“Look at you sir, you looked handsome as a young man,” I remark, glancing at some old photos sitting out on a desk.
Not skipping a beat, Bejon Madan fires back with a grin, “You mean to say I’m not handsome anymore, is it?”
At 73 year olds, Madan appears unaffected by his age; a youthful vigor glimmers in his eyes and resonates through his voice. Bejon Madan is the owner of General Office Typewriters, a typewriter repair workshop in Mumbai, India. Located on the fourth floor of an inconspicuous building, Madan’s workshop is a small place with only two windows, which, surprisingly, provides more than enough light for him to work. The shop’s sign, which has turned brown with the passing time, is revealing of the decades that the shop has remained in business. Madan has spent most of his life here and has witnessed the city’s transformation over the course of time, including the unfortunate decline of typewriters.
Bejon Madan已经73岁，但他身上好像根本看不出年龄的痕迹——他的声音和眼睛，也依然闪耀着年轻的活力。他是General Office Typewriters的老板，那是位于孟买一幢老房子四楼的一间小型打字机修理工作室。Madan 的工作室地方很小，只能容纳几个人，工作室的招牌经历了几十年的时光洗礼，已经泛黄。阳光从两个窗口照进来，让他有足够的光线来修理那些打字机。Madan一生中大部分时间都是在这里度过的，在漫长的岁月里，他见证了这座城市的转变。
“My grandfather started this shop in 1960, and after the workload became heavy, he requested for me to join him,” Madan recalls. “I accepted the offer and joined the business back in 1976.” Even now, over so many years, the place still exudes a lingering charm from the heydays of the typewriter era.
Back in the day, Madan often worked with local, big-name clients, which included the likes of Union Bank of India and The New India Assurance. There was a constant demand for technicians, and they had a massive team of workers under them who travelled the length and breadth of the city keeping typewriters in best health. “Our workers are well trained in spotting typewriter defects,” Bejon proudly says. “There has never been a case where we haven’t been able to figure out a solution. We made sure that your typewriter stays in the best working condition.”
以前，他们服务的客户包括了本地的大牌公司，譬如New India Assurance 和Union Bank of India，工作源源不断地进来，工作室里的员工规模很大，他们穿梭于这座城市的各个角落，确保打字机的出色工作状态。Madan自豪地说：“我们的员工都很训练有素，他们懂得如何查找打字机的故障。从来也没有我们修不了的打字机。我们能确保客户的打字机处于最佳的工作状态。”
I see one of the workers opening a vintage Remington Noiseless to examine an issue, and it occured to me that this was actually my first time seeing the inside of a typewriter. “This young girl dropped by in the morning and gave us this typewriter to repair,” Madan tells me, noticing my curiosity. “It belongs to her grandfather, but she wants to start using it now. People still come in to get their machines repaired, but other people come in just to donate their typewriters. We have a vintage Remington, a Godrej Prima, and a a Brother Charger 11 because some people thought of them as burdens. They don’t understand their real value.”
我看到员工打开一台老式的Remington Noiseless打字机，要查找它的故障。我突然发现，这实际上是我第一次看到打字机的内部。Madan说“一个年轻的女孩上午过来，让我们修理这台打字机。这台打字机是她祖父的，但她想现在开始用。现在依然会有人拿打字机来修理，但也有其他人只是过来捐掉他们的打字机的。我们收到过一台老式的Remington，一台Godrej Prima，和一台哥 Brother Charger 11，因为有些人会觉得它们是负担。他们不知道这些打字机的真正价值。”
When computerization set in, life as Madan knew it would never be the same again. As technology advanced, typewriters faded out of the public consciousness and Madan’s business began to feel the effects. But even now, Madan doesn’t see typewriters as just a commodity – they were a way of life. He sees them as beautiful fragments of the past and the value he attributes them is evident in his persevering efforts to preserve these slices of history.
There are few places in Mumbai, or other cities in India, where typewriters are still in use, but they’re still clinging on. They might still be found in places like the local courts, notaries, or in a few lawyer’s offices. Though they’re being used less and less, Madan still finds a way to keep his business going. With both a sense of hope and sadness, he says, “What concerns me is how the kids of today may remain unaware of the beautiful yesterday. Beauty never fades; the shine may go but beauty goes on forever and that shall always be the case with typewriters.”