A cat does its business

I’ve spent my whole working life in a newspaper. I’ve always questioned what I do, many times because I’ve been forced to. But now I’ve had to face a challenge to not just my entire working life, but the many years I spent as a newspaper reader. I like newspapers. I’ve been reading them for many more than 50 years. Come to think of it, I learned to read from the newspapers. And all those years I’ve spent working for them, I’ve been a reader.

What made me pick over my entire conscious life was the cat peeing on the morning papers twice. The first time, I remember, was an accident, but the second made me wonder. The cat has been around for some time, and has shown no interest in the newspapers before.

So what am I to make of this act of deliberation after months of ignoring the existence of the papers? I assume that the comment was general, for there was a fine indiscrimination in the papers peed on. So it was not a comment on a particular paper, for the cat was signally unqualified to make any comment distinguishing between papers. Maybe I’m getting paranoid, and any assumption of a comment vis a calumny on a fine upstanding cat.

But if there was a comment, was the comment one of disdain for how the news is reported in the newspapers? Or the news that is occurring? The latter lets us newshounds off the hook. For you can’t blame us for what is happening, no matter how much you dislike it.

Two examples off the top of my head: if you saw a newspaper which reported that Imran Khan was addressing huge rallies all over the country, and if it also reported that prices were falling across the board, you would stop your subscription.

It was told to us, and it was something I learnt. The first thing that a newspaper must contain is the truth. Otherwise, you’re writing fiction. We learnt that a newspaper is a product, which people pay for. And they pay for information that is true. If they wanted lies, they would buy something else.

So was that what the cat was commenting on? And do newspapers deserve such scurvy treatment, even if it is from a cat? I would sense some intolerance here. If you don’t like something about a paper, stop buying it, If enough people stop. The management of the newspaper will start asking questions. And probably try to rectify itself. Of course, there are certain limits.

I remember, for example, a Punjabi newspaper which ultimately went down. I think one reason was that to read it you didn’t just need curiosity, but also a commitment to the Punjabi language. You need to be so committed to it that you are ready to pick your way through a Punjabi news item, and read in Shahmukhi something you could easily read in an Urdu newspaper. (After all, most news is the same. Nawaz met Shujat last week; no matter what spin a paper gave, it couldn’t make it a meeting between Bilawal and Pervez Elahi.) Now if you had asked the Editor of the Punjabi newspaper if he could print news items in Urdu, he would have given you a strange look through his glasses. (By the way, he was too perfect a gentleman to have given you the punch you deserved. Even though he was himself Urdu-speaking.)

Meanwhile, the Israelis are tearing into the Gazans. They’re taking casualties, though. One of them was a Major Gal Eisenkot. Some major getting killed is no big deal. But this was the son of a former chief of the Israeli Defense Forces. And the day after, Eisenkot’s nephew, a sergeant-major, got killed too. And Eisenkot is not spending a quiet retirement. He’s part of the War Cabinet.

It shows the inferiority of the IDF. Could our chief’s son, even if he wasn’t an investment banker but in the Army, have been posted in harm’s way. Would a minister’s son? Or nephew?



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