Indian Street Typists – Vanishing Professions

Vanishing professions: India’s street typists heading for a final full stop

By Rahul TandonBBC News, Calcutta
Vanishing professions

Every morning, as he has for the past 34 years, Ajay Kumar Nayak walks to a busy footpath outside Calcutta’s high court.

He sets up a rickety wooden table, places a battered plastic chair behind it and then carefully places his 15-year-old typewriter on the table.

After covering his desk with a piece of tarpaulin to protect his prized possession from the sun, he is ready for business as one of Calcutta’s few remaining street typists.

“A decade ago I would have had no time to sit and chat. My fingers would have been tapping away all day,” he says.

“All you would have heard was the sound of the typewriter. Now there is only silence.”

He pauses for a minute and points to the few other typists who remain on the street – one is sitting sipping a cup of tea; another is reading a newspaper.

“Look at us. We have nothing to do,” says Ajay.

“If you come back in a few years’ time there will be nobody left here. The computer has killed our profession.”

Next year will be the last year that we run typing classes”

Mohammed Quamar Hamid Suffee Commercial College

Ajay and his friends used to be busy dealing with all sorts of documents.

Love letters

Complex legal drafts were their staple work, but there would also be wedding card messages to type or CVs to update.

They all laugh as they tell me how some young men used to ask them to type out love letters.

“Maybe we should start offering divorce letters,” jokes one. “Maybe that could help us get some work.”

Their conversation stops for a moment as a potential client walks towards them, but after a moment he moves on, and their conversation resumes.

Ajay and his fellow typists find themselves increasingly waiting for work.

A few miles from the high court is the Suffee Commercial College. For the past 80 years young men and women have come here to learn how to type.

On the ground floor there is still a darkened classroom full of Remington typewriters, perched idly on wooden desks, but they are rarely used now.

'What's the point?'

“Next year will be the last year that we run typing classes,” says Mohammed Quamar Hamid, whose family have been running the college since it was established.

“There is no demand for it, and when I ask the youngsters to practise their keyboard skills on these typewriters they just look at me and say, ‘what is the point?'”

He asks me to follow him to another room. Inside is a row of computers, and in front of them is a group of young girls in their early 20s.

“For them to get a job in India’s competitive job market they need computer skills,” he says.

“Nobody uses a typewriter any more. In a few years’ time the only place you will see them is in a museum.”

Students do not want to learn typing any more, says Mohammed Quamar Hamid

The girls all nod their heads in agreement. One student, Neha, who has just scored 97% in her computer keyboard skills test says manual typewriters “are not practical any more”.

“Today so much has to be done in the office, and with a computer it’s easy to correct your mistakes,” she says.

There are only old men here now. There are no youngsters here”.

Being a street typist is something she says she “would never do”.

“I think that we should keep abreast with technology and not look backwards. Typewriters are not part of our scene anymore.”Indian Street 2

When I ask the class whether any of them think they will ever use typewriters, the answer is a resounding no.

Another student, Divya, speaks for the class when she says: “It is so hard to use. That is why we all prefer computers. We want an easy life.”

Final few hundred

Back outside the high court, Ajay Kumar Nayak has finally got a client.

But after he finishes typing up the legal document – for which he gets seven rupees (7p, 11 cents) a page – he and his friends resume their conversation.

In Calcutta 20 years ago, there were about 2,000 street typists; now there are only a few hundred left.

Typewriter-filled classrooms like this are disappearing.

Ajay took the job because he could find no other work. He says he would not advise anyone to follow his example.

“There are only old men here now. There are no youngsters here.”

“I even told my son not to join this profession as it is difficult to make a living on the streets now.”

It is time for him to go home after another largely fruitless day.

As I walk away he shouts out: “Come and see me soon. I and my friends may not be here for much longer.”

Business Daily BBC World Service


Power Cuts and AMF Typing Services


AMF Typing Services is prepared for Load Shedding. Load Shedding during winter is a way of life for us here in South Africa, but we can beat it. There is technology out there that we can buy. I have recently purchased an Inverter and Battery. An Inverter is driven by a large battery and can be used on mains or run on the battery, in a power cut/load shedding the battery kicks in and keeps the Inverter charged. My equipment is plugged into the Inverter so I have power continuous with or without the mains, and it is very quiet to work with compared to a generator, which is very noisy and distracting.


By connecting all my equipment to the Inverter I can now keep my office up and running during hours of load shedding, while still having full Internet access which is another bonus. My equipment should stay up and running for between 4 to 6 hours.


With Load Shedding lately it is no longer just 2 hours off, it is now a case of up to 7 hours off with no electricity. We suffer as we cannot get our work done, clients are waiting for work and it is not very professional for us to say ‘sorry but I cannot work I have no power’.


When load shedding occurs we often don’t get the time to switch off and if you have not saved your work in the last hour you can easily lose that work, that is an hour wasted which we would have to redo. There is nothing worse than losing something and having to redo it, its time wasting we can’t afford.


With most of my work I am running on deadline and I simply cannot afford the time to be without power anymore. So a plan has been made. It has been costly but it is worth it because it keeps me up and running working while the power is off. I can still delivery my work on schedule and that is what matters to me. It is all about client support and keeping the client happy.



Inverter Power

Should I be the first VA on Mars


Mars 2

Mars a VA's final frontier

I was thinking maybe I should have applied to go to Mars ( after all as a VA I can work anywhere. Trouble is if I go to Mars I might have Internet and communication problems and then what, I have enough Internet problems as it is. Will someone go to Mars one day and be the first VA on Mars, I wonder.

I don’t think I would manage on Mars. I need my communication and if I didn’t have it I would struggle. I like skype, if I couldn’t contact people I would be lost. I could work for some of my clients as we correspond via Whatsapp, BBM, SMS and email, so that is something I would need to have. Communication is big deal to me in my business. What if Communication or the Internet goes down on Mars, how will I communicate with my clients. I would lose business very quickly, on Earth we can just about manage as long as we have communication soon but if it went off on Mars who knows when we may get it up again and that could be a problem.

I would have to take one of my clients with me to Mars as she would be lost without me, simple as that. I couldn’t leave her here, so she would have to come with otherwise she probably would not let me go.

How do we know what communication would be like on Mars seen as we have not had human’s set foot on Mars yet, it’s an unknown world.

There could be a communication delay and how would that work with doing urgent work or even transferring files via Dropbox, could I get that on Mars, I wonder. Would I be able to be in touch with Postnet to send info via Dropbox for printing. These would be factors I would need to find out before thinking of going to Mars.


I certainly could work for a new colony of people on Mars as a VA surely, especially if I am the only VA on Mars in the colony! How would I charge for my services, would we use money on Mars, I certainly wouldn’t want to work for free. You see there is many dilemma’s in the way, before even thinking of going to Mars.

The Internet is not reliable here, how do I know it will be reliable on Mars. Do I take a chance and just go and see, hmmm. I think maybe I should just dream about being the first VA on Mars, it might be a better idea than going there.

Mars 1