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If there is an area of competition where today’s children are spared, it is the art of putting a real pen to paper and animating the page in one’s own hand.

If texting, fancy keyboards and a dropdown list of fonts are the villains that have dampened today’s children’s interest in penmanship, we had our share of challenges during our times when handwriting was a front-runner in the race alongside academic excellence.

While our hands struggled to form our letters without letting them trip over one another, barely managing to cross the t’s and dot the i’s between a few illegible ones tumbling out and slumping into their neighbours, our ink pen often dabbled unsteadily on tiny of pools of blotted ink, there was one among us who made handwriting seem like art.

When Sruthi’s hands wielded the pen, it was nothing short of an artist at work. She began by tilting her book to an angle, the edges of her palm cushioned on a starched white handkerchief folded into a perfect square. When her pen touched paper, it was that first magical stroke. The bold perfect flairs of cursive that flowed with the gentleness and ease of a river cascading down a mountainous path as her elegant flourishes of curves, dashes and dots sashayed and danced across the pages, each standing tall and yet together in a chorus of perfect rhythm. She paused occasionally to drink in to her creation with as much awe as Michelangelo must have felt when he gazed up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

I was the inveterate scribbler...birthing stories, thoughts to be revisited long after it’s forgotten, poems that made little sense but meant the world to me, unexpressed opinions that I sheltered in the depths of my being.

- Pranitha Menon, freelance writer

The appreciation, emphasis to follow her example and teachers lining up for her notebooks were not lost on us. If our hand could be compared to the doctor’s prescription, Sruthi’s was the doctor’s bill.

I tried to fit into her shoes — complete with the tilt and Mother’s handkerchief as I attempted to ease my pen into strokes. I blamed the pen when it staggered over the paper and Mother blamed me for the blots I left behind in her handkerchief.

A cousin who was trained in the art of calligraphy tried to give me a hand.

This extra hand only had my tiny, wobbly feet trying to fit into a pair of shoes, each of varied sizes, neither of them mine!

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When I could wobble no more, I did away with the tilt and handkerchief as I eased the pen into a hand of my own. They did not sync to a perfect rhythm or dance with the grace of a ballerina; they sang, nevertheless, a song in tune to an imperfect perfection of their own.

If Sruthi’s hand could turn the teacher’s monotone into art like Mother could turn the much-despised eggplant into the perfect accompaniment to bread, my handwriting was like the weather, changing with my mood and temperament for I wrote not out of passion but for the competition.

What handwriting was to Sruthi, writing was to me. I was the inveterate scribbler, scrawling words, thoughts and ideas at every opportunity — birthing stories, thoughts to be revisited long after it’s forgotten, poems that made little sense but meant the world to me, unexpressed opinions that I sheltered in the depths of my being and scribbling all that my little mind saw while precariously balancing on the threshold that divided all that I was and all that I wished to be.

The words tumbled out as the tides of emotion rose and fell, each an extension of myself as they drank into the hours of the clock.

It was about then that I reconciled to the fact that I could never fit into another’s shoes as much as they couldn’t fit into mine because we were individuals, each different in our own special way, like the play of lines that grace our palms, like the sequence in our DNA strands and like the unique place we occupy in the puzzle of the universe.

— Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @MenonPranitha