CHENNAI: The assassination of former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi is undeniably one of the most prominent and shocking incidents in Indian history. While it meant different things to people around the country, it was the beginning of a new hobby for a 16-year-old boy from Jamshedpur. Confused? Meet, Vijay Shekhar, a Chennai-based communication professional who has been collecting ‘breaking news’ clippings for decades.
City Express caught up with him on the onset of his silver jubilee year. “I started this exactly 25 years back and I am so glad that this has become a serious hobby for me,” says the 41-year-old who settled in Chennai nine years ago.
Recollecting the day where it all started, Vijay narrates, “On May 22, 1991, I was jogging on the Kadma-Sonari Link Road (Jamshedpur). It was early morning and I could see that something was amiss. People were quieter than usual and looked worried. Suddenly I heard a Bengali guy (a regular morning walker) shout out to someone…aarey soona ki nahiin…Rajiv Gandhi ko madras mein ooda diya. (Rajiv Gandhi has been assassinated in Madras),” he shares.
The curiosity to know more about the incident made an impatient Vijay purchase the first paper he could get his hands on — Aawaaz (Jamshedpur edition). “At home, we subscribed to The Statesman, which used to come from Calcutta (Kolkata) and got delivered only by noon. I couldn’t wait until then,” he shares. Sure that this assassination will be etched in the minds of people for years to come, Vijay says that he decided to preserve the news clipping, and little did he know that it would be the beginning of his life-long passion.
Vijay also keeps full newspapers and magazines of certain important events. “I have over 300 clipping and every single piece is preserved carefully,” he says. Every clipping is neatly cut, stuck to a sheet of paper and filed in a plastic folder. “I am very careful and protective of my collection and handle it with utmost care. But, at the same time if someone wants to look at them and feel nostalgic about all this news, I am more than happy to show them,” he smiles.
His collection includes clippings related to Lord Ganesha idols ‘drinking milk’, 26/11 attacks on Mumbai, Bhuj earthquake, 9/11 terrorist strike, Parliament attack, Columbia space shuttle crash which claimed the life of Kalpana Chawla, Rabindranath Tagore’s Nobel Prize being stolen, Osama bin Laden’s assasination, Indian rupee getting a symbol and passing away of Mother Teresa.
But, what’s breaking news for him? “It’s a matter of personal opinion. I collect news that I’m sure is going to change the course of history. It’s just instinctive. But if you see my collection, 90% will be sad news,” he points out to all the clippings of blasts, deaths and assassinations. On the brighter side, Vijay has also collected over 25 editions of paper and magazines from across the country about India’s historic win in the 2011 World Cup.
As we look through his collection, the news clipping of APJ Abdul Kalam becoming the President and later, the news of the same missile-man passing away, invokes nostalgia. “This is very special to me. While many say they lived during the time of great leaders like Gandhi and Nehru, for our generation it’s Abdul Kalam. This is a part of history now,” he shares wistfully.
An ardent fan of Amitabh Bachchan, Vijay shares that he also collects interviews and news pieces that have any connection with the star. “I know that isn’t breaking news of any sort. But it’s something I do for myself,” he beams. Similarly, he also collects ads featuring celebrities and has a separate collection of AD clippings.
“I am not ready to share my collection with anyone. But, if someone wants to give me news clippings or newspapers/magazines of importance, I am ready to take it. I feel proud to have this with me.”
- Newspapers dated January 1, 2000 and January 1, 2001 — days which marked the start of the new millennium
- Around 25 news clippings pertaining to India’s historic win in the 2011 World Cup from newspapers and magazines from across the country
- National Geographic issue — astronaut Neil Armstrong landing on moon (1969)
- National Geographic issue — finding the wreckage of the Titanic (1986)
- Issues of the National Geographic that has the iconic pic of a female Afghan refugee in 1985 and 2002