This evening, just before calling it a day and heading home, me and one of my colleagues, N, started comparing our handwritings (don't even ask how we managed to land up there from a very work-related discussion). I joined my letters in a cursive hand while N used a combination of cursive and discrete letters.
N glanced at my writing and exclaimed, "Oh, that's so pretty!". Even though I know that my handwriting is just about average when compared to some very beautiful handwritings I have seen, I couldn't help but feel good.
For most of my school life, I studied in Chennai and Calcutta. The schools there were big and had lots of students. Thus, as long as the students were able to string words together correctly and put them on paper, the teachers did not really care too much about how pretty those words looked. So, other than occasionally admiring a friend or classmate's nice handwriting, I never gave much thought to how mine looked. The only concession I remember making in deference to "nice" handwriting was to use an ink pen as I noticed that it made my writing look better than when I wrote with a ball-point pen.
Then, in ninth standard, my dad got transferred to K which was not a city but rather a town. The convent school I joined was fairly new and my class had only 22 students. Ours would only be the second batch to write the tenth standard board exams from that school. The teachers were determined that everyone should do well. Hence each of us got individual attention.
One fine day, one of the teachers, Sister P, called me and told that while the teachers thought that the contents of my test papers were quite okay, they thought that my handwriting was quite bad. They were worried that my board-exam marks would suffer as a result. In short, she was politely telling that my handwriting looked like "kozhi-kirukkal" (kozhi-kirukkal refers to handwriting that looks as though a hen had dipped its feet into a pot of ink and then run across the paper - kozhi=hen, kirukkal=scribbles). What!?! No one had had any objections as to how I wrote for the first ten years of my school life - how on earth did it matter now!?!
Apparently, it mattered a lot. For, the next day, Sister P wanted me to go to the school bookstore to buy a four-ruled notebook. For those of you who don't know what a four-ruled notebook is: it is a notebook in which each page has sets of four lines grouped together. Kindergardeners use such notebooks to practise cursive handwriting. Sister P wanted me to practise cursive writing everyday in such a notebook.
I have never felt more embarassed and tried to talk my way out of it. But Sister P was determined. That evening, after school, Sister P wrote down the English alphabets for me in the notebook. I was supposed to copy them exactly many times. The irony of it all :-(! I don't remember doing such homework in kindergarden - I used to spend so much time playing then that mom had to literally hold my hand and scribble down my homework for me. And now God was having a very good laugh :-(!
Anyways, a couple of weeks later, I had graduated to a two-ruled notebook. And some more weeks later to a single rule notebook. At that point, the Sisters decided that my handwriting had reached passable - barely so, but it was okay. I was happy to finally get rid of the source of lots of leg-pulling at school. And even though I did not notice anything different myself, I decided that if the nuns said so, my handwriting must be looking better now (most of the nuns had such lovely handwritings - even their writings on the blackboard looked like calligraphy).
So board exams came and went. I scored pretty decently - I really could not say how my new and improved handwriting had contributed to it. But the nuns at my school felt good about making me give my best shot and I was guilt-free at not messing up (literally).
I thought that was that. But then something which had never happened to me before started happening: I started getting compliments about my handwriting. Not often or anything but regularly enough. Wow :-)! So my efforts did come with extra benefits!
Practise does lead to being at least decently okay at the practised thing, even if you were not born with it! N's compliment reminded me of this yet again :-)!