Delhiwale: The newsies of CP
Bhim Sen Puri is the man behind the Central News Agency, which has been supplying newspapers from across the globe for decades. Mr Sen, now in his 90s, can be spotted at his office on some days with his wife Santosh.Updated: Jun 16, 2017 15:58 IST
Is there a more pleasurable morning ritual than unveiling a crisp, unread newspaper?
Bhim Sen Puri’s daily beat always starts with newspapers.
In his 90s, Mr Sen is the man behind the Central News Agency (CNA). The Connaught Place landmark has been supplying newspapers from across the globe long before when we all learned to download The New York Times or The Guardian apps.
Rewind to the 1930s when his brother Rajinder Pal set up a small newspaper distribution business. In 1942, the police arrested Rajinder for his involvement in the Quit India Movement, forcing Mr Sen to take over the reins.
The next half century was spent building up the CNA into a Delhi institution. In the years following Independence when Nehru’s India followed a more socialist model, the Puris developed business ties with the Soviet Union, regularly visiting cities as far apart as Moscow and Vladivostok to renew subscription of Soviet magazines such as Misha and Soviet Nari.
In the 1980s, the then Prime Minister’s son Rajiv Gandhi routinely visited the agency’s retail counter at Connaught Place’s P Block to procure hard-to-get foreign photography magazines. Teji Bachchan, mother of film star Amitabh Bachchan, travelled daily in an auto rickshaw from Gulmohar Park to pick up newspapers. Before he became the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh came regularly to get a copy of The Guardian Weekly.
Mr Sen’s working life is incomplete without mentioning Santosh, his wife since 1966. She was the first woman in her hometown, Jammu, to drive a Lambretta scooter. With a Master’s in Economics from Delhi University, Master’s in Hindi from Punjab University and a Bachelor’s in Education from Kashmir University, Santosh was already the principal of a higher secondary school when they met. For years, the couple together managed the company, along with the rest of the extended family.
These days, they have shortened their work week, but you still find them seated at their respective desks in Connaught Place during the morning hours. Looking at the tender scene, you are likely to end up affirming your faith not just in print but also in longtime companionship.