In a sea of computer operators at sub-registry offices, judges court and other establishments, a handful of people still continue to ply their trade on the typewriter
On a January morning in 1990, Shafiqul Haque Shafiq, a young graduate from Sherpur, came to Dhaka with high hopes of getting a 'good' job. He had just completed his bachelor's degree from Mirzapur College, Tangail.
He thought to get a job he needed other skills too. So, he got admitted to a typewriting training centre in the Gulshan area of the city.
"There were jobs available for typists in those days. So, I began learning typewriting," said Shafiq, now a 57-year-old man sitting at his makeshift table in front of the Tejgaon Sub-Registry Office.
All the document composers in the Tejgaon Sub-Registry Office area have switched to computers in the last two decades, except for Shafiq who works with a typewriter. He bought the second-hand Olympia typewriter that he currently uses with Tk6,000, six years back.
Professional document composers in Dhaka Judge Court and National Press Club have also replaced their old typewriters with computers.
Currently, only twelve old typewriters are being used in the Dhaka Judge Court area and eight typewriters in front of the National Press Club.
Importers no longer import new typewriters. But some old typewriters are available in the Motijheel area in the city.
Back in the early nineties, when computers were not available many young people found it easy to learn typewriting to get a job.
"It is very tough to learn typewriting. But I was so fascinated by the machine that I used to miss the task when the training centre was closed on weekends," said Shafiq.
It took around one year for Shafiq to learn and get to speed in typing. Later, he started working as an instructor at the same training centre. But the salary was very low. In 1993, he moved to Tejgaon Sub-Registry Office as a typewriter.
The income was not that bad. He could earn Tk10 by typing a single page.
"The value of a ten-taka note was high then. So, I kept on with the profession," he said.
Nowadays, customers also prefer computer composers to typewriters. As a result, typewriters find it hard to survive.
"People go to computers because the letters look nice. If it is done with computers, the letters can be made small and big," said Shafiq.
Shafiq said that it is easier to learn computer typing than typewriting because the number of keys is more for the latter.
"But in a computer keyboard, one can get as many as four letters in a single key and it follows the Bijoy layout. On the other hand, typewriters follow the Munir keyboard," he added.
Shafiq said that he does not have the patience to learn computer compose any more. Moreover, his eyesight does not allow him to stare at the computer monitor.
To survive in this era of technological advancement, Shafiq has now taken a license with the Sub-Registry Office for document writing, to run his family. He has two daughters and a son.
The story of Shekhor Chandra Pal is a little different different from that of Shafiq.
Shekhor came to this profession following the footsteps of his late father Paresh Chandra Pal who passed his whole life working as a typist on the premises of the Dhaka Judge Court.
Till 2001, when computers were not available on the court premises, his father earned a handsome amount of money to run his family. His father wanted Shekhor to learn typewriting to make a living.
After sitting for his SSC exam in 2001, Shekhor got admitted into a typewriting training centre in the Wari area of the city. It took three months for him to learn typewriting, but he needed to spend some more months to pick up the speed.
"As there were no computers on the court premises in those days, the demand for typewriting was high, the income was good," remembers Shekhor.
During his training days, Shekhor began helping his father with typewriting when the old man took rest on the court premises.
As the demand for typewriters has come down significantly, their income has also fallen. Shekhor earns only Tk400 per day. But before the arrival of computers, the income was Tk2,000.
"I never thought there will be a time when I will have to struggle to run my family," said Shekhor, clattering away at his Optima 18 typewriter. He bought the typewriter with Tk15,000.
His income depends on the type of the documents that he has to compose - like filling up a summons document, case summary and house rent Chalan.
He charges Tk20 for typing a page of the paper. But, sometimes, some customers pay as much as Tk400 for composing an old stamp, because it takes more time.
"The summon writing is mostly done by typewriting," said Shekhor.
Shekhor said that he could not buy a computer because he does not know English-typing. Moreover, it takes a good amount of money to buy a computer and printer.
"I can run my family with this little income in some way. If I buy a computer and it goes out of order, and I take it to a technician it will cost me at least Tk2000-3000," he added.
He said he has to spend very little money on the maintenance of a typewriter.
As the number of typewriters are very low in the country now, typewriter ribbon is not available in the market any longer. So, some people collect old computer toner and make typewriters ink from it. Then they make ribbons and sell it to typists.
"If I buy one bundle of ribbon for Tk200, I can use it for the whole month," said Shekhor.
Shekhor believes that typewriters will not disappear because there are some legal papers which are not fit for computer compose.
"For example, sometimes, customers will bring very old documents. If you work on the document on the computer, it will be a problem, because there was no computer when the document was created," said Shekhor.
"If the paper is very thin, which is not fit for computer printers, there is a chance that the thin paper will get stuck in the printer. Customers do not want to take risks, they come to us," he added.