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Of Reading the National Evening Newspapers

All the national newspapers are eveningers in Manipur. It is next to impossible to check the national headlines of a paper in the morning, with the smell of its fresh prints, over a cup of cha-ngou or cha-ngang. You may be surprised but here’s the reason why the mysterious transformation of morning dailies into evening newspapers is not even a front-page news. 

Image courtesy: http://luthfispace.blogspot.in 
It is interesting that the best dailies in the country are read only in the evening and no minister or militant is responsible for the exclusive delay. Of course, internet allows us to browse the latest news as soon as the papers’ websites are updated, but that’s another story.

The nearest mainstream newspapers’ offices, from Imphal, are located in Guwahati. Ten to fifteen years ago, almost all of them were located farther away in the then Calcutta. So after missing all the breaking news, the newspapers arrive here in a cosy flight, reach the distributors around 3–3:30PM and finally we get them around 5PM. That’s how the largely circulated national morning papers get transformed mysteriously into eveningers with a Manipuri magic wand. Another thing about these papers is that there are no hawkers, but we have to go and get the double-folded broadsheets ourselves.

Since 1982, one of my uncles told me, we have been subscribing to the newspapers exclusively from the Comic House, situated at Nipa Kiethel, near the landmark Khwairamband Keithel. We grew up reading the Telegraph, the Times of India and the Statesman. There was a time when we were excited to find a local news being reported and published in any of these papers, but it did not last long as shortly we came across one of the elegant idioms: the special-edition publication; particularly, the Guwahati edition and the Northeast edition. For that matter, we still grouch that the mainstream paper is simply not interested in our place. Needless to say, it is not profitable for the corporate, the owners on one hand, and our existence is listlessly absent in the mainland consciousness on the other.

These facts do not mean we are news-starved. According to Google, there are nearly twenty five vernacular papers, plus half a dozen of local English dailies in Manipur. It is also remarkable that, except in the English dailies, there has to be some reports in Meitei Mayek script in the papers, from the last decade or so. Till now, though, all the Manipuri dailies are published in Bengali script — a language which was force fed onto us, with the onslaught of Hinduism some three centuries ago. But the times-they-are-a-changing. Nowadays, school kids have started learning Meitei Mayek from class I and have touched Bengali script no more. Ours was perhaps the last generation, which was educated the Manipuri thingies in Bengali script. So in another decade, we will have full-fledged Manipuri newspapers. Although we are hopeful, there is another problem. This Meitei Mayek belongs to the Meiteis, the dominant ethnic group residing in the valley of Manipur and there are more than thirty officially recognised groups in the state. And more worryingly, there are socio-political disagreements amongst some of these groups. This can be discussed another time.

Now who can deny the Times of India is an evening newspaper? Some people might be convinced it is, seeing its tabloid contents, but it is still a morning, proper and one of the most-read papers. Believe it or not! 

 

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“THEY TAKE THE PAPER AND THEY READ THE HEADLINES, SO THEY’VE HEARD OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND THEY’VE HEARD OF BREAD LINES, AND THEY PHILANTHROPICALLY CURE THEM ALL BY GETTING UP A COSTUME 
CHARITY BALL.” 
OGDEN NASH
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