I write for newspaper my father distributes


In the wee hours of the morning, when everyone is sleeping or streaming into late-night supper corners, my father gets down to work at the newspaper depot in Bedok.

It would be almost 11am by the time my dad, a newspaper vendor, returns home after distributing the papers. He usually brings home The Straits Times and Tamil Murasu for us to read.

I never paid much attention to the papers he brought home, but one particular day last month - June 15 - was a special one.

My first newspaper article was going to be published, and I was up early, eagerly waiting to see my byline.

Nearly every day for the past 23 years, my father, R.I. Elangovan, 62, has been getting up at 2am to start his distribution work. "I love the quiet early morning rides to work. The night air is so cool and peaceful," he tells me.

For the papers to get to your doorstep by 6am, the distribution process has to start at 3am. Once the papers are out, the distribution team dispatches them to depots where licensed contractors like my dad start work along with the delivery men working for them.

My dad, along with his workers, will sort out the papers and insert pamphlets, if any.

The team then delivers the newspapers to HDB flats, condominiums, landed properties, factories and offices. It would be past 10am by the time they finish.

For the past five years, the industry has suffered from an acute shortage of manpower, so my mum has joined my dad to help him out.

Newspaper distribution has long been a family trade. Many Indian distributors here hail from the same part of Tamil Nadu, particularly near Pattukottai in Thanjavur district.

My uncle's grandfather was one of the leading vendors around the World War II period. My uncle's father, Mr G.V. Arun, 71, a former president of the Singapore Newspaper Distributors Association, worked with Singapore Press Holdings in the 1980s to mark out delivery zones. My uncle, Mr Nedunchezhiyan, left his job in India and came to Singapore in 1993 to continue his family's trade.

In 1997, my father relocated here from Tamil Nadu and joined the business with the support of my uncle. My family has been in this trade for generations, but there is no one from my generation to take over my uncle's and dad's businesses.

My father said: "We cannot expect much profit due to many factors, such as a drop in newspaper sales and employee shortages." My father calls it a "dying business" as he is doubtful of the need for it in the future.

Exhausting as the work is, this job has made my father feel truly at home here - he meets many people every day and has formed friendships with people from different walks of life.

He said: "Some of my customers are very close to my heart. I chat with them every morning. They never fail to call me on festive occasions."

It has been a month since I joined Tamil Murasu as a journalist. I grew up in a house which always had newspaper bundles lying around, with my dad bringing home newspapers in different languages every day. To be writing for the newspapers that I grew up reading feels special.



அதற்குள்ளாகவா? இந்தச் செய்திகளையும் படிக்கலாமே!

இந்தச் செய்திகளையும் படிக்கலாமே!