“Discoms to spend Rs 5,ooo to improve distribution system” said a headline in today’s edition of HT (Gurgaon). It caught my eye initially, because the accompanying photo was from the end of my street, Sohna Road, Gurgaon. And then my curiosity was raised – for Rs 5000? The article itself went on to say that the local power distributor, DHBVN, had prepared a plan for Rs 5000 crores to improve power distribution!! Whats a word dropped here or one added there – and who cares for accuracy, anyway.
As a young girl, I was encouraged to read the newspaper as it would improve my English. I had received my primary education in Malayalam and was a late starter in English. The most read paper in Delhi was Statesman – a paper which has gone into decline in recent times. My father was an avid newspaper reader and as the ‘man of the house’ had the first claim to it in the morning. Also we had early school. So I had to settle for the paper as soon as I got back from school. Of course, at that time, it was the only source of general information or of extra-curricular information of any sort. This was in the late 50s and early 60s when there were few indigenous magazines (Shankar’s Weekly was the only one I remember in our house, and maybe ‘The Illustrated Weekly ‘a few years later). When I moved to the hostel in the mid-60s, I was among a handful in the ‘Ladies Hostel’ who got their own paper. The only use most had for a paper, was to check the movies running in the nearby halls. And, of course, this was done with the copy the warden got, and which was fixed to the newspaper stand in the Common Room, with a lock. One did not even have to check the show timings, as these were fixed – morning at 9.30, noon, matinee at 3.30, evening at 6.30 an night at 9.30. Life was simpler then!!
After I got married, like others of our generation, Subhash also needed the morning fix – and like many men I knew it was in some strange way linked to the morning morning toilet routine. But we rarely had a clash for the paper, as I was an early riser and he was not. And fortunately, he did not have issues with not being the first to read the paper – which was the case in some houses I knew. And of course, these last few years the morning paper has been for me alone and I have indulged in 2 and sometimes 3 papers.
I continue to get 2 papers every morning – and get irritated when it is delivered late. The morning paper is supposed to provide information, news, editorials and some commentaries on topics of contemporary interest. All of the information is available at the click of a button on the internet, the news is already old hat by the next morning, the editorials are by large not very erudite and one can read the columns and commentaries from all the papers if you follow the writers on Twitter. And so of late, the time I am spending on the morning paper is getting less and less. And, the indifference of Rs 5000 versus Rs 5000 crore is only a symptom of a larger malaise. Today, I would not recommend a newspaper as a way to improve one’s English. But like any addict, I continue to need the paper with my morning cuppa, and suspect that it will always be this way. Unless of course, I outlive the genre altogether or give up the morning cuppa!