The Newspaper Memories

“People don’t actually read newspapers.  They step into them every morning like a hot bath.”
Marshall McLuhan

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.

 

The Him of Our Society

Every day is a new challenge. But the real challenge of everyday is to follow that one same aspect of your routine that you most despise. In my case, it is the walk. The walk, which might have been the best part of my day, had it come with different circumstances.

I wake up at the same time every morning and drive up the Mall Road of Lahore to get to my destination, the National College of Arts. I park my car behind one of the heritage buildings of Lahore known as the Tolinton Market and get out of my car, which is when my heart starts to race and my breath becomes heavier. Now is the time to cross the street filled with dark eyed, smirking men on bikes and rickshaws, staring and gawking at every passing female pedestrian, one of which is me. I know I have to walk fast, I console myself thinking, “watch your steps, don’t trip, don’t worry, it’s just a thought and a building to cross.”

I hold my bag close to my body, and stiffen my shoulders, as I start to walk away from my car and towards the first street. As I leave the parking lot I look towards the right and then the left to see all the cars, rickshaws and bikes. As the traffic breaks I pull my thoughts together and cross the street as fast as I can. Now and then I wish there was someone walking by me, a familiar face, a person who is safe. I look around to see if someone I know is close by and would walk with me to the NCA gate, but I catch the eyes of the men staring at my direction, scanning me with their dark piercing eyes.

My heartbeat fastens and I quicken my pace, I cross the Lahore museum, lowering my gaze towards the path and console myself thinking, “It’s just a few more steps.” As I reach the college gate and take the first step inside, my heartbeat goes back to normal, the horror is lifted. I can finally feel the air I breathe filling my chest and thanking God for the life ahead.

Over the past year I experience this every day and I feel like I may never get over this, but then I question, is it just my thought or is this actually happening? One of my professors once commented on this attitude of our nation saying, “our people are just prone to stare, we are a staring nation, and it doesn’t necessarily have to mean anything if someone is staring at us. We just can’t get rid of it.”

I agree to the fact that we are a staring nation, and I myself sometimes get lost in a thought and don’t realize where my eyes are affixed while I am experiencing a metaphysical realm of reverie.  However, the women on the streets, going about their business in this part of the world are more likely to have their eyes fixed on the ground than the men roaming the streets purposeless, as they may seem.

This makes one wonder is it the clothing or the figure of a woman, which of these is so enticing, even though she is most likely covered from head to toe with no room to peak.

With literally millions of women, maybe even more than men in this world; so common it is to see ‘her’ moving past you every single day, then why is it that the ‘him’ of our society feels the need to hold a sociopathic stare as she passes by in the markets and streets?