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Half a century, one tradition

The Lakshmanans have been HT subscribers for over half a century. Now, three generations fight over their favouritesections every morning. Piyusha Chatterjee reports.

india Updated: Jul 14, 2009 20:50 IST
Piyusha Chatterjee

It’s Sunday morning. Time for family breakfast at the Lakshmanans' plush apartment at Mayur Vihar in East Delhi.

At the head of the large table sits patriarch N. Lakshmanan (76), surrounded by his wife, son, daughter-inlaw and two grandchildren.

In the centre of the table, beside the steaming hot idlis, sambar and tea, is the day’s worn copy of the Hindustan Times.

This is how it has been at the Lakshmanans’ for 51 years. “I bought the paper on my first day in Delhi, and I have been a subscriber ever since,” says Lakshmanan, his chair placed beside a pooja corner with incense burning before photographs of Hindu deities.

That first day in Delhi was way back in 1958. Lakshmanan had come to the Capital from Tanjavur in Tamil Nadu after passing the civil service exam. Over the years, he worked his way up from stenographer to private secretary to the power secretary in the central government.

Through the years, he says, he saw the paper change to keep pace with the changing times, introducing more pages, colour printing, and separate supplements for classifieds and news you can use.

“But one thing never changed,” says Lakshmanan, “HT has always given me the news I need, in a way that I can relate to.”

Every morning, there's a scramble for each family member's favourite section of the paper.

“I’ve grown up on HT,” says Lakshmanan’s son L. Shankar (51), who works with Indian Overseas Bank. “Now, I can’t imagine starting my day without it.”

For Shankar’s younger son Anuj (13), a Class 7 student at Amity International, the sports section is a must-read. “Grandpa lets me read it first, if I promise to tell him the scores of each player as I read,” he grins.

Anuj’s elder brother Arvind (21), who has just completed his B Tech, says the business pages are where it's at. As for Lakshmanan, it’s a family joke the way he reads the paper. “He has to have Sun TV on, and All India Radio playing at the same time,” says Shankar. “Then he sits back, sighs and opens the paper. You usually can't get through to him for the next half hour.”

Shankar’s wife Radha (46) says no one can read the paper after his dad has read it.

“He folds it over several times as he reads each tiny column,” she smiles. “By the time he’s done, the paper looks like it has been in some dreadful battle.” Lakshmanan hates the full-page advertisements on the front page, and the flaps.

“They make reading very difficult,” he grumbles. “I like to wake up in the morning and see headlines, not advertisements. Ads should be on the back page, at most.”

So what have his favourite sections been, through the years?

“I love Kushwant Singh’s column,” he says, “and the spiritual column… Inner Voice. Across the paper, both language and content are good.”

And what would he change about the paper, given the choice?

“There should a regular cartoon on the front page,” he says. “You should find somebody to do that for you.” News from south India is a problem too, he adds.

“There are just a couple of people writing from south India. It is not enough.”