There was something odd the day after Holi and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it — until, over my morning cup of tea, I realised that I couldn’t check what’s on TV that day as there were no TV listings in newspapers to scan through. Why? Well, because there were no newspapers.
I had been warned the previous day. The two papers I subscribe to (including this one) had an announcement that said that there would be no edition the next day owing to a Holi holiday. I wasn’t overly concerned. After all, the overwhelming bulk of news that I ingest every day (not much, in any case) doesn’t come from the papers but from television — and when I want to go beyond the basic news (about a proposed rally in Pakistan or about a gunman in Germany opening fire in a school, for instance), I drop by at the internet.
But what I hadn’t figured for was the emptiness I would feel not to have information (even for one day) about the things happening around me in the form of information about events and programmes at my fingertips in the form of an easily navigable newspaper.
Sure, I could go to a website to find out what movie’s on at what time today on a channel or a cinema. I could even find out if there was something happening in the city by checking up one of those weekly ‘city’ supplements in some magazine or even scan yesterday’s newspaper.
But this was a habit. Going to a particular page — after flipping through the news pages in two minutes — and getting some vital information without having to get my brain into serious ‘search mode’.
In a way, I realised the true function of the newspaper: to provide incremental, easily find-outable information about what will happen around me every day.
So even as media pundits worry about the demise of the print media — yet to be a reality in this country but without doubt the future — I know that I’ll need my fix; not for the news, not even for the special reports, but for the papers telling me that this is happening here, and whether that’s worth seeing, reading, listening, visiting or eating or not. The papers — not TV, which is too ‘newsy’, not the internet, which has an opinion overload — tell me what a film or book or CD or restaurant or event has to offer.
So, the newspaper I’m looking forward to tomorrow with my cup of tea will subtly shape what I’ll being doing that day. Which is why the day after Holi I did nothing despite it being a fine day.