Hi there! My name is Page 21 and I was born on April 3, 2017.
It was a bright Monday morning. I had DT Sports written on my forehead. I was told, not in so many words though, that I was one of the many clones to have come out from our shared mother--the press--that day.
I was printed in black and white, and I had a lot of sports-related info written all over me. There was also a big picture of West Indies' cricketer Evin Lewis playing a shot at the third T20I pasted on my face.
I went around Dhaka and after a bumpy, two and a half hour ride in a rowdy, green three-wheeler, I was dropped off at a distribution centre in Dhanmondi, but was soon picked up again and we headed towards a news-stand near Shankar.
A guy named Kollol then stacked a few bundles of us on the back of his cycle and pedalled us around Dhanmondi, dropping us off at the doorstep or the patio of different structures. One by one, we were all gone.
I remember landing on a brown doormat, and soon after a 30-something lady came and picked me up.
I watched her flip through the pages, taking a quick glance at the pictures and the headlines of the newspaper. I watched her staring, fixated at my second cousin Page 23, he had a picture of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau printed on him. I don't blame the lady though, I mean, have you seen that smile on Mr Trudeau? Who wouldn't be polarised by those pearly whites?
I was left on the tea table for about half an hour or so until a middle-aged man approached me, then a young kid in his early teens and finally, an elderly woman who examined me through a pair of thick spectacles. The young boy was most excited to see me, he read the entire story on Lewis and how he crushed Pakistan in the T20.
The next morning, I was thrown under the table in a basket with a bunch of other old newspapers.
I sat there for a while. A few days passed, and I had my successors piling up on top of me. It was getting dark, boring, and quiet. I don't remember when I passed out.
When I woke up under the scorching sun, it was to a man yelling “Purano boi, khata, kagoz.” I was sitting on top of his head in what looked like an old, wicker basket; he was buying old books and newspapers from households in exchange for a red cent. And soon, as the day concluded, we were dumped in a small room where women and children would rip us off, tear us in half or quarters and make “thongas” (small paper bags) using glue.
I quite enjoyed my time there, although heart-broken to be ripped apart from my family and friends. I watched those kids giggle away and talk about school or games while they folded and glued us together.
A week later, I was travelling through Muhammadpur, in a plastic bag being carried around by a man who sells “jhalmuri”.
Feeling a little suffocated in there, I was soon sold off to a man who paid 10 bucks for the jhalmuri I was safeguarding in my pouch. Oh those freshly sliced lemons, tomatoes and chilli smelled like pure bliss!
We jumped on a bus and it was then when I ran into my long lost friend, Page 7, who was carefully protecting some peanuts on the seat next to mine.
Trying to hold back my tears, we exchanged greetings and he told me all about how others wound up. Page 15 and 17 were used for making hand fans, Page 4 was cut out to make paper flowers and that Justin Trudeau photo made it to the scrapbook of a 6th grader. Honestly, I couldn't be any prouder.
Next thing I remember, I was flicked in a dustbin, drenched in salt and oil from the remnants of the jhalmuri. There was nothing left of me. I was of no use, or so I thought. Two days later, I remember a tokai picked me up. I knew where I was headed next—the papermill again. To be washed, cleansed and recycled for a brand new page of the newspaper.