For a number of years, like many others, I have been anxiously waiting for the sound of the hawker dropping the daily newspaper(s) every morning at our door. This is because, despite the advent of the internet, the newspaper continues to be an addiction for the likes of me. Most people start their morning with the newspaper while some even carry it to the loo because they say, “it helps”.
For journalists, who are supplied more than one newspaper, it is incumbent to go through all of them thoroughly for what in their parlance is called a ‘post-mortem’ (a comparative study of gains and losses in day’s coverage), at the daily meeting of the editorial board. I have gone through this drill throughout my journalistic career, but it was reduced when post-retirement I had to pay for the two newspapers that I chose to read every day.
Nevertheless, the addiction persisted though in a small measure. As long as I was a staffer with newspapers, my ears were attuned to the thud of a bundle of five to six papers that was flung into my colony or dropped at the door. I would quickly go out, collect the papers and would ‘devour’ them one by one.
After superannuation, I was under no pressure. I would read the papers according to my convenience. There was no fear any more of a morning phone call from the editor miffed over some ‘missed’ or ‘improper’ story.
After reading them, I would carefully fold and stack them for the scrap collector who insisted on taking neatly kept papers.
During my 20 years’ stay with Lucknow dailies and later during the 16 years in Delhi, I regularly read about six newspapers every morning. It was gratifying that the supply was never interrupted. They gave us a miss only on three or four national and other holidays. On these days, I would mechanically go out to look for the bundle only to realise that I had not read the holiday notice on the front page of the previous day’s issue. Habits, they say, die hard.
Returning empty-handed, I would wonder how I would spend the morning. Television came later but even today it continues to be no match to the high one gets from reading the printed word. That is where the previous day’s newspaper came in handy. Besides, reading your name printed in a newspaper has its charm.
Quite often, I fished out the old paper, read it all over again, including the stories that I would normally ignore. So much so, I would not spare even the classified pages including matrimonial advertisements as they made interesting reading.
So far so good. However, the scene had changed completely when I returned to Lucknow from Delhi after 35 years. The holiday culture had set in a big way. I was startled at the newspaper establishments, including well-known national dailies, closing down every now and then on even innocuous occasions.
By reflex action, I would dash to the corridor or balcony only to return disappointed.
I am told that Lucknow being a metropolitan city with a sizeable population of followers of all major faiths, there is a genuine problem with the work force which was always reluctant to work on holidays. More importantly, the newspaper hawkers (delivery boys) here had acquired the power to move things only the way they want. They have the upper hand. Even if the newspaper is published, unwilling delivery boys can make the entire exercise futile.
The net result has been that a voracious newspaper reader like me feels sick of too many holidays. But in a world where holiday-lovers have their say, there is little one can do about it.
Sadly but slowly I too am getting conditioned to this city’s newspaper holiday culture.
Lalit Raizada is a journalist based in India.