Holding Court: Why Typewriters Continue to be Relevant in the Indian Judiciary

02 January 2017

In April 2016, I was watching the movie Tintin with my seven-year-old daughter, when she pointed to a typewriter on the screen and asked, “What’s that?” Once in a while, in the humdrum of daily life, moments such as these take us back to forgotten times. The last typewriter I had seen was 17 years ago, when I had applied for a government job exam. During the evaluation, our typing speed was tested on a typewriter.

Following the conversation with my daughter, I set out in search of a typewriter. However, it proved to be more difficult to find than I had anticipated. Three days after I had first started looking for a typewriter, a friend told me that there are two things I would find for certain outside any court in India: a big banyan tree and typists sitting underneath it with their typewriters.

Excited, I made my way to the district court in my hometown—Cooch Behar, a small district in northern West Bengal—at around 9 am one early April morning. Upon reaching there, I was surprised to find the typewriters unattended under a banyan tree, covered with plastic bags. Within the next 30 minutes, the court premises was full of advocates, notaries, clerks, attorneys, and other black-coat professionals. A local tea-shop owner, who ran his shop within the area, told me that the small court had around seven typists.

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    Arindam Thokder is a Bangalore-based independent photographer with a keen sense for contrast and color. His photography documents everyday life, social issues and conflicts, charitable aid projects and the cultures of various parts of India.

    Keywords: photo essay Indian judiciary typewriter