My Quest For A Paper
These days I haven’t seen a local paper, not even on the racks of the shops and outposts. It’s been decades since my family moved with their own lives and I never had a paper delivered at my doorstep. Decades ago we always received a paper, including my TIME copy I receive every week. I’m the only one who carried a TIME to school in the previous week before it comes out, in the early 80’s. I don’t even tune to local channels and listen to local news on TV. I’m so out of touch that I don’t even know if we have a daily published these days. Obviously, I haven’t seen a newspaper guy for some time. That reminds me, I saw years ago, a deliveryman entered a house to drop the paper leaving his bicycle outside with the bundle of papers and a boy ran away with his bike. And those days those bike thieves ride to the south end and just flung off into the sea. Environmental crew picked hundreds of bikes from the sea bottom. In the 90’s, papers and magazines came out in plenty and sold very well.
Coming across a media house, one time a big name, I thought I’d go in and ask if I could procure a paper and see if they still deliver door to door. Nightfall, I entered a tiny little cubicle, four girls seated around a desk with a telephone and another guy by a typewriter placed on a small typing table, that’s all this room could contain. I didn’t have space to properly step in, so I inquired standing by the door, I didn’t notice the staircase adjacent to the door. I didn’t even notice much of the girl seated next on the near side. She did all the talking. She wore short hair and in a pair of bikinis, I noticed later, of flower pattern; pink, blue and white. I inquired and the responses were all negative here, mostly unclear and just blank. It seems nobody called with such an inquiry. I left the door to walk out wondering why I need a newspaper. My window-cleaner would always ask for printed papers, it made so much easier for him to wipe windows with them. He supplies Indian papers for this matter that I can’t get them. I know what a pile it makes from past experience if I receive a paper every day. But can I afford it? Not really.
In the old days, news turns around pretty fast on lip-service. It works like satellites and we are so much of gossipers. These days you can imagine, the trend is social media, television and FM stations. Twitter feeds and selfies of any damn thing that goes on but the most important news didn’t hit the headlines or even a tweet. I listen to international news and current affairs. 8th March 2014 dawned with the news MH370 gone missing and for days and weeks I followed the news. After ten days one of the local media networks reported on their website that they did receive calls, several calls, from Kudahuvadoo where islanders had seen a flight flying low, very low that they could make out the doors clearly. Colours they described matched the lost aircraft. They saw it around six o’clock in the morning. They reported because they thought something fishy about it; commercial jets don’t fly that route and definitely not at that altitude. If the flight took a huge turn, flying like a ‘ghost flight’, it is appropriate timing to fly pass over these islands, eight hours after it took off. Given this eight hours fuel range out of speculation, this aircraft is going to hit the sea immediately after the sighting. So, are the newspaper guys clever enough? They couldn’t talk about it while everyone on earth new about a missing aircraft nobody knew there were eyeball witnesses until after ten days. They couldn’t even feed a tweet, no matter it’s a fake story that could turn out a hoax someday. And now we have 21 witnesses photographed, interviewed by locals, investigators and including foreigners. They still strongly hold to their story. I don’t expect many people up at that hour because islanders sleep late.
I was stepping on to the roadside when the girl called. The typist was climbing down the open stairs. She stood in the doorway, a thin tall girl in bikinis, legs apart, “Manager will see you…” she said and quickly ducked away. It occurred to me that she didn’t want to expose herself to passersby on the street.
Back in the tiny office room I was instructed to go up the hidden stairs. I reached the top floor that was wide open and lot of busy people in there. They certainly entered through another door. On one side a row of glass panels of administrative offices and at another quarter behind a partition I came across a friend. He was just done with his photocopying. Six or seven copiers placed by the partition wall. All crowded here taking photocopies. He helped me to a door attendant. I couldn’t say which one was the manger I should see. They were all busy receiving clients and talking on the phones. My friend, he was hanging on my shoulder and I put his arm away trying to listen to the attendant very seriously. I guess my friend realized it. One of the bearded managers waved. I entered. I wasn’t even ushered to a seat. They were occupied and he was on the phone. He asked, “How much do you want? Old papers…”
Old papers…in the good old days, we wrap items in them, making paper cones and use them at the shops instead of plastic bags. Another use is to make hand-rolled smokes on raw tobacco. It burns.
I asked what I have to ask. No matter I have given up the idea already. Those people around the desks glared at me. I felt little embarrassed. The manager shook his head and losing interest in me, he said, “No. We do only printing here.”
And I, of course...stole my way out.