Last weekend, I was in Chennai.
Caught the World Cup final in Chennai as well; the same city I was in when Indian won the Prudential Cup in 1983. Amazingly, I saw the final with two of my sisters and one of my brothers-in-law; four of us (among others) were together in 1983 as well.
That’s an aside and an indulgence.
Woke up on Sunday, early, as I am wont to do. My mother woke up a little later, as she is wont to do, and made me a coffee. (My son slept on, as he is wont to do). My mother and I spoke about the match as we had the coffee (freshly made decoction) and she opened the front door, waiting for the morning newspaper.
There’s nothing like the morning newspaper to confirm what you have seen on television the previous evening.
We waited. And waited. The newspapers were late. Every minute of unusual tardiness made me look forward to great morning editions. The newspapers would have gone to bed late, I guessed, because they wanted to showcase the match in all possible glory.
We had another coffee and waited.
And they arrived, The Times of India and The Hindu.
By now I’d checked my twitter timeline and had read twitter.com/ParitoshZero bitching about the half cover ad in The Times of India, so I picked up the Times of India first. Thankfully, no half cover, so a wieldy, as opposed to an unwieldy, newspaper, was what I was reading.
Front page lead story, as expected. Banner Headline, as expected. Not a red-letter day, which was a disappointment.
Read the newspaper, slowly, stopping to see every cricket-related ad – and there were many which were topical and connected to the win, including one, surprisingly, in the Chennai Times.
An okayish paper, but way short of a paper that I would want to keep for posterity. Disappointed in the paper, but impressed by the Response effort in coordinating all the creatives for the topical ads.
I exchanged papers with my mother. Instant irritation. Banner headline, which doesn’t quite go to the end of the page. How can the headline ‘occupy’ the width of the newspaper and yet not go to the end of the last column (and they do it again in the inside pages, I learn in a few minutes)?
To cut a long story short, the newspaper was death by boredom. And I won’t kill you by a boring blow by blow report of the boring paper.
I have a number of what I like to call ‘unconscious biases’. They’re less unconscious than I would claim, but what the hell. One of these biases is a soft spot for all things from Kolkata and Chennai, both cities I lived in for a number of years. So, over the years, I’ve defended the chaos of Kolkata and the lack of excitement in Chennai.
If I didn’t know better, I would have thought susegaad was an export from Chennai to Goa.
And, as any optimist thinks (and I am one) I thought Kolkata would get ‘better’ as would Chennai, with competition, with the pressure of seeing things that were happening elsewhere.
In the newspaper area, for example, I exulted when The Telegraph was launched in Kolkata, simultaneously hoping that The Statesman would improve. I saw, sadly (for The Statesman), what indecisiveness or contempt for the reader or a combination of both achieved – the death
of an institution. The king was dead, long live the (new) king.
And when the Times of India launched in Chennai, and when the Deccan Chronicle launched in Chennai, and when the New Indian Express was revamped, I looked, eagerly, for a positive reaction from the Hindu.
I wait, in vain.
And I worry for the Hindu. If they carry on like this, it is the end of the newspaper. People who read the Hindu to keep up with deaths and births will slowly reduce in number, as they themselves die. The newspaper has no youthfulness and zest for a nation that is growing younger by the day. It is abject boredom from front page to the last, in layout, fonts, story selection and the language itself.
Thanks to my natural, unconscious bias and my optimism, I hope that, as I write this, The Hindu has a think tank trying to think of a way out of this hole they find themselves in.
Make no mistake, it is a hole. And readers and advertisers will not hang around in the hole with you; they’ll jump to another newspaper.