CHENNAI: The rhythmic sound of keys of a typewriter hitting against the ink ribbon onto a sheet of paper echoes through a narrow staircase. Making way into a tiny room, shelves on one side of the wall are filled with plastic boxes with each box containing one part of a typewriter. Rathakrishnan refurbishes an old Remmington typewriter on a brightly lit table, giving it a new lease of life.
Located at Moore’s Street in Parry’s Corner, Suraj Typewriting Services is one of the few shops in the city which deals in repair and sale of reconditioned typewriters. When the typewriter servicing company where he worked shut down in 1995, he bought this outlet in mid-2002. “This shop was functioning for 25 years before I purchased it,” said G Rathakrishnan, owner, who lives in T Nagar with his family of four.
The shop which is open from 11 am to 5 pm operates with the assistance of four persons including one seasoned mechanic. “Godrej, Facit, Remmington, and Halda are the only models we repair and reuse today. Nowadays new typewriters are not made by these companies. So we repair second-hand typewriters after changing a few parts,” he said.
The spare parts are outsourced mainly from New Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai. Rubber parts, ink ribbon and shell parts of a typewriter are the ones which are replaced the most. He repairs around 10 typewriters a month and earns `15,000.
“It is very difficult to get an experienced mechanic today. But I am lucky as I have Gurunathan,” he said A pathway peppered with broken typewriters makes way to a balcony where under the shade of a yellow tarpaulin sheet, mechanic Gurunathan sits holding a screwdriver.
Being in the trade for over 50 years, the passion he holds for repairing typewriters hasn’t faded. Gurunathan learned English so that he could read the keys and type sentences. This helped him work in all the major companies as a technician. “For 14 years, I used to come here once or twice a week to service a few typewriters. But since last year I have been working here as a full-time mechanic,” said the 68-year-old.
The demand for these machines peaked with more and more students appearing for the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission examinations. “To get a job in any government office one needs to know shorthand and typing. Because of this many training centers have come up in the past 10 years. This is the main reason for typewriters to come back in trend,” said Gurunathan.