5:30 AM – The sun is yet to break its first streak and the winter clouds of South India are still actively settling their dew, on top of the bushes & trees that formed a nice roof for our backyard. I, a 9 year old boy, yet to come to senses with adulthood, but in my own way, every bit of a teenager that I am not, walk down the stairs to get down to the first order of the day – brushing my teeth. Although, I have to admit, this would not be my first order had I devised the rules in the house. The second order of the day, approximately at 5:35 AM is to take a short walk towards the iron gate, that perceivably gave us a sense of security, by being the line of control between our house and the busy street corner, which at this time of the day, is still recovering from the abuses of alcoholics from the previous night, but is ready to welcome the spiritual souls of the morning who walk past it to the nearby holy river.
Normally, from where I am, right after I step out of the washroom, I can see the silhouette of what I am looking for. I still walk all the way to go near the gate and wait for it, even if I am unable to see the object from a distance. These moments at the waking phase of the day, are spiritual for me in their unique way. No, I am not talking about spiritual from a religious context. Then, it happens. My moment of spiritual salvation. I hear the sound of a rusty cycle chain clinging on to the brake pedals, as the newspaper man jumps off his bicycle, letting the cycle rest on his waist, as it falls down, while his right hand goes inside the bag hanging on one handle bar of the cycle. He picks the newspaper (“The Hindu”) and switches it to his other hand, if needed and tosses it right through the openings of the iron gate. I run towards the gate and reach for it. I know my mom is awake by now and I know no one else is. So, I quietly carry it to the verandah and turn on the light, to awaken the mosquitoes that swarmed the bulb while it was dark for what seemed like a secret meeting, to plan their next attack for the following night. I pay no attention to any of these. I impatiently open the last page – Page 16. Flip one paper – I am on page 14. The Sports Page.
There have been many days, many months, many seasons (winter and summer alike) and many years, when the above routine continued, only that I continued to grow older. Even if I cannot simulate the same environment nor the coverage of Cricket in “The New York Times”, even today, I try to walk down my driveway on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings (ok..not always at 5:30 AM), to pick that piece of object to satiate my desire to know what is going on around me in this world.
I am one of the early adapters of technology in all forms – internet, gadgets, blogging, etc. So, certainly, I am not complaining that digital news has killed the Newspaper industry in the US. In fact, I will be the last one to do so because I dwell in the middle of multiple news streams, constantly updating me throughout the day, with everything that I need to know. But it is very heart-wrenching to read about the folding of so many local newspapers, who probably were/are symbols and icons of their respective communities. This not only is killing the very routine that brings back such good memories from my past, but also is apparently killing thousands of jobs – The newspaper delivery boys and men, the traditional journalists and many more.
As the country struggles with its share of woes from all corners, as newspaper companies, small and big alike, continue to find ways to survive this digital age onslaught amidst all these, they say to people like me, that Kindling the past is not going to bring anything worthwhile, instead asking us to accept “Kindle” could be the future. I have not used it yet, but am inclined to try it, just not to be left behind but also to be fair to my own claim of being one of the early adapters of new technology & gadgets. Even if Kindle turns out to be an useful product that I may actually enjoy using for convenience sake, I guess, I will always remain a purist when it comes to protecting the Fourth Estate.