Going Back to Seizure: How Goa’s Last Typewriter Repair Shop Defied the Digital Age | Global development


In Goa’s capital, Panaji, on Rua São Tomé, not far from the main post office, is a boutique that offers packaging services. For a small fee, they’ll wrap your package in a muslin sheet sewn with precise stitches to protect its contents from being damaged in the mail.

It started on the fringes of the store’s main activity, but is now Luis Francisco Miguel de Abreu’s main breadwinner as he struggles to maintain one of the last typewriter repair shops in this area. Indian state.

Inside the shop are several typewriters in various states of repair, very much like museum pieces. There is a Hermes, a Remington and a Godrej Prima, from the Indian manufacturer who was the last company in the world to make typewriters.

“As long as the main door is open, I will have to do this. I prefer to go all the way, ”explains Luis Abreu, the store owner. Photography: Chryselle D’Silva Dias

Abreu, 78, sits in a chair surrounded by paperwork, spare parts and memorabilia. His father, Domingos Abreu, was employed by American typewriter manufacturer Remington Rand in Mumbai before returning to Goa and starting his own maintenance and repair business in 1938.

“My older brother wanted to study engineering and there were no schools or colleges here, so he had to go to Portugal,” says Abreu. “You needed good grades and money. I could have gone there too, but I stayed to study and help my dad in the store.

When his father opened the shop, Goa was still controlled by Portugal, which colonized the territory in 1510 and held power until 1961. “We moved here, to this place, I think, in 1953”, explains Abreu. “At that time, there was nothing here. We had a muddy road here with horses and ox carts. There was a restaurant that sold rice, curry and vegetables, not fish.

Today, the state is a busy tourist destination, with a hip eatery or curry fish restaurant on every street and selfies taken at every colorful door.

In December 1961, the last ship left Goa for those who wanted to return to Portugal after its annexation by the Indian army and the state’s accession to the republic. “We have learned that the João de Lisboa [a Portuguese warship] had come and whoever wants to go [to Portugal] can go, ”says Abreu. ” I did not want. I did not want to leave my establishment and my father.

The store, named Domingos Abreu after Abreu’s father, was the preferred location for typewriter sales and repairs. “All the big mining companies – the Dempos, the Chowgules – government departments, even the military: they all came here,” says Abreu, “But business is shut down now. “

Typewriters were once the backbone of the famous Indian bureaucracy. From government offices to courts, they were the essential symbol of the modernization of independent India.

Professional typists work by the side of a road near the Stock Exchange in New Delhi, India.  The country has thousands of professional typists, most of them working outside the country's courts and government offices.
Professional typists work in a roadside office near the Delhi Stock Exchange. The country has thousands of professional typists. Photography: Bernat Armangué / AP

Typing and shorthand schools have produced thousands of graduates ready to take on secretarial duties. Some of them still exist in rural areas, teaching shorthand as well as keyboard skills for computers. “I think it was a mistake to close the institutes,” says Abreu. “If they had stayed open, things might have been different. A lot of people tell me that our kids can’t type fast – they type with one finger; the speed is just not there.

In the Goanese town of Ponda, Milagres D’Costa, 70, has been running the D’Costa Business Institute since 1977. He offers courses in shorthand and typing for computers and manual typewriters; it has no policyholder for the latter. “Nobody wants to learn typewriters now,” he says.

While brands such as Remington and Olivetti were popular in India, Godrej & Boyce made the first locally produced typewriters in India from 1955 to 2011, when the growing reach of cellphones and computers made this part of the world. obsolete business. The lack of new typewriters and spare parts has not dampened the enthusiasm of those who love the sound of the keys, however. Abreu continues to receive requests for machine repairs and maintenance, and the company has seen an increase in customer numbers after the first Covid lockdown in Goa was lifted.

The state is now in a second partial containment, which means the workshop is closed. Abreu says Covid has been “a godsend and a bane” to his business.

“Everyone was cleaning things during the lockdown and we had several machines to watch,” says Natasha, Abreu’s daughter, who helps in the shop. “We receive clients from all over the country. Many tourists come across our store while walking. They go home and bring back vintage typewriters that they want to use or keep as centerpieces.

But there is little profit in typewriters. “To get the concession for a big company, I lost a lot of money,” says Abreu. “The company took a down payment from me, but they’re now gone. There is no refund, nothing.

Spare parts are also hard to come by, and Abreu’s discolored eyesight and other health issues make repairs tricky. “I can do basic repairs,” Natasha says. “Things like changing the tape and oiling the parts. The rest is a bit more complicated for me. A local man, Anton Rebello, was also trained to do some repairs.

History of the typewriter by Luis Abreu
A typewriter at Domingos Abreu in Panaji. Spare parts are scarce. Photography: Chryselle D’Silva Dias

The parcel service is now the main livelihood. “What else could we do? Said Abreu. “There was no sales or service [work] so we started to pack. It was a good deal at first, but now they have introduced new rules, which means you have to go to the post office, show what’s in the package, declare it to customs, and then sew and seal the package in their presence. . My daughter is doing this job now.

But the future is uncertain. “I’m just a Luis Abreu. How long can a person go on? As long as the main door is open, I will have to do this. I prefer to go all the way.

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