It was 1996. It was two years
since I resigned my job in a publishing concern, undertook various works for a
living, and lastly started a desktop publishing unit (DTP - typing and layout
desining of books).
I purchased a computer, but, to
be frank, I have never touched a computer earlier! In the company where I
worked earlier as a manager, there were a few systems. Computer operators used
to operate them, but I have never touched one. I have seen the backside of the
monitor through the small windows in railway booking / bank counters. Those
were the days when people used to believe that computers must be kept in AC
room, otherwise they will heat up… If you press any wrong key by mistake
everything will be lost…
The computer which I purchased
for my DTP unit was a 386 model, i.e. IBM 386. IBM means not a branded one, but
an assembled one, with an Intel i386 microprocessor. One of my friend's
friend's friend was running a computer assembling company in Munirka, and he
brought the system and fixed it in our office. People who read this story today
may not be aware what is a 386. Before 386, there was another version called
286. Even before that, there were systems without hard disks. Anyway, let me
come to my system.
The system had 260 MB hard disk,
Windows 3.0 version, Page Mager 4. UPS were not common then, and so I had opted
for a power stabiliser which weighed about 8 Kg, and costed 6500 rupees. A
14" monochrome monitor. I had already purchased a Laser Printer – HP
Laserjet 4Plus – with the help of Nakkeeran Gopal. That was the best printer HP
My Computer had 4 MB RAM (YES,
not 4 GB, just 4 MB)! If you are surprised about 4 MB RAM, I will narrate
another story. After a few months, I wanted to increase the RAM, as my system
was slow. Through one of my friends I got another 4 MB RAM – i.e. 4 chips of 1
MB each – for 800 rupees. So, all the 8 slots of RAM in the motherboard were
Those were the days when we used
to type in MS-DOS. Even formatting of typed text could be done in DOS – i.e.
Disk Operating System. For copying, deleting of files, we used DOS commands.
Completed works were saved in floppy disks. There were two kinds of floppys –
one was 5.25" and another 3.5". Microsoft Word was yet to come.
The office space I selected for
my unit was in Indrapuri, a congested area populated by working class Tamil
people. I got a computer, but not an operator. Then came a lady for interview.
She was about 5 feet tall, slim, and her fingers were thin and lengthy – just
like my fingers. Her husband too accompanied her.
Already I have installed a Tamil
software – fonts as well as typing tool. I gave her a few pages to type in
Tamil. Her fingers moved over the keyboard as if a dancer's feet moving on the
stage. She did not look at the keyboard at all. The Tamil software which I had
installed could not cope up with her typing speed, and letters appeared on the
screen only after about 15-20 seconds after she typed. Her name was Mythili. No
need to say that Mythili Sankaran was appointed.
In the last twenty years or so, I
have purchased a few more computers / laptops. A few more operators came and
went. But, she was the only one who became a member of our family, my
trustworthy right hand in my works. Even if I had to go to south on holidays,
she will manage alone.
During my young age, after
finishing high school education, it was a norm in those days that one has to
learn typewriting – if an institute was available. And, typing institutes were
there in almost all towns. It was a place for young lovers too. I too joined in
one of the institutes and went there daily carrying a few white sheets, rolled
in my hand. I too learnt English typing, typewriter mechanism, etc., but forget
everything in the next 30 years. Now I have to start to learn typing
a…s…d…f…g…f… from Mythili again. She also taught me how to operate the system.
She was my First Teacher.
Then came Windows 3.1…, 3.1.1, …
95, 98, … to XP. Page Maker 5.0, 6.0, 6.5, 7.0. We both learnt a lot as the
systems and the softwares were improving. We both learnt to type in Inscript
keyboard. Her typing speed was amazing. She was an expert in creating shortcuts
using autocorrect to type lengthy words in MS Word, thus she can just type
three / four alphabets for a 15-20 letter words. As there was a need for
working in other designing softwares, I learnt Corel Draw, Photoshop etc., in
which she could not excel, yet she also worked on them. She used to say,
"Sir, you have excelled your guru – guruvukku minjiya shishyan!" Even
now her words reverberate in my years.
Her typing method was different.
She would sit on the chair with her legs folded – as if sitting in floor. A
copyholder will be kept on the left side of the monitor where manuscript will
be kept. Her eyes will move only on the script, she won't look at the monitor. She
will type one para / page, then press Control+S, then go through the typed
matter, correct any spelling mistake visible, then press Control+S again. Even
today I have a few books which she has typed, but still pending for my layout
designing. Whenever I see or open those files, I can visulalise her sitting and
Phone will ring. It may be a call
from her brother Raghavan. Their dialogue will go on in a typical Tamil
Brahminical language. Phone will ring again, and it may be a client. Her language
will be purely official – either in Hindi or in Tamil. She knew almost all my
clients and almost all of them were happy with her behaviour.
