The morning paper with coffee is a perfect start of the day for many of us and over a century (nearly getting to two centuries), our favourite papers have been evolving all through, trying to please us readers. I’m proud I’m reading the same paper, The Hindu, my grandfather and my father read. I have never swerved in my loyalty when we moved for a few years to Mumbai, my husband and I felt so forlorn that he would go to a special paper dealer and get the previous day’s issue of The Hindu. Perhaps, our paper had not spread its wings as much as it has done today.
When people tell me to read news online, I’m still resisting. Can anything replace the comfort of holding the paper and even smelling the fresh scent of the ink and reaching out for it the whole day whenever I’m free to play Sudoku and Crossword? Though we can play these on the Net too, it is never a match for the pleasure of pencil marks I make on the side of the puzzle to guess a correct number or an anagram or two.
In Mumbai, The Times of India also grew familiar to our family as it was important for local events as well. We would stand on the pavement near the paper’s printing press near the Victoria station, now Chhatrapati Shivaji, to get the heady scent that emanates in the surroundings. Have you experienced it? Where is this scent when reading news from the computer?
With the coffee cup in hand, we were able to read the headlines even on a folded paper. Now, this pleasure is denied as the top sheet has a huge advertisement which may not mean anything to us and to turn the paper without spilling coffee, we have to learn juggling!
Really sad to say that the comfort of reading while holding the paper spread out in two hands, especially when you want to shut out your surroundings (I’m sure many men will agree with me!) is slowly being denied to us. Why? The top sheet is cut in half, lengthwise, and it flaps and slips when you try to turn the sheets or fold them, to get the item closer for the ease of reading. It makes us feel clumsy. The latest discomfort is caused by an extra two-inch length of paper jutting out at the edge, making it more difficult to turn the page. By the way, am I the only one complaining?
Another feature, of sticking some free gift on the paper — like a shampoo or a real estate booklet or any other goodies — makes the paper lose balance and get sticky when this ‘gift’ is removed. Of course, I can’t even mention the ad pamphlets which slip out irritatingly. My brother found a use for them as rough paper for market lists and phone messages when one side is blank.
However, all is not negative and all is not lost. Let me not keep whining.
The features suitable children and teens are commendable. As seniors we can learn a lot and also brush up some of our forgotten knowledge. But I am yet to see a feature just for seniors, but what exactly can go into it? We already have health, fitness, politics, history and what-not, covered in detail.
Newspapers are doing a great service to the country by promoting education to the downtrodden, to the unlettered of all age groups and to special needs groups. They are waking us up from stupor and complacency and making us aware of our responsibilities in personal and social lives. Newspapers are the first stop for information and for general knowledge of current affairs. They are not dramatic and distracting like TV news channels.
I am praying for a long life to our newspapers so that my grandchildren can read them too.
Just one request. Do make my paper comfortable to hold while reading. Please!
(The writer’s e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)