There are many jobs that don’t get the attention they deserve. Or maybe a disproportionately minute attention. Often dismissive. While several may come to your mind, sometimes starting with your own job, may I please request a temporary focus on the job of a newspaper delivery chap!
Watching him at work on the road is an exercise in joy! And if you are half as clumsy and absent minded a bloke as me, the seamless efficiency that is a default expectation on this job can cause you to want the world to cave in and take you along with all that goes inside. That’s the degree of shame that is distinctly possible.
The permutations on the job are insane.
First of all, there are a heap of brands of newspapers. And ofcourse two tonnes of supplements to each one of them. If you thought that’s the end of it all, well, then comes the language question. Especially so, if you stay in a big city like Mumbai which plays home to every conceivable inhabitant on planet earth. And his mother tongue. And his newspaper in his mother tongue too. Ok. That may be a slight exaggeration. But only slight!
Well just as you are applying work up some math around the multitude of brands and the plentiful languages that are there, add neighbourhoods and neighbours. Neighbourhoods can be confusing. Should we say, ‘daunting’ to a rookie newspaper vendor. Numbers, crosses, streets and of course sometimes complete with idiots residing in them.
Plus of course neighbourhoods come packed with their assortment of watchmen, auto and taxi drivers half asleep in their places of work. In the wee hours of the morning. Waking up with a start. Rattled. Irritated and ready to pull out a AK-47. For a moment. Thank God for the gun laws. For whatever they are worth.
In a minute the old familiar visage of the newspaper vendor, and the rattle of the mudguard that’s hanging loose from the time Jawaharlal Nehru was prime minister, makes them get to wave weak smile and an assortment of curses loosely translating to ‘useless fellow’, before dozing off. Perhaps to relive dreams where they are romancing a beauty queen laced with riches!
If the chaps outside the neighbourhoods weren’t enough trouble, the folks inside can sure finish you off. For instance, there is a good friend who buys a different assortment of newspapers on different days of the week. Either business must be real bad or customers delight taken too seriously for such crazy demands getting met. A grand plan to save some ‘60 odd rupees’, he had said. Like it was an amount to pull India out of financial trouble!
Now, now, hear me out. Imagine you are a newspaper vendor. You have to have the ability to sort out what newspapers people have asked for(and if you include that friend like mine, you also have to remember which day of the week the morning leads you to), slot it accordingly and carry it with you on the bicycle.
You pedal around like a champ, pull out the most relevant sets of newspapers and toss it with an arch to ensure it lands at the right doorstep at the right time. If you are a few minutes late the very real prospect of facing a customer with disheveled hair and dried drool from yesterday night plentifully populating his cheek, awaits you! Worse, he could casually ask why you couldn’t do a better job. Which is when you would want to throw the bicycle and all the newspapers in there, at him.
Ofcourse, we haven’t broached on aspects that could become seminal topics by themselves. Like the pet dogs in homes that would want to scare the wings out every passing fly. Leave alone a small chap in a bicycle with some paper that in the later course of the day are used to parcel dog poop to the dustbin!
To pedal that distance is enough of an ask for three quarters of people of the world to opt out. And finally if ever you would sit back and read the crap that gets into newspapers these days, wont you wonder whatever your multi tasking was worth!
The next time you see the newspaper chap whizzing, say something. A hello. A good morning. Whatever. He may yet not deliver better news for you. It may not even prompt him fix the rattle of his broken mud guard.
Perhaps, just perhaps, it would help him get by with a smile!