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Paper Subbanna – A newspaper vendor with a golden heart

Many people often miss the track while steering their lifelines. This happens perhaps when one takes life too seriously. However, leading a simple life in this materialistic world is an art by itself.

City-based newspaper vendor M R Subramanya, fondly called ‘Paper Subbanna’, has been distributing and selling books and newspapers from past four decades. Having seen so many ups and downs in his life, Subbanna has always preferred to take life in a lighter vein. He has worked many jobs including paper selling, book selling and site supervision for cinema locations as most of the directors in Tamil movies during 1960s preferred to shoot in Mysuru region.

Expressing satisfaction over his life, Subbanna says he has handled life smartly without experiencing major problems and has never asked anyone for help from despite having good contacts in Kannada cinema industry.

Subbanna’s father M S Ramaswamaiah served in Indian Railways as a vaccine sprayer and his mother Seethamma was a homemaker. His father’s good name had a positive influence on Paper Subbanna’s life. He claims that people always supported him and he never had to face severe problems even though his newspaper distributing work was the only source of income to manage his family which includes his wife, a daughter and a son.

Cinema craze and activism

He dropped out of first year intermediate (now considered first year PUC) from Sharada Vilas College, after completion of SSLC in Dalvoy Anglo Sanskrit School and joined as assistant for production manager S K Ananthachar and Padmanabha, who used to scout locations for cinema shootings in Mysuru.

With fervent cinema craze, he went to Gandhinagar in  Bangaluru where he used to lend books along with selling newspapers at a petty shop. During those days, Subbanna developed friendship with writers who borrowed books from his shop. Later, his petty shop transformed into a meeting point for Kannada activists who were great writers of those times. Recalling his past, Subbanna says, “Once upon a time, renowned Kannada writers and activists including ANaKru, TaRaSu, Mysore Sheshagirirao and BeeChi used to assemble near my shop and I also joined hands with them during agitations against dubbing, which affected hundreds of livelihoods depending on Kannada film industry for their bread and butter.”

Subbanna claims he has taken part in many such movements. He says, “Kannada language movies were becoming popular by the day despite tough competition from Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and Malayalam films. However, theatre owners were least concerned about providing space for Kannada cinema. We the agitators favoured Kannada movie makers and demanded the government to constitute a regulatory body to get rid of films from other languages.”

Chithralaya Days

Paper Subbanna’s enthusiasm for movies inspired him to become a film journalist. He used to write about Kannada films for several newspapers. Later, Subbanna went on to launch a new film tabloid called ‘Chithralaya’ – a tribute to his favourite Tamil cinema director Sridhar. Paper Subbanna chose the title ‘Chitralaya’ as Sridhar who released his movies under the banner ‘Chithralaya Production House’. After many failed attempts in movie journalism, finally he decided to move to a field which could generate a stable income source. Once he started paper distribution and book distribution in Mysuru, M R Subramanya came to be known as ‘Paper Subbanna’. He says he decided to get married after he became confident about his profession.

A veteran newspaper seller

Starting from distributing newspapers door-to-door in the city, Subbanna now selling papers of many languages including Kannada, English, Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Rajasthani. With a concern to benefit others, especially job seekers, he also sells books related to competitive exams which have a huge demand from readers. He used to sell papers at the historic Lansdowne Building, but shifted to the other side of the building on a footpath later when the building was damaged due to heavy rains. Over the years, he has built a very loyal buyers’ network, who like the way he works. He does not just sell newspapers and books but also reads many of them, gaining continuous knowledge.

Paper Subbanna has been awarded by many organisations for his noteworthy service in paper distribution. Recently he was felicitated by the Paper Distributors Association.

People visit him not only to buy newspapers but also to talk to him about their lives. Here is a veteran journalist and a publisher who took up newspaper selling as his profession without qualms. Interacting with Subbanna will inspire to live your life while enjoying its minute details. “Life is nothing. It is all about how smartly you handle any situation,” says Subbanna, smiling.

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