Arts, Culture & Media

You can still find street typists in India, but probably not for long


Typists at work near the high court in Calcutta, India.


Rahul Tandon

In India, there are still some professional typists and they work in the street. 

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The BBC's Rahul Tandon met typist Ajay Kumar Nayak near Calcutta's high court. Nayak has been in this business for the last 34 years.

"He sits outside the high court in Calcutta," says Tandon, "he gets there at early in the morning. He can't carry his typewriter home, so he puts it in a local shop nearby." 

Nayak sits and waits for customers to stop by and ask for court documents to be typed. But these days, he doesn't get much business. This was not the case 20 or 30 years ago.

"He used to have no time to talk to people because he was so busy typing away," Tandon says, "whereas today, he might only get a couple of requests."

Nayak still gets requests because some people need their court documents typed. And, in India, many still don't have access to a computer.

A few miles from the high court is Suffee Commercial College, where you can still find classes that teach students how to use a typewriter. But even there, the college is planning to end the training in a few months.

So Tandon spoke with students there who now take computer classes at the college, instead of typewriting classes.

"When I asked them would you like to be street typists, they just looked at me like I was completely mad. Typing for them is something you would be doing on a computer," he says.

Still, while the typewriting profession is in decline in bigger cities such as Calcutta, Tandon says it might take longer for it to disappear in smaller towns and villages. In those areas, electricity is unreliable and only the rich can afford a computer.

Even the typist, Nayak, says he doesn't want his son to take up this profession. "To sit in this footpath and to type, it is not easy," he says. "It is harder day by day because work is going down."

Tandon will be sad to see them go. "India is a part of the world where the streets are full of life. People live on the streets, people sleep on the streets and when you walk around and hear the clickety-clack of the typewriter, it's something that we're going to miss," he says.

What profession or trade are you sad to see go by the wayside? Let us know in the comments below.

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    Ajay Kumar Nayak at work in Calcutta.


    Rahul Tandon

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    Ajay Kumar Nayak


    Rahul Tandon

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    A typist takes a break in Calcutta, India.


    Rahul Tandon

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    Rahul Tandon

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    Classroom at the Suffee Commercial College where typewriters sit idly as students take computer classes instead.


    Rahul Tandon