In the good old Transistor Radio and pre-Television days of the ancient 1970’s and slowly developing 1980’s in Tamil Nadu, India, most of us got to read a few English newspapers and many local vernacular newspapers and magazines. My favourite was The Indian Express, which printed spicy news and reported boldly and courageously, vis-à-vis The Hindu, which was serious, business-tight, had many Tender Notices, and perhaps better job advertisements. Each attracted its kind of die-hard followers!
I recall many used to buy The Hindu only because it fetched a good resale value and could be cleverly re-used. The Old Newspaper-Wallahs treated it with great respect – gave a higher price per kilogram, for the thick (good quality – in their opinion) ‘old papers’ and it was ideal for lining the many shelves and cupboards of our homes and offices, besides packing street-food, and near about anything. I didn’t fall for it though, except for a brief period when I was just out of College and was hunting for a job. I remember one of my Aunts using the neatly folded Hindu Newspaper on the inside racks of her first ever purchased new Voltas Refrigerator. That’s awfully cool!
While the articles in The Indian Express were well-written, investigative, with lots of action verbs, some humour, and attracted one much like a scantly-clad Bollywood Actress, that in The Hindu was awfully staid and a drag to read, much like a Kollywood Villain. A newspaper being a one-day affair it should only be that – ran my argument in favour of The Indian Express.
While in Boarding School, with the King & Queen of England breathing down my neck to master the English Language, during the holidays I forayed into reading local Tamil Magazine-Newspapers. This was mainly due to another Aunt – the elder sister of the Refrigerator Newspaper Aunt – who pushed me into reading the then famous weekly ‘Kumudam’ and ‘Kalkandu’, which she bought as a ‘Laurel & Hardy’ Package. Both were about the same dimensions, with Kalkandu being very slim and Kumudam being reasonably fat. While the former, written and edited by Writer Tamilvanan, was a superb read carrying the modern-day Twitter like information factoids, and a detective story on the global adventures of Shankarlal – the Indian version of a Sherlock Homes and James Bond mash – the latter carried lots of gossip and serial stories. I especially devoured the King & Queen historical fiction stories penned by then popular Writer Chandilyan in Kumudam. Both the Aunts mentioned here, had a brother who was also a serial reader and he used to pluck out the Chandilyan stories from the weekly Kumudam and bind them into a home grown novel! After all that reading, my Tamil surely improved, royally, and I scored top marks in the Board Exams!
Later, on becoming more learned and well read, I advanced to reading fortnightly magazines and the one that I fell in love with – on first read, was the India Today! Of course, I had earlier experimented with the then famous Khushwant Singh edited The Illustrated Weekly of India – with its rather odd size – which I read for the wild pictures and the sexy Axa comic ‘strip’ hidden inside; and the very colourful Frontline, with its stunning photos; and the Sports Week; and the Sport Star. I went on to subscribe to India Today and became a dedicated reader, but held on to The Indian Express for the daily grind!
Growing into the late 1980’s and early 1990’s with, by now, a well-grown Novel reading habit, along with the Newspaper and Magazine interests, I went international buying into The Newsweek…at the cost of TIME. Being a weekly issue and costing quite a sum, I teamed-up with a like-minded friend, at my workplace, to share the price and the joys! We read it cover to cover and discussed the many things it uncovered! Meanwhile, I still kept The Indian Express and India Today with me and flirted with borrowed Debonair and Playboy on the sly!
By the mid 1990’s and early 2000’s, Television was a full-blown sensation in India and News Channels were talking and showing more easily, what we were struggling to read and see. I quit magazine subscription buying selectively on a wider looser range, rather than by order and dedication. Career and job progression took me further North of India and away from The Indian Express. It got gunned-down after the Bofors Scandal, and despite desperate attempts I could not hold on, and strayed to other papers: Deccan Chronicle while working in Hyderabad, the Telegraph while in Jamshedpur, and The Times of India (TOI), while working in Mumbai, filled-in the voids.
Thanks to the TOI power in Mumbai it infected me; and I got wedded to it (though I consider it quite ‘yellow’ at times!) while at Gurgaon – carrying with me the TOI Mumbai effect. But once a reader always a reader, and while engaged in renovating New Delhi’s Airport Terminal-2, a colleague handed over a few old copies of The Economist for a ‘must read’…and ‘must return’, please. Well, my idea of The Economist, without even looking at it, sprang from deeply ingrained views of The Hindu as one of the hard reading types!
It took me only a few articles to realise that The Economist was in a class of its own and remain hooked to it, to this day! The Authors are not mentioned, every article was wonderfully written with cheeky well-dispersed humour, it had terrific headline captioning and was a pleasure to read. There was no looking back and I got myself into the hard Newspaper (The Economist calls itself a Newspaper) subscription mode again.
With the spread of the internet, and Google News become easily affordable – bringing news headlines from all Newspapers onto one page, I started dropping-off the hard Newspaper Grid: to begin with, the weekly (including The Economist) and then the fortnightly ones (including India Today).
The growth of social-media of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and smart mobile friendly Flipboard, Inshorts… and the kind, further sounded the death-knell to my hard magazine reading. Now I use my iPhone, and MacBook Pro more for reading (and listening) than speaking.
However, I still persist with the daily hard-paper Newspaper, and the TOI brings in its brand of news every day, sliding in through the doorway, which I resell it for ‘The Hindu’ rates; but, only after convincing the Old Newspaper-Wallah that it weighs as good!
4 thoughts on “Newspapers: Down the Times”
Very nostalgic, brought back old memories
Till today I am hooked to The Hindu
I enriched my vocabulary on reading the sports column written by Mohan
Later took a liking to letters to editor
Not much was happening in the news front those days
Started briefly reading Indian express as Gurumurthy took on reliance
Thanks for the article Kumar