There are times when some revelations surprise you!
Sunday is the usually bathing day for my Kung-Fu Panda, my Xylo! As I was mentally gearing up to this arduous task on Saturday, I got a call from the Mahindra service center asking me if I was okay to let my vehicle participate in a free check-up camp. A water wash, oil top-up along with other regular checks were promised. ‘Sonepe suhaga’ and ‘Pazham Nazhuvzhi Paalil vizhundhadhu’ were my immediately thoughts! The second is a Tamil saying which roughly translates to the Fruit slipping in to the Milk voluntarily…basically with a romantic undercurrent! But no further delineation of the fruit is given! Though fruits and milk come right at the end in my list of human consumables, I hastily agreed!
After giving the vehicle @ 10 AM, I was assured that I would be back home for my Sunday snooze in about 2 hours! I was prepared for this as I had carried a book, a bottle of water and my laptop for this excursion! I was done with my laptop quickly! No excel sheets on Sunday! I was bored of the book! It was too heavy for a Sunday afternoon! I was done staring with the other guys in the service center that had committed “Kakkurthi” due to the single word that moves millions of middle class Indians like us – FREE! I also noticed that all owners of big cars were portly! Bah!! I did not like that one bit!
I decided to scout the area to buy a newspaper and read it thread bare! I was at Suchitra Junction near Kompally! This is a happening place in our part of the city! I found 7 tea stalls, 5 fruit bandis, 2 supermarkets, 2 Mithai Bhandars, 2 xerox dukhans, 1 shop selling sundry plastic things, 2 hotels, 2 travel agents, 1 function hall and 6 pan dabbas…but no Newspaper agent! I asked the solitary shopkeeper that was willing to speak to me who replied, “Nahi hai! Yehanpe Nahi hai!”. I did not agree with him and found even a traffic cop and put forth the same question. What he said woke me up, ”Yahanpe loggaan Paeparan nahi padthe”. This cannot be true! My dear Hyderabad is the fastest growing metro is India, It is the capital of AP which has a very high literacy ratio, it is one of the IT hubs of India, It is the home-ground of DC, the largest circulated newspaper in South India…And this guy tells me that people here do not read Newspapers!
As my earlier statistics revealed, there were no newspaper agent here! I approached the nearest chai bandi (it was just a few feet away!) to contemplate on this new found facet of my dear city! I discarded the choice of the badam tea, opting for the standard chai. Sipping the hot tea seemed to have opened up my mind! It is true! On days when my newspaper boy forgets to deliver the Eco Times Wealth, I would be desperate to buy my copy! The first newspaper stall is in Bowenpally, 4 kms away from home, the next possibility is Film Nagar, 15 Kms away and that is it! I drive 30 kms thru the heart of the city, making my way through the thickest of the traffic jams in the city and I only have 2 options of buying a newspaper! I am sure there must by 874 chai bandis and 2874 pan dabbas on my route! I know 2874 must be an exaggeration….Go ahead and reduce 4 out of that! 2870 must be closer to reality! But seriously, we, as Hyderabadis, are more interested in eating chote samosas, drinking tea, eating Aalu Samosas & kachoris, munching or drinking fruits, visiting our darshinis, having our Calcuttas or buying plastic dabbas than reading a newspaper or magazine!
As my roots go to Madras, I immediately remember that Madras is literally littered with small “potti kadais” ( literally meaning box shops) that sell Bananas, small eats like biscuits & Kadalai Orundais ( round chikkies) and lots & lots of newspapers & magazines! You will invariably find a dark uncle with a big belly & huge twirling mush, wearing a Nirma Super-white shirt and dhothi completely immersed in a newspaper, nodding his acquiescence or muttering his disgust on some news item! You always had a small group of similar looking and similar dressed uncles having an opinion on all matters discussing the news item! You cannot miss the posters of just, the headlines of different newspapers hung all over the place! Imagine newspaper houses, advertising everyday for that day’s paper! Breaking news was invented in Madras after all and not by CNN! What Madrasis do reading all the newspapers is a different thing! But they definitely read quite a bit! I know that they are about 200-250 small/big and popular/unknown magazines sold in these stalls.
We are not very different from the Madrasis! For that matter, we, Telugus are still called Madrasis by our northern cousins! Then, what ails Hyderabad’s reading habit, especially newspapers? Why do our Pan Dabbs outnumber our newspaper stalls by 10 to 1? And more importantly what does this indicate? Are we not interested in the happenings around us? Or are we so Net savvy that we get our news from the websites? Does this really indicate the “chaltha hai” attitude signified by our saying “ Kyathobhi Yaaron!” always??!!!