Al-Avalathi's Life (Al-Avalathi is the last Mallu to go to the Gelf)
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Signs of the times

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Nelson Mandela would never know that I had signed on a paper to free him from prison. I did not know how to sign. Nor did I know Nelson Mandela. No. I actually did know him. He was all over the newspapers then.

The whole class assembled under the shade of a tree. Someone started a song, “Mandela Mandela, Nelson Mandela..”. We shouted those words at the top of our voices. Manjula teacher, my class teacher in Class III asked all of us to write our names against the numbers. That was a signature campaign- the first I participated in. Empowerment, ego massage and such happened. You may call it by any name. It may not have been willingly; I did not have a choice. That was the first time I put my signature.

No. Not really. Two years before this,the same teacher had made us start savings a/c in the nearest SBT. All of us had to give her Rs.5. She did the rest. Signatures were ours. That passbook is still a prized posession.

We were growing up. Writing with pen was no longer a luxury and was officially permitted. Hours were spent testing every Hero pen. Signature was used heavily to smoothen the nib and also to kill time. Going back to signature campaigns, I tried one such along with Sajith. This was to impeach a friend who was then the school deputy pupil leader. We managed signatures of many kids. We were in XI. VI or VII class kids were very sweet. Signatures were just chocolates away. That campaign had a premature death. Rather, was killed by Jaggu, the acting Principal. We failed to understand why she could not be impeached. Jaggu did not believe in democracy. What other reason can I think of for threatening to suspend us?

1989 was marked the centenary celebrations of Nehru’s birth. Our text books had a few lines on(by) Jawaharlal Nehru. His initials were my favorite. The J and H connected by a loop and an inclined line that fell backward. Many a bottles of Chelpark were spent on these initials. There was Gandhiji’s Talisman too in our books. I had no clue what a Talisman meant. His signature was tough to copy.
I didn’t have to forge dad’s signature to get Progress Reports signed. Throwing tantrums after dad left for work was enough to acquiesce mom to signing. In fact, there was one instance when I had to put dad’s signature. It was the last day to send the CBSE Medical Entrance application and dad was out of town. I had to.
Apart from this, I would have practiced a lot on RN Malhotra’s signature in Hindi. During the times when I started noticing RBI Governor’s signatures on currency notes, it was this gentleman all over. Ra Na Malhotra was an interesting signature to attempt in Hindi. The lower denomination notes (Re 1, Rs 2) had Finance Secretary’s signature. Manmohan Singh was still in circulation.


From simply writing my name to finding the best N from calligraphy books, the sign has come a long way. Deciding between dotted and circular tittles or the choice of using my second name or part thereof, confusions have been plenty. This change can’t be done overnight. If you do, your next credit card purchase may be annulled for suspected fraud.

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February 21, 2010   8 Comments