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STENOGRAPHER : THE SPECIES UNDER THREAT OF EXTINCTION

The strokes you write hasten your hand. The fingers ride with speaker’s words. It is a perfect symphony of hand and head, an art  which you could master and  chisel  to perfection.

There was a time when the profession of stenographer is considered as middle-class’s breadwinner. It’s charm in 90’s in India is something you can’t find  in this Information Age.  The government sector is still the main  stakeholder of stenographers. But no doubt, it is becoming a dying profession and I doubt its survival in the coming decades as technology replaces maximum human labour.

If you go back to history of stenography, it is believed that the word stenography is derived from the Greek words steno (narrow) and graphein (the art of writing). It is also known as tachygraphy (quick writing), brachygraphy (short writing), zeiglographia and semography.  We find that   hundreds of shorthand writing systems and scripts have been experimented and used for more than 2000 years.

In good olden days, Notarii (reporters) write the speeches of roman senators. The famous writer George Bernard Shaw wrote all his literature in shorthand. Famous novelist Charles Dickens was also a shorthand writer. It is said that Shakespeare’s plays were preserved by means of shorthand. In Mughal Era, Qatibs (reporters) were appointed to take down Shahi Farmaan (orders of the king). These  historical traces indicate the prevalence of shorthand since time immemorial.

Shorthand is no doubt a dry subject. My own impression being a stenographer is : laborious; uninteresting. The primary qualification to win over this art is, patience.  For initial 2 -3 months, you can’t generate interest to go forward and you have to blindly follow the exercises with daily practice. Whether somebody makes it as a profession or not but it is an art that anybody could  learn which immensely helps in note-taking, especially by students in their studies.

The stenographer earns his/ her reputation being exponent in this art. Charles Dickens, the famous novelist says that ‘’learning of Shorthand is equal to learning of 6 new languages’’. George Bernard Shaw felt that  learning of shorthand makes him independent of typewriters, of  Dictaphones and of the immediate present of a Secretary. The Father of Nation Mahatma Gandhi says that Shorthand writers-cum-reporters hold the prestige of public men in the hollow of their palms….

The most prominent stenographic systems is Pitman Shorthand. Sir Isaac Pitman published his stenographic work : soundhand in 1837, later called phonography or Pitman’s Shorthand based on the phonetic structure of the ancient Indian language Sanskrit. History says that till the advent of Pitman phonetic system, nearly four-hundred plus systems of English Shorthand had been experimented in England alone.

There are other stenographic systems in the world as well, like Gregg System which is based on the longhand letters and became popular in United States. There was also a Sloan – Duployan System which is an adoption of French system into English.

The heroic figure for stenographers  in contemporary times is Dr. Gopal Datt Bisht, the first ever Ph.D in stenography in the world, and the Guinness Record holder for the highest shorthand writing speed of 250 words per minute.

There were also proud moments for stenographers in the annals of history. One of the stalwarts who did yeomen service is J.J. Goodwin (1870 – 1898). This British stenographer was initially assigned the task of noting down the lectures of Swami Vivekananda during his first tour to United States.

The credit for transcribing  large portions of Swamiji’s literature goes to Goodwin who painstakingly translated the Master’s  extempore words into inspiring stuff. Within a short span, Goodwin became Vivekananda’s close friend and disciple. The amount of love and respect Goodwin earned from Vivekananda is indescribable. When Goodwin died at a very young age,  Vivekananda wrote that : The debt of gratitude I owe him can never be repaid, and those who think they have been helped by any thought of mine ought to know that almost every word of it was published through the untiring and most unselfish exertions of Mr. Goodwin. In him I have lost a friend true as steel, a disciple of never-failing devotion, a worker who knew not what tiring was, and the world is less rich by one of those few who are born, as it were, to live only for others.

The seeds of interest to learn shorthand were first sprouted in me by my father who is a qualified stenographer.  He impressed upon me that the proficiency of English   is linked to learning shorthand. He  ignited a zeal in me  to hone my language skills.

 Automation, new technological  aids and smartphones completely changed the  landscape of present day office set-up especially in private organizations.  Digital devices replace humans as personal assistants and  this indicates  a danger of extinction of this species called Stenographer,  sooner than expected ! 

TAKE A WALK !


Health, as the saying goes, is wealth. If health takes a back seat in your life and you thrust all your energies towards amassing wealth indiscriminately, you may not be in a healthy condition to enjoy your hard-earned wealth. This is the harsh reality of life and the sooner you realize it, the better it will be.

In the first place, the myth that the body is a ‘structure’ should be taken out of mind. It is in fact a set of processes. In order to ensure the organic processes happen as they should, you need to be in tune with nature and exercise should be treated as a non-negotiable activity of your daily life.

