something special about a pen in your hand, a beautiful notebook to write in, and a hot mug of coffee on a peaceful winter night — an inexplicable dreamy, almost sublime feeling that beckons you to fill the pages with your innermost thoughts.

What compelled me to write this piece (type it actually — ironically so!) is the fact that I recently rediscovered the pleasure of writing on paper. I stumbled upon dad’s old pen which he’d forgotten at my place and began doodling with it. Soon I began writing in earnest with it for I found it vibrant and flowing as it kept pace with my thoughts.

In the present day and age, we hardly write anything with the pen (save the grocery list) at all. One reason of course is that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Co have taken over our lives completely. Also, I presume mothers of young children (like me) would be hard-pressed to write anything on paper at all.

Consider the mind of a two year old that has just perfected the pincer grip. What could be more fun than striking a line across a page? There are times when you win the ‘pen-battle’ and after re-establishing ownership of the pen, you meticulously write everything down in your book — only to find your handwriting struck through by a creative two year old who knows that your notebook can be attacked whenever she feels artistically inclined. Colouring books and the likes do not have much appeal when compared to something that a grown-up (you) would find worth writing in.

Thus my habit of recording anything noteworthy through the pen was fast replaced by the usage of technology and passwords and the general convenience of typing. My mind travels back to the bygone era, when penmanship was perceived as being aristocratic, and people wrote with a flourish of their feather quills or beautiful pens.

The legendary romance of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning is timelessly preserved through some classic love letters and poems. This wouldn’t have been the case had Elizabeth been on iPhone and Robert on BlackBerry!

Kills the romance, doesn’t it? What I have always perceived to be a beautiful love story somehow loses all of its charm and magic when I imagine her tapping the touchscreen and him typing on the little black Qwerty. Elizabeth who said Robert’s letter “threw her into ecstasies” was reading the handwriting of Robert, which was intimate, with attention to every little detail, written specially for her.

It is no wonder that their relationship blossomed into one of the most famous courtships in literature history. I have a feeling she wouldn’t have responded the same way to, say: ttys gtg now, ILY 4evr!

That said, reliance on technology does not mean we, or our next generations, are by any means less capable than our predecessors. The human mind is complex and beautiful and has exceptional, even unexplored abilities, and no matter which century we belong to, we can create masterpieces if we let our minds, and our hearts, take flight.

– Mehmudah Rehman is a Dubai-based freelance writer.

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