Thursday, July 9, 2009


I was piqued to discover that our new English teacher had, with sheer disdain, subscribed a curt 'rotten' at the end of my painstakingly composed essay. Curiously, an identical citation was conferred on each of my classmates too. The entire class sang blue murder in chorus - but then the chants of revolt got muted when it transpired that the teacher had merely signed his name, Rathan, which, due to his squiggly handwriting had turned 'rotten'.

An heir apparent to Mr 'Rotten' is a friend of mine whose scribble resembles rows of drunken earthworms belly-dancing at a street carnival. If a sampling of his scrawl recorded on a graph paper were to be given to a cardiologist, he might, assuming it to be an electrocardiograph (ECG), offer an exotic diagnosis such as 'a myocardial infarction with atrial fibrillation'. Or, if presented to a seismologist, he may raise an alarm forecasting an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale.

In the words of Sydney Smith, the 19th century English wit, cacography - poor or illegible handwriting - looks as if 'a swarm of ants, escaping from an ink bottle, had walked over a sheet of paper without wiping their legs'.

But inside a bank passbook, in the days of hand written entries, Sydney Smith's ink-sodden ants didn't just walk but played a lively game of rugby churning out reams of Dead Sea 'scrawls'. It took a person of great resources to translate an entry such as 'anal licker rut' into an 'annual locker rent'. And just because your passbook said 'chase yourself ' there was no need to quit the bank premises. For, all it meant was "cheque on yourself ". My own passbook was once credited with 5000 bucks by "Lotta and Tumbler" which eventually turned out to be a dividend credit from the company "Larsen and Toubro".

But a doctor's scrawl is, indeed, akin to a delectable hotch-potch of noodles garnished with oodles of scrambled eggs and a sprinkling of shredded vegetables. Therefore, imagine the plight of a party host who, from a doctor invitee, received a terse handwritten note (scribbled on a prescription sheet) supposedly expressing his inability to attend the do. But the host could not fathom the contents of the note for you know why. And after wrestling with the "encrypted" message for a long time, the host got a brainwave: Why not send it to the chemist for 'decoding'? After all, chemist knows best when it comes to doctors' handwriting. So the note reached the friendly neighbourhood chemist.

The chemist's face wore a puzzled frown as he drank in the contents of the memo, only to be replaced by a sneer as the matter sank in. Finally, a smug smile crept in as he, with great aplomb, placed a medley of medications on the counter and rattled out instructions on dosage schedules!

Tailpiece: A bride on a honeymoon jaunt wrote to her friend back home narrating how her doting husband hovered around her round the clock. There was a postscript that read: " If my handwriting is bit wobbly, blame it on my hubby."

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