Occasionally we had some
— Sir, why almost all the poets
behave like fools?
— What, fools? Whom you are
— I am talking about Bharathi.
Chellamma borrows rice from here and there for making food and this Bharathi
throw the rice to crows and birds! Was he nuts? What was there in his head –
brain or something else?
This happened when she was typing
— What would be the age of
Thiruvalluvar when he died? About 300?
— Why are you asking like this?
— See, If I start to write a
letter to my dad, it takes about a week to complete. This man, Thiruvalluvar,
has written almost all matters that too in a crisp manner. That means he should
be having a lot of experience. That experience could not be gained in a single
life time like us.
This conversation happened when
she was typing Thirukkural.
— Wah … wah… Got a manuscript
written by …………………… Ha!, for a few days it wont be difficult for typing.
She said this when a new
manuscript arrived, and the translator's handwriting was so good that it would
look like printed matter.
— Oh my….! I have got this
………………………… manuscript!!! If he comes here, we should teach him how to write –
like a teacher beat his hand with a stick.
She will say this when a
manuscript with a poor handwriting comes to her. (Whom she referred here is
also here in Facebook. He has also read this.)
— I am surprised how this man was
able to understand what is in a woman's mind!
This comment was about Aadhavan,
a short story writer.
How she could make everyone as
her friend was a mystery for me. People known to me, my clients, my friends,
relatives – she could talk with everyone with ease. Every year, on my birthday,
first b'day wish will come from her. (Normally I don’t remember my birthday.)
Once she came with a bag. I asked
her what was that.
"Yesterday I went to the
market. Purchased a t-shirt."
"Our Jayakuamar Sir! Today
is his birthday."
Jayakumar was a young man from
Tirunelveli, who came to Delhi in search of a job, and was with me for a few
years. He became one of my family members.
Mythili had a great memory power.
She never failed to wish people known to me on their birthdays or marriage
… Do you remember this day? This
is the day when I joined.
… Today is Jai Shankar's
birthday. Have to wish him.
… Ten years back you shifted to
this place on the same day.
… Have you wished your sister's
daughter? Today is her marriage day.
… Last year, on this day, we all
went to India Gate, do you remember?
Her first child was a daughter,
Dharini. Second one was a son, Manikandan. After the second delivery, she was
diagnosed with diabetes. Subsequently, both the kidneys were affected. Yet,
both were functioning on 50% of their capacity and she could manage with a
little medication and a strict diet.
After a few years, health
problems came up. By that time, modem has come into use, and typed files could
be sent by e-mail. So, I gave her a computer to work from her home. Manuscript
will be given to her, and she will type and send mails. Her husband Sankaran
will take / bring manuscripts. Occasionally I will also visit her home to
service the computer.
By 2010, complications increased.
She had to go for dialysis. Because of her health, she had to opt for
peritoneal dialysis – done at home. As a chain reaction, problems also came up
– getting medicine in time, infection, getting service of a nurse occasinally
for changing the tubes fitted with her body. Yet, she was working until August
By the end of the month of
October 2010, I had to go to Tamil Nadu on some personal work. Before leaving
for south I called her and informed about my trip. “Please visit me before you
leave Sir,” she requested. "I am sorry, I have heavy load of works to
finish before I leave. If I come there, whole day will be gone. Don’t worry, I
will visit immediately on my return," I said.
One 1st November, I was sitting
in a browsing centre in Tiruppur, to write an article for All India Radio,
which was to be broadcast next day. For about 20 years, I used present a
programme on sports for AIR. I had to send it by mail. As I was browsing and
taking notes about sports events, my cellphone rang, and it was a call from
Sankaran. Mythili was unwell and she had to be admitted in a nearby hospital,
This was not new, because earlier
too she had been admitted into the same hospital and she will go back home with
a smile after a two-days stay. This time too she will be alright, I convinced
I thought it was an infection
problem, and she will be back home. But she betrayed me. I could not see her
Seven years have gone. Mythili
who had stored in her memory a lot of dates has become a date.
My First Teacher lives in my
memory as a date - 2 November.
I wrote this piece in 2012 in
Tamil. Mythili's daughter Dharini asked me to write this in English for her
friends. I am sorry that it took almost five years for me to fulfill her
November 14 is observed as World
Diabetes Day and the Theme for this year is "Women and diabetes - our
right to a healthy future”.
According to International
Diabetes Federation :
1 in 10 women live with diabetes.
1 in 7 births is affected by
gestational diabetes (GDM).
Approximately half of women with
a history of GDM go on to develop type 2 diabetes within five to ten years
But, Up to 70% of cases of type 2
diabetes could be prevented through the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.
Many do not have access to
educatin, treatment and care.
Protect the health of mother and
child by improving access to screening, care and education.