The simplest form of exercise is walking; it has a multitude of benefits both physical and psychological. A simple walk on a daily basis puts you on sound health. The testimony comes from none other than a grand old man of 102 years from Mahabubnagar district (Ayyavaripalli village in Veepanagundla Mandal ) of Andhra Pradesh.

Sesha Sarma, by profession a family priest, wakes up at the crack of dawn and starts his fitness regimen with 2 km walking even at this ripe age. When asked about the secret of his healthy life, he says that he has been walking and doing yoga uninterruptedly for the last 72 years.

Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician and father of western medicine sagely said that “Walking is man’s best medicine.   An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day. One of America’s greatest philosophers Ralph Waldo Emerson used to finalize his talks during his morning walks.

Henry David Thoreau in his much acclaimed essay titled ‘Walking’ (1862) says that walking only comes by the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from heaven to become a walker. T o support his assertion, Thoreau says that he can not preserve his health and spirits unless he spends four hours a day at least—and often more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.

While pitying non-walkers, Thoreau says that “When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them —as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon—I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.

On the mechanics of walking, Thoreau says that you must walk like a camel which is said to be the only beast that  ruminates when walking. Health experts say that the best way to walk is to swing your arms while at it. Bend your arms at right angles to the elbows and swing them while you walk. This will increase the speed of your walk and keep the body in the aerobic zone (the maximum fat-burning zone).

Research reveals that walking increases the level of endorphins – naturally secreted hormones working in brain which increase the sense of wellbeing. A regular walk boosts the immune system, improves mood, reduces blood pressure apart from controlling weight. It is the best stress buster and keeps the head cool.

When it comes to right gear, wear apparel made of breathable fabric. Also invest in good shoes – a flexible, roomy toe to accommodate foot’s forward thrust; and a smooth sole.

Walking has both physical and psychological benefits. Unless a conscious decision is taken at individual level, fitness will remain as a dream.  Experts say that knowledge is of no avail to you if you don't  act upon. So all you need in the first place is, walk the talk!


Book Review : ELEVEN COMMANDMENTS OF LIFE

 

Competition, success are now-a-days more synonymous with Private Sector where the employees need to hone their skills to fight everyday battles of professional life. You need to adopt thousands of tricks to impress the customer. The sales professionals work day is very draining and unless they show up the results at the end of the day, their survival in the organization becomes questionable. For people of such background, this book is a minefield.

His expertise lies in sales, leadership and entrepreneurship skills. He is a known corporate trainer whose target work is productivity enhancement.

Santosh's 11 commandments are as under:

1. Declare your expiry date
2. Be a possibility thinker
3. Rock the boat in the middle of the sea
4. Be autonomous, declare your constitution today
5. Declare that every resource around you will be maximized
6. Declare your thoughts, words, and deeds
7. Declare to be a leader for life
8. Say goodbye to Emotionally Draining Distractions
9. Be ready to be a loner
10.Declare that you will be 'forever alive'
11.Live a life that is difficult to duplicate


Santosh in the Preface of the book says that he started his life as a salesman 29 years ago and chose to be a Meaningful Specific which comprise only 5% in the world. In this great book, he culled out his knowledge and experience from ground zero and wrote this practical book which is a rare of its kind.

The author says that this book is only for those who want to live, learn, love and leave a legacy behind. So investing some bucks for this book is not a bad deal, provided you are willing to raise your bar!

Book Review: HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE by Dale Carnegie

Investing rupees hundred on this book more than a decade ago introduced me to Carnegie's literature and thereafter ignited me to read more self-help books of West.

The principles underlined in this best seller is known to everybody, but the implementation part differentiates a successful man from that of failed lot . In fact, this book is a compilation from the two great books of Dale Carnegie : How to Win Friends and Influence People and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.

Carnegie wrote these books in 1930s, but the ideas and strategies he recommended remain unchanged as there would be no change in human dimension. It is only the context that changes but the thinking remains same in any age. New technologies may give new comforts but man's explorative mind don't alter with time.

In the Foreword, Dorothy Carnegie says that you already possess hidden assets within yourself that can make your life glorious. All you need is the determination to uncover and use them.

When it comes to the contents of the book, it has all the necessary stuff one needs to tone up his inner world. It has four parts :

- Part One : Seven Ways to Peace and Happiness.
- Part Two : Fundamental Techniques in Handling People.
- Part Three : Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking.
- Part Four : Ways to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

Each part has 4 to 7 chapters each with sub-headings with strategy to be adopted to a particular dimension of problem in life. Those who want to improve in life must keep this book on their bed-side!