Newspaper mania!

“Reading a newspaper is a necessity,” claims each and everyone. I have been reading them since…hmm…say fifth grade. As must be the case with any other boy, I started with the sports page. I would see my elder brother reading sports page, and as with most younger brothers, I yearned to do what my elder brother could do. Be it reading newspaper, playing cricket, fighting, driving car/scooter or any other thing; I wished to do better than him. Running home from school, it would be a race as to who would reach home first from bus stop. We would change, and try to grab the sports page first, usually resulting in a fight. Starting from just the headlines on the sports page, I started reading the first few lines of a few articles.

Gradually, I moved on to the first page where I would merely read the headlines. Again as with the sports page, the habit soon grew into reading a couple of lines of a few articles. This goes without saying that I hardly comprehended the first page. However, I had to quickly widen my horizon in order to keep the newspaper away from bhaiya for a longer time. And that is when I found a gem – pocket cartoon on the first page. Amidst all the horror stories on the first page, it brought a smile on my face and hope in my heart. It became the first thing that I looked for on laying my hand on the newspaper.

However, the issue with the cartoon was that I could not spend much time on it. Apart from seeming to re-read it and struggling to understand it, there was not much I could do. So I moved to the last page. It greatly helped that most of the articles were in continuation from the first page. So it wasn’t anything new but at the same time helped me to increase my reading appetite. And gradually I started reading complete articles on the first page – of course, only the smallest pieces.

Now since I always read the sports page first(second last page), I would flip the pages backward to reach to the first page; and if any headline grabbed my eye, I would stop and read it. And this fascinating habit of going through a newspaper in reverse continues till date. And its not limited to just newspapers, even magazines are flipped in reverse most of the time.

To summarize what happened next, my brother left home for higher studies, and I myself, being in 8th grade, had all the time in the world to read newspapers and magazines. I started reading the opinion page as recommended by everyone (I would read the article Mom asked me to). I started reading the Business page, especially following the Sensex, though I had no idea what it meant and stood for. I loved the numbers – inflation, GDP growth rate, forex reserves etc. Then came the World page – an exciting window into the world 😛

So there I was, a 9th grade student in a comparatively small town like Shimla; doing almost everything that he could think of. We had a computer at home since my fifth/sixth grade; I had persuaded Papa to update it when I was in 8th; got internet in 9th to become one of the very few in Shimla to have an internet connection. Papa got subscriptions of India Today, Readers Digest and Computers Today and we had The Tribune and The Times of India coming in every day. Sunday would be a triple delight with even Hindustan Times coming in; and I would soak myself into them for hours. I read so much that I had to vent my thoughts out. I started writing. I needed audience – readers who would read my articles and give their opinion. I had internet. I made my own website – created a monthly newsletter that would carry my articles. I learnt programming – made programs for the fun of it – for example, in 9th grade, the Indian version of ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’, titled as ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ was hugely popular in India. I created a mini version of that – Kaun Banega Saupati, and ran it on our school’s annual carnival, getting huge appreciation.

I have digressed far too much. Coming back to the newspaper thing, after 10th grade, I had to read less in order to prepare for JEE. Slowly, the appetite grew small but I aimed to better it in college. However, unfortunately that didn’t happen. Though I read more than I did in 12th grade, but I never reached my 9th grade levels. 9th grade was an amazing year for me when I look back. I did huge amount of stuff during that time – thinking of new ideas all the time and ways to implement them. And this is all due to my parents – they pulled all plugs, stops that could have created obstacles in my way. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

However, its not all rosy. In this rush to gain knowledge, this adrenalin to know everything, I missed one thing – staying fit. I never exercised and played only cricket that is not at all enough for 15 year old. And I regret not doing more about it till date. Its not that I am fat and all that, but its just that I am not athletic and except for table-tennis, not great in any game.

So finally, let me come to the point that me wander down the memory lane. Today being Sunday, I read the editorials of both Times of India and Hindustan Times. I have always held ‘Vir Sanghvi’ and ‘Karan Thapar’ as the best media persons I know of and today they upheld my belief. Both wrote on the Left-Congress standoff on the nuclear deal and boy, they were really good. Vir Sanghvi really drove home the point that finally, there is an issue on which a politician is willing to bet his ‘seat’ on and not compromise. Even though Manmohan Singh might have his say now, it is highly possible that early elections would be held and Congress would not be the next government. And it gives me hope knowing that Congress is willing to back Manmohan Singh knowing this very fact very well. Kudos to them for taking a stand that seems to be beneficial to the nation and not the party. The Arjun Singh quota thing is another issue and that deserves a separate post. In the same breath, he mentions a possibility that even if the government pushes forward the deal, it may fall down next month and then a few NSG countries might regard the deal as lacking in moral legitimacy as it doesn’t have the support of the majority in India itself. So the governments falls, the deal breaks down and Congress loses the next elections – a Congress nightmare with Manmohan being the Kamikaze. The other extreme makes Manmohan a statesman where he goes through with the deal – SP supports them such that there is no no-confidence motion; giving Congress time to drill their way back in time for elections early next year and probably pull off a victory.

It really bewildered me to see that there was no editorial on this nuclear stand-off in Times of India. S Aiyar talked about inflation – ok. Jug Suraiya talked about some gold seats in multiplex – (why do I even read him) ahh!! And surprisingly, Shashi Tharoor wrote about Pakistani Writing in English – ahh!!! Okay, I know Shashi Tharoor writes about a wide variety of topics, but this – come on…how many would read this???

Anyways, I am so glad that I read Hindustan Times today – reading both of the newspapers reminded me of those bygone era and I long to go to Shimla. The good thing is that I am leaving for Shimla tomorrow, and probably read The Tribune – whose words, cartoons, articles I grew up on.