Their day begins while you are fast asleep at work

Braving odds: Rain or shine, your newspaper lands on time. Those who deliver it have to endure several challenges.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: N. Sridharan

Meera Srinivasan

Persons who deliver newspapers get little attention

CHENNAI: They begin their day when you are fast asleep just so that you have your copy of newspapers ready when you wake up. Irrespective of the season, they start work around dawn with their competitors and chirping little birds for company. The person who delivers your newspaper seldom gets half the attention your newspaper gets. However, they are an indispensable lot.

It is 4.30 a.m. and D. Narasimhan is at work. Like him, several others who deliver newspapers to residents are seated on the road in Pondy Bazaar, waiting for the van. In a few minutes, the van arrives and so do bundles of English and Tamil dailies. He quickly removes the knots holding the bundles and starts segregating the copies, putting the supplements inside and piling them.

The sun is about to appear and he and his team are all set to begin their daily tour.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I am used to the schedule now,” he smiles. The Tambaram resident has to be up at 3 a.m. every day to ensure he is at work on time. “Along with me, I have five boys who deliver newspapers and periodicals. Most of them are students who are doing this before school hours to make a few hundreds every month.”

People like Mr. Narasimhan make about Rs.6,000 - Rs.7,000 a month. “The main source is the commission newspapers give us. A few customers give us a small amount on a monthly basis.”

After paying the boys about Rs.500 each, what remains is Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 4,000, which is hardly sufficient these days, according to M. Karunanidhi, whose team operates in Royapettah and Triplicane areas. On an average, each team covers 500 houses in a particular locality. “It is a lot of hard work. My boys take leave during examinations or when it’s raining badly, but I cannot afford to,” he says.

“I miss important family functions and trips because I cannot take leave, even if it is a Sunday. While the actual delivery may take an hour or so, by the time we wrap up and go home, it’s usually around 9 a.m.,” says Mr. Karunanidhi.

They set out for work with a pile of newspapers tied to their bicycles or motorbikes. S. Palaniappan, who also works in T. Nagar, prefers the bicycle. “I’ve been working with a bicycle for 30 years. It is easy to park and take the vehicle quickly. Moreover, using a bike would burden me further with petrol charges,” he says. Speaking of other challenges in their profession, Mr. Palaniappan says working during the rain was a nightmare. “Most of my boys took leave during the recent rain. I live in K.K. Nagar and our area was inundated, but I had no choice.”

Boys taking leave seems to be a common problem for all. When the boys take leave, they are also forced to cover many streets all by themselves, causing a delay. “My customers call me on my cell phone. Some get very annoyed if the paper is not at their doorstep when they wake up. I can’t shout back, I’ll lose business. I will quickly rush to the spot and give them their copy. They get Rs.500 and that is hardly any money. Many of them have taken up car cleaning as they get more money. Even if they wipe four cars before school hours, they can make over Rs.1,000 a month,” he adds.

As for the boys, they have their own set of problems. “Cycling in the heat and cold, I fall sick now and then and end up missing school. But it is okay, since Rs.500 means a lot to my mother,” says M. Ravi, a teenager who delivers papers.

So when do those deliver the papers read them? “Oh, I just skim through the headlines in the afternoon or evenings. You are too tired by then,” says Mr. Narasimhan.