Paper-reading with grandpa

Paper-reading with grandpa

NJ Ravi Chander

When I was young, I remember sprinting to my maternal grandfather’s house, a lane away from where we lived, to catch up on the sports news in the morning newspaper. My school began at 8.30 am, which meant I had to slot my reading time between 7 and 7.30 am, before dashing off to classes. After hurriedly glancing through the headlines on the first page, I would skip the middle pages and turn over to the last page, featuring sports news, which was my favourite. We evinced keen interest in boxing, cricket, hockey and athletics and kept regular tabs on them. The comic strip at the bottom of the page was a bonus. It was only later that my father began subscribing to an English daily.

The paper would wait for me on the sofa in my grandparents’ drawing-room, with my grandfather busy with morning chores in the kitchen. My grandmother had passed away when I was only six, and the house appeared empty without her. That left grandpa with the arduous task of running the household. As I was his pet grandson, he thoroughly pampered me. Grandpa would serve me breakfast and give me company at the table when I was around.

In between eating and chatting, he would take time to glance through the papers. An avid fan of horse racing, he had bunches of colourful race booklets and followed the race results. But he also read the city pages that featured crime news, the weather and happenings in town. After breakfast, I would bid him goodbye, go home, have another round of breakfast and rush off to school with my siblings.

The newspaper-reading ritual would continue in school, too. The Seventh-day Adventist High School, my alma mater, had put up a wooden platform near the library where two English newspapers, secured by a clip, lay spread-eagled for students to read. My younger sibling and I would always be among the first to browse the paper. Though we had our favourite games, no sports item escaped our scrutiny, and over time, we reeled off the names of famous sportspeople and had sports statistics on our fingertips.

One day, after finishing reading the paper and putting it aside, my grandfather surprised me with the query, ‘What’s the important news today?’ I pointed to the day’s headline in bold letters on the front page, highlighting a prominent political leader's death. I had not cared to read this news item as politics and netas never interested me. ‘You are wrong,’ he shot back. ‘Please check page three.’ A murder story and a burglary case stared at me from the page, and I sheepishly showed him these. ‘Wrong again! Look below,’ he responded. Pointing to a news item which read ‘Taps to go dry tomorrow’, he emphasised that this was the day’s most important news concerning us. As I got up to leave, he smiled and implored me to pass on this piece of information to my parents and not forget to save enough water for the dry day.

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