City Life - Newspaper Men, Mathura Road

City Life – Newspaper Men, Mathura Road

City Life - Newspaper Men, Mathura Road

Print edition ambassadors.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Wars, bombings, summits, tournaments, tornadoes, murders, chain snatchings, fashion gallas, film star scandals, opening nights… so much has crashed into the world over the last 24 hours. The whole of it is piled up along a dusty Delhi curb, on Mathura Road. Here lies all the news fit to print.

It is already warm at half-past five in the morning, also a bit humid. The man sitting cross-legged on the pave is hemmed in by heaps of Hindi-English dailies. He is inserting publicity flyers inside hundreds of newspapers, his fast-moving hands a blur.

Overlooking the blue dome of centuries-old Subz Burj, the curb is packed with many of these newspaper suppliers, each man ensconced within his island of newspaper stacks. The men settle here at 5am daily with the freshly printed papers, and prepare for the final stage of distribution.

Meanwhile, the delivery men are showing up in scooters and bicycles. The dailies are carried to homes and businesses in the surrounding ‘hoods of Sunder Nagar, Nizamuddin East, Nizamuddin West, Jangpura Extension A, Jangpura Extension B, Bhogal, Ashram and Siddharth Enclave. Variations of this improvised newspaper distribution serve the rest of Delhi as well. The phenomenon becomes special on recollecting that the print edition is already an endangered specie in densely digitalised societies.

Inserting pink flyers inside his share of crispy dailies, Pintoo turns to the next fellow to confirm whether the curb—“centre” in their workday lingo—indeed has 50 of them “akhbar wale” on the job every morning. Young Harmeet laughs, shaking his head, saying, “We must be half of that figure.” It was Harmeet’s late grandfather who had established the “centre.” Partition migrant Harnam Singh Gandhi started his newspaper supply business further north in Connaught Place, and moved it to Mathura Road six decades ago. Gradually, this short stretch progressed into a “centre” for the local dispersal of newspapers.

Pintoo now names all the men around him. “Amit, Bhola, Shankar, Yadav, KK Tripathi, Shashi, Bachchan, Tewari, Amit Mishra, Nilesh, Jeetu, Harpal, Suraj… Sanjay, Dubey ji, Karan… everyone calls me Pintoo but my real name is Vishal.”

Minutes later, across the road in Nizamuddin West, vendor Anand lifts a newspaper from his bicycle’s back-carrier, rolls it into a baton, secures the roll with a rubber band, and tosses it into the potted porch of a little bungalow.

An hour later, the curb is empty.