Many of us are not able to let go of some habits, whether we consider them good or bad, and when it comes to newspapers, I find myself in this category.
Despite all we hear about newsprint and environmental damage and loss of forests, I find it difficult to move with the times and get my news fix from online newspapers and television channels.
Of course, when we are travelling, we do our share of net surfing to find out what is going on in our country and the world, but once we are back home, we immediately get back to that bunch of newsprint in our hands.
I may find the size and the number of pages in the newspaper unwieldy. I may grumble about the unnecessary space (in my opinion) devoted to announcements of discount sales, especially during festival time, which is practically year-round in India. But, even as I struggle to turn pages, I relish the time spent with the newspapers.
I value the silence — except for the rustling of paper. I am grateful for the lack of disagreement over who should get the paper first, because we subscribe to not one or two but three newspapers.
I enjoy the occasional bursts of news-related conversation — even if it is mostly a rant about political wheeling and dealing or decisions we do not agree with.
More than anything else, it is the awareness of the luxury of our circumstance as retirees who can linger over the newspapers that makes me feel good at the beginning of the day.
No morning rush
I can pore over the editorials and not put them off for a later time, which for most of the working community that has to hurry through the morning tasks and most of the rest of the day as well, usually translates into never. I can challenge myself to get more than five answers in the crossword.
I can run my eyes down every column and find every titbit in every corner of every page. I do not have to listen to those titbits being read out to me while I rush about getting breakfast and packing lunch and getting ready to join the working community.
What’s more, on a day when something mundane awaits me in the kitchen or on the laptop, I can read a little slower and delay getting down to those tasks I dislike.
Part of my enjoyment of that morning newspaper time could be a throwback from the experiences in our childhood home when we were forced to keep our voices at a whisper when father was engrossed in the important task of going through the newspaper. (Only later did we realise that he probably kept his head buried in the paper longer than warranted, just to avoid listening to the siblings’ daily battle of words at the breakfast table.)
Another part of the feeling of being privileged comes from the memory of the first couple of decades of our married life in remote cantonments where we did not have the luxury of a daily newspaper — or if there was one, it was what we knew as the “dak” edition, with the previous day’s news.(This edition was meant for smaller towns and we considered ourselves lucky to get a newspaper at all, especially if it was delivered to the house and not to the office of the man-of-the-house, which then meant that it got to me only when he returned for lunch!)
I cannot, therefore, take it for granted when I hear the newspapers landing on our doorstep — and I hope it stays one of the daily wonders of my day.
Cheryl Rao is a journalist based in India.