Life Over Books

How Do You Like Your Newspaper?

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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  • shanayatales

    Okay, I hate to admit this, but it’s been forever since I have read a physical newspaper. I usually rely on the interwebs for my news these days, and mostly don’t even go looking for it. It just finds me on social media. I know, I know, it’s a terrible medium to get the news delivered to you. But the current phase of my life is crazy, and this is all I can manage at the moment.

    But when (decades ago) I used to read the physical paper, I tried to be the first one to read it (in my home), because just like you I loved my paper crisp and neat too. Oh and I used to have this weird habit of smelling the paper too (don’t ask!).

  • Parul Thakur

    I love to read my newspaper and in the way you said. While it is still crisp but yes, growing up it was Papa first who would read. Like they say – toilet and newspaper should be left as you would expect to find them. What a beautiful post!

  • Rachna

    My father loved his newspapers. We always had two English and one Hindi one. We would wait for him to leaf through them. Even now when he visits, he reads the one newspaper we get at home. Dad had his tea before the newspaper but newspaper is an integral part of his morning. The morning feels empty if one hasn’t leafed through it. Even I feel similarly.

  • Shailaja V

    Ramya, this is so beautifully written that I’ve read it twice! The ritual you speak of is exactly what my grandfather used to follow, right down to the coffee davara and tumbler. So nuanced and elegant and precise. I think a part of my need for precision came from watching him go through this and other rituals on a daily basis. We stopped buying newspapers 10 years ago but there are days I dearly miss my morning reading of the paper.

    Well done and truly deserving of the editor’s pick on this one. So so proud of you. 👏💜

  • Obsessivemom

    I love my newspaper. Having worked in the industry I feel it’s kind of disloyal to not have one delivered everyday – in fact when I cut down from two to one (after ten years of quitting work) it still came as a bit of a jolt. Since the twins came along they’ve cured me of any/all OCDs I ever had. There was a time when a newspaper folded inside out (as in with an inside page on the top) would freak me out, not so much now. It irks me still but I have learnt to live with it.
    Since you mentioned your dad I have to say that back home newspapers are delivered really early but here they come in only after 7. When my father is here he’s gets back from his walk by 6 and then almost paces restlessly till the paper comes. or he’ll pick up last day’s paper and re-read it.

  • Michelle Longo

    I really enjoyed reading this. I like the way you weave in your father’s habit and your own, as well as your mother’s. Nice job.

  • unfoldingfromthefog

    You brought back memories of my own father and his own news obsessions. We read our news online now days too, but I can’t imagine anyone waxing nostalgic about that. I think you’ve hit on what made newspapers special: the ritual.

  • Ana Sharkey

    I love your detailed description of the ritual of reading a paper. I get pretty much all of my news online now, but there is something great about opening up a print newspaper. I always found their large pages unwieldy and never know which way to fold it though! I

  • johal Singh

    I was different from others till now. I love to read more and more but which are not related to my necessary subjects and newspapers was also one of my favorite hobby to read daily…but as we have to do much hard work for future I left this and after a couple of years I feel that I did it wrong with me.. so I decided to start id again. and now I read daily three types of newspapers which available in my area. so now its again my favorite habit…

  • the bespectacled mother

    I don’t get newspaper here as it is too costly to get it delivered at doorstep every morning. In India, I was particular about how the pages in the newspaper had to be orderly arranged by page number, even after reading and perfectly folded. However, this was only until afternoon when D returned from school and the newspaper pages got lined up on the table under his plate to prevent the table from getting dirty with him spilling food. Thereafter, it was folded for sure but in whatever way. My Mummy was (and is) the one with OCD. She wants and works all day to keep the house prim and proper and on the other hand my father is completely opposite. He will ‘udao’ the paper after reading never bothering to align it, arrange it or even fold it.

  • Soumya Prasad

    Oh I have crazy levels of OCD when it comes to newspapers. I have always loved reading them since a teen. It has helped me so much in learning new words and the command over the language. But now, the news and the language used is plain crap and yet I subscribe to two newspapers and read them with my morning cup of green tea every morning. I get cranky if the paper is not delivered for a day. I arrange them in a particular order and read them in a certain order as well. Since there are two papers, my husband succumbs to my OCD and reads it the other way as I’m reading it my way 😀

    Once done, I arrange them in a particular fashions, I hate non-aligned papers and anything peaking out and then it goes on to the raddi pile.

    I’m super weird, I know! 😀

  • pythoroshan

    I totally agree… as a kid in third standard, i used to sit and read all the newspapers at home. It was a breakfast routine and one I followed for decades. Now though, I dont ever pick up the paper, reading only from the mobile… sad, really.

  • Kala Ravi

    Ramya, I think I share similar memories of the newspaper mania along with the morning kaapi about my grandfather. And yes, he was fanatical about the way the papers were read and arranged in all their original pristineness. I agree that many of such practices we’ve grown watching, leave a permanent mark on our psyches which as we grow older, manifest as OCD’s. Well, so long as it is just good ol’ newspaper with a future as raddi, why not, I say!

  • Shalzzz

    It’s been so long since I read a newspaper. Yeah. Kill me now. P reads it on his break in office and doesn’t even bother bringing the paper home. No complaints though. In my home, the malayala manorama is for dad. But he folds it, sheets out of order, rather, uptil what he has read. So if I take up the paper and change the sheets, he’d be pissed off. Hehe.

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