I confess. I have nothing less than an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), when it comes to the morning newspaper. Now before you arrive at the conclusion that I am one of those individuals who fret over sipping that morning cup of coffee while skimming through the pages of the daily news, I must clarify that the OCD is of a truly different nature. I dislike, or seldom read, newspapers that are shabby; that have the inner sheets moved out of place or, have been folded into varied patterns of geometry. Strange, isn’t it? We humans do come with a certain degree of eccentricity and this surely is mine.
My obsessive streak is a genetic trait passed over by my father
In a typical South Indian home, it isn’t an uncommon sight to see the patriarch of the family, sipping filter coffee while reading The Hindu, as early as 5.30 AM. Newspaper delivery boys understand this need of their customer to soak in the headlines well before sunrise, and ensure the newspaper reaches them on time. It was an unsaid rule at home that father would be the first to lay his hands on the newspaper. I still distinctly remember him balancing the tumbler & davara (what coffee is served in) in one hand with the newspaper in the other, as he would settle down in his cane chair, soaking in the aroma of the fresh brew. He would start by skimming through the headlines across various sections of the newspaper. Once that first glance was done, he would pick out his most favourite section first (generally politics and sports) and read it paragraph by paragraph, line by line. As the last drop of coffee would have entered his gut, my father would have taken in enough news from the front page.
He seldom read the entire newspaper in one go. In fact, the newspaper was a treasured commodity at home and had to be kept at an accessible place, to be picked up again in the day. Neatly folded in precisely the same initial fold, sheets were put in place and finally with the tip of his nail, the folds were pressed stiff. The newspaper got back to its almost crisp initial form. Afternoons were spent reading the editorial and letters to the editor column. He would discuss the details in an elaborate fashion with my mother, who would feign to understand it all, while her fingers moved in motion stringing together jasmine flowers (a practice she has seldom let go for thirty years). As night would fall, the paper would finally be laid to rest atop the pile of previously read ones. It was a delight to see the newspaper in the neatest of forms. This was a ritual for decades at home. So it didn’t come as a surprise when my mother placed the daily newspaper by my father’s side, as he breathed his last. I still couldn’t fathom why a man would want to soak in any news before he embarked on his journey to the other side of life. But then, that was the only thing he obsessed about, and did truly deserve to have it by his side at the end.
Genetic coding intact
With this obsessive genetic coding intact in me, it is but natural to fret about having a neat and crisp newspaper to read. However being the “mom” now, I seldom get to lay my hands on the newspaper until way past noon. By this time, the newspaper has been folded and refolded many times, having travelled across the living, dining and even the bathroom. As much as my dear husband has failed to understand my obsession over a crisp newspaper, I have failed to understand his obsession of reading one during his morning routine in the bathroom. But this surely warrants a discussion in another separate blog post.
For now, as I look at the pitiable state of the newspaper sans the front cover, and the sheets out of order, I pick it up to toss it over to the raddi pile. The mini-computer beckons me as I balance it with a cup of chai in hand, to catch up on some daily news. I may have succumbed to the harsh reality that news is news in whichever form you read, but still, deep down I miss the way father read and soaked it all in.
How do you like your news?
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