As a journalist, I have experienced curfews earlier, too, during the days of terrorism. Today, it is different. I was active then and carried a curfew pass. Now, I am not, and don’t need a pass. Another difference is that readers were not deprived of newspapers then, as they are now in several cities. Punjab did go ‘newspaper-less’ for a brief period, when its communication links were snapped during Operation Bluestar.
There is yet another difference between curfew then and now. In the world of ‘corona curfew’, everybody and everything is connected, and all humour and rumour, and news and ‘fake’ news are transmitted through social media. Everyone is glued to a smartphone and is a member of one or the other WhatsApp group, or on Facebook. Earlier, landline phones were the only means of communication, and remained dead for weeks, making ‘we the people’ incommunicado. The only source of news was Doordarshan. There were no private TV channels then.
Knitted as we are into the World Wide Web, it is our main connection with others. As a support system, it binds us together. Yet, a ‘newspaper-less’ life is dull. We, the readers, are doubly unblessed: Though in our own interest and of family, society and the nation, we are under ‘house arrest’, and have no access to newspapers. How very ‘isolated’ life indeed is! And, yes, unlike now, government-sponsored daily needs were not distributed then. Short window openings in curfew allowed people to buy items of daily need.
The reason for non-delivery of newspapers is said to be the fear of coronavirus infection. Though hawkers were told that newspapers were printed and published in sanitised environs, they are unconvinced; reluctant to deliver the papers. This was despite health experts saying there was no ‘known risk’ of spread of the virus through papers, busting rumours that have triggered a scare among one and many, including some readers. Medics the world over are studying how long the virus remains active on different surfaces. Let us not go crazy discussing the ‘what ifs’. Detergents can wipe out the virus from surfaces, washing hands properly further helps, as does social distancing.
Mornings without newspapers has made spending time difficult. A common refrain one hears from well-wishers is: Read your newspaper online. How many readers are online savvy? Online reading has its own limitations. Opening a neatly folded broadsheet newspaper, its rustling sound as pages are turned, and smudged fingers have an old-world charm, as does the accompanying morning cup of coffee.
Regurgitating over what a newspaper means to a reader, here is Mark Twain’s quote: If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.
Give us our newspaper, Hawker Sir!
Source Link: https://www.tribuneindia.com