“People don’t actually read newspapers. They step into them every morning like a hot bath.”
There are hardly any memories I have from my childhood. Most of my memories have either been forgotten or repressed in some corner of my mind.
But one of these memories is a visual so strong, stuck in my head. A moment filled with a weird sense of peace, tranquility and warmth.
In my early years, I lived with my parent in the capital city of Saudi Arabia, a beautiful and rich country. That is where I had my primary schooling. Every morning my father would drop me to school at almost the same time. On the way to school, he would stop the car at a shop which sold food and newspapers, known as (Bakala) in Saudi Arabia.
We would get out of the car and go inside the shop, my father told me to go take whatever I want, while he stood at the newspaper stand, searching for the Urdu News, once he had the paper he would pay the shopkeeper, take my hand and walk me back to the car. He then sat inside the car and opened the paper, and for the next five minutes he would scan the headlines of the day.
“The newspaper is a greater treasure to the people than uncounted millions of gold.”
Henry Ward Beecher
I distinctly remember the crackling sound of leafs turning, the posture and focused sight of my dad’s face. Looking and scanning the newspaper, turning the pages. Then he turned the side of the paper in his right hand as he looked at his watch, and coming back to reality he would neatly fold the paper in four turns, place it on the handbrake and move forward.
Now that I think of it, as to why I remember this scenario in most detail, I feel a sense of warmth and security in this gesture. The aura of a man immersed in the task of reading a newspaper makes him so grandiose and noble. There something so poetic, so beautiful and warm about a man engrossed in the world of thin grey sheets and yet so aware of the world outside those sheets.
It’s a pity that now twenty years later; I rarely see a soul with a newspaper and a watch. The scarcity of newspaper culture implies that not many children would feel and witness this security and warmth which I was fortunate enough to experience.
With the mobile phone becoming a view port for the world, the fathers of today read the news on the screen which has no crackling music of turning paper and no firm twisting of the wrist to give their family and children that silent and secure experience.
The watches have become status symbols, the leather bands which once fit the wrist have turned to the free moving metal Rolex, which takes a jerk of the hand and arm to bring the watch in view of one’s eye. People take pride in holding the iPhone X as it makes them look rich.
But the combination of the firm, wrist hugging, leather band watch, which demanded an elegant classic turn of the hand to take note of time, and the thin grey sheets of black and white have long been lost.