Monday, February 26, 2018

Musings of a newspaper addict/ The thrill of the morning

Musings of a newspaper addict
published in The Hindu - 08/10/17

How I wait to hear the ‘thud’ of the rolled bundle falling on my terrace! A few minutes late and there I am - perched on the railing, waiting eagerly to catch a glimpse of his cycle turning the corner towards my house. It sure looks fantastic. With a large bundle tied on their handles and carriers laden with another, the bicycles swim in my lane.  The satchel on their handle bars holds some more- the rolled ones. The practiced fingers nimbly pick the exact newspaper from the bundles or the satchel, depending on whether they are to be delivered to a ground floor verandah or, to an upper floor terrace and, the dexterous arm akin to an Olympian javelin thrower sends it to the desired place. All in one seamless action!
I am a confirmed newspaper addict.  Without it the morning seems bland,  the  morning- tea insipid, and, the day morose. They may have been the mornings of  a remote town, Sakti in Chhatisgarh, or a non-descript railway station where my train happened to stop during some journey , the Heathrow airport where the flight to USA took a break , or the cities in USA where I have had  short sojourns, I have gone all out in search for a newspaper. Yes, the printed version- which one can feel and smell and can hold in one’s hands. Having had one, I flip and cursorily make a mental note of the choicest and juiciest topics, and then lay it down on the lap to savour it, to chew and digest it in the celebrated words of Bacon. I even deliberately leave some of the articles unread for the next day, if  the newspaper is not to be available that day on account of  a press holiday.  I cannot let my morning tea be tasteless !
It wasn’t so in the beginning. Those were the days when we children were asked to read newspapers to improve both our language and knowledge, and it was a reluctant compliance of course. The comic strip, the sports page and, the weekly Children’s page were the initial hook-ups. The graduation to the editorial and op-ed pages took some years and the preparation for the civil services exam made it staple. The newspapers then catered to all age groups. They were meant to be read not to be merely seen as some of them now. Page three was just another page in a daily, which usually carried local news. It wasn’t an adjective then. While our teachers and parents insisted that we read the newspapers, I dread asking my kids to do that. Not only have all the well-known newspapers stopped having an exclusive kid’s space on their sheets, some of them have also gone ahead for a blatant display of patent adult stuff on them in the name of life style articles.
 ‘But why is mine so late today?’, I grumble , careening myself as if I would be able to see beyond the road-bend. Well may be some newspaper might have reached the distribution centre late or may be his cycle-tyre got punctured.  I suddenly realize that he must have left his home at the crack of dawn to be there at the newspaper sorting center. The foggiest morning of a crippling winter or,  a monsoonal one, raining hailstones makes no difference to his schedule. So, while we in our blankets, lie warmly ensconced in dreams, he is out there loading grim realities on his handle bar. He cycles dripping wet to get our newspaper dry and crisp as a papadum. I realize that this drudgery is to supplement his paltry income from some low-paid job the rest of the day.
I espy my paper-wala shooting newspaper missiles, bang on targets, of specific balconies and porches, as he speedily cycles towards my house. My reverie breaks. I move a bit back from my perch, take a stance à la Jonty Rhodes and focus my attention to catch the roll of newspapers hurled from below.

                                                        Skand Shukla