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The Typewriter

October 26, 2014 | By

With a poof of breath, he got rid of the dust on it and set it on the floor for me to see. It was a typewriter alright. Only, it seemed haunted to me.

junk shop

You couldn’t even call it a shop.

Amidst the rusty plethora of pipes and motors, I found myself a typewriter.

Now the search for one wasn’t the intended purpose of the evening but somewhere along the line, as we strode looking for furniture, our interest dwindled and new ones surfaced. As the evening threatened to call night, we decided to make our visit short and enter the last shop in our vision.

You couldn’t even call it a shop.

The room was the size of two bathrooms in a railway coach and just as stinking. Only this one smelled of wood shavings and other incomprehensible objects. Inside, there were innumerable things, two of them human. The bearded owner welcomed me with a paan-stained smile and a child, whom I perceived to be his grandson, sat next to him on the floor. I immediately knew I couldn’t find anything of relevance here, and hence began to fiddle with the pen in hand. My friend on the other hand delved into the coffin-sized structure and began to ask the owner questions. My ears were inquisitive and they took me closer. Why is the shop so small? What is it you guys sell here? Who gave away this product? The last question she asked, pointing at a big metal suitcase, the kinds of which you saw Hogwarts students loading onto the train. It was big and bloody orange too, much like Crookshanks.

I could see she was just withering away time and I could also see the little boy staring at me. He was gazing at my hand.

“Bhaiya, do you go to iskcool?”

For an unknown reason, the strings of my heart were nearly pulled out by his innocent question. He spoke in broken English and I realized it was the pen he was so intently staring at. I stop fidgeting with it, smiled shyly and called him closer. With a grin that reminded me of my childhood, he jumped across a spare tire and sat beside me.

“Yes, I go to school. Do you go to school too?”
He shook his head.

“What is your name?”

Abutallah, I found out, was actually the owner’s son. His name meant ‘The divine one’ and the smile was more than enough proof of that. All of eight years old, he should have been learning and enjoying his childhood with friends his age, instead of helping his father run the invisible shop. It angered me to realize that this child wouldn’t know a world outside of selling price. That he would grow to become a shrewd person, not trusting anyone for his own benefits and living a life not unlike a stray’s.

I gave him my pen and he immediately grabbed my arm. A warm, fuzzy feeling entered my mind, pushing away the headache I hadn’t noticed. Abutallah formed the beginning of a bond as he wrote, in broken words, his name and drew a heart around it. When he smiled at me, all I could see was the red stains on his gums.

He was yet another victim, my sinking heart realized. But his eyes lit up.

“You buy taperater, Bhaiya?”

Did her fingers brush off the same stroke of words as mine would begin to soon?

Did her fingers brush off the same stroke of words as mine would begin to soon?

It took two more attempts out of him to comprehend that he wanted to show me an old typewriter. With an ease of vernacular vocabulary, he swore and lamented about the previous owner, a lady who had dumped it in her garbage. I didn’t know if that was true or not, and the father nodding along at the story hardly helped.

Rummaging around for what seemed like ages, the little boy finally brought out something from within. With a poof of breath, he got rid of the dust on it and set it on the floor for me to see.

It was a typewriter alright. Only, it seemed haunted to me.

***

“So you just decided to buy it? Where’s that antique bed we went looking for? I don’t see any in the auto right now! All I see is some old shit lying on your lap!”

For some reason, Ashwini was infuriated. I didn’t notice steam seething out of her, but wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case. Rarely had I seen her so agitated.

For my part, I grinned at her and kept quiet. She would never understand my love for words and anything that brought them alive. Movies held a spell over her, as books did for me. But I knew her. She would come around in a while. Later, she might even ask me to type her that mock love-letter she’d been ranting on for weeks. Insisting that that be the first thing to be typed on the old-new typewriter.

As I turned my attention back to it, Abutallah’s story ran through my mind.

He had mentioned the name of the lady, some Pooja Desai. The boy said he remembered the day as clear as a full moon’s night.

It had occurred three months ago. Every morning, he would walk out of his home, find a new spot and color it brown. Shamefulness was unabashedly not his friend. A typical morning, he’d set out on a faraway destination with the bucket of water in hand. Just as he had bent his knees to do the deed, he had seen last day’s garbage accumulated besides him. A banana skin flirting with a spoilt orange was something he saw at first, before his eyes focused on the big machine. Pooja Desai was the name typed on the couple of sheets stuck in the typewriter and so it had become her typewriter. With great urgency, he strode to finish off what he’d begun and raced back home with the ‘taperater’ in hand.

Abba was pleased and gave him the spare tire to keep and play with.

The auto was deadly quiet now.

Ashwini was tampering with her friends on phone and the driver was intent on spitting at every junction he could stop at. The typewriter sucked me back into its world.

***

I was in the shop again. And the haunted typewriter was staring back at me with its 28 eyes.

Zealously, I grazed my little finger against the alphabet ‘U’. First touch. It felt like homecoming for an odd reason. I was meant to write on it. The typewriter’s experience gathered on my finger, in the form of dust. Somebody had left it for me. As I raised my hand to brush off the speck, I saw Abutallah smile widely at his father.

For some reason, my mind couldn’t stop thinking about the previous owner. What had forced her to throw this beauty away? Did her fingers brush off the same stroke of words as mine would begin to soon? How many characters came to life for her with this little machine? All this and more I pondered upon, until I reached home and placed it on my desk.

For all I knew, Mrs. Desai could have been a story herself.

Read more short stories

Ushnav Shroff is a freelance writer whose work has featured in The Hindu, eFiction India, and Reading Hour, among others. He began to put pen to paper from the age of nine and since then his love of creating something out of nothing has not left him. Apart from short stories, he delves in poems and book reviews. He is currently working on his first novella.
All Posts of Ushnav Shroff

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“They're only crayons. You didn't fear them in Kindergarten, why fear them now?” ― Hugh MacLeod