After a gap of about a decade, on 9th January 2012, Solan experienced a snowfall in the early morning, when it was still dark. After waking up in morning, when residents of Solan looked out of their windows, they saw white snow all around. At the time of a snowfall, the temperature is below zero degree and during that moment, the sight of snow all around, normally sparks a feeling of chilling cold in the body (and mind) of the viewer. Especially when one comes out of warm and cosy bed, early in the morning and if the first thing seen is a snow covered landscape, most of the people move back into their warm beds.

The same was the scenario during the early morning hours in Solan on 9th January, when it snowed after many years.

Surprisingly, on that day, I decided to move out in the town to take a few shots in my camera. The streets all around were white with snow and there were no people around. It was roughly 7 o’clock in the morning and the darkness was disappearing.

The first person I saw on that cold morning was a man carrying a bundle of newspapers. Braving the chilling cold of a snowy morning, he was distributing newspapers in houses, where people were still in their beds. His name is Ashwani – the newspaper hawker, who hails from Kunihar and works with a shopkeeper in Solan during the day time. Daily he has to distribute newspapers early in the morning before 8 am, because by 9 am he has to report on his duty at the shop, where he works as an assistant.

No matter, whether there is rain, snow, storm or thunder, these newspaper hawkers are there on the streets, early in the morning, carrying bundles of newspapers, which they deliver at the door steps of all residents before they move out of their houses.

I feel respect for these hard working newspaper hawkers, and after meeting Ashwani on that day, I decided to find take camera shots of a few more newspapers hawkers on that terrifying cold morning of January.

I went to Old Bus Stand of Solan, which was again wearing an isolated look due to snowfall, but there was a group of around ten men, sorting and assorting newspapers at Solan’s oldest newspaper agency – Mangat Ram & Sons. Established in 1930, it is run by Suresh Sharma and Pawan Sharma who steps out of their house every morning at 4 am, when whole the town is sleeping. With help of around thirty hawkers they sort and assort more than ten thousand newspapers every day, which are then delivered on door steps of all residents of Solan before 8 am.

Ishwar Dutt is one of the oldest hawkers in Solan, who distributes newspapers across the town, irrespective of any inclement weather condition.

Ajay – a young boy, who belongs to Arki, works every day in the early hours of morning to supplement his income.

Munshi Ram is yet another hard working newspaper hawker in Solan, who is in his sixties and contrary to his old age he is amongst the fifty odd hawkers, who distribute newspapers round the year, including the three months of severe winter season.

Mohan Dutt is also an enterprising newspaper hawker, who owns another newspaper agency, himself.

The courage of these newspaper hawkers who work daily in early mornings, even during harsh winters in hill towns of Himachal, is not less than a soldier who patrols our country’s cold borders. These newspaper hawkers are doing a great service to the people of world’s largest democracy by delivering “news” at the door steps of citizens of India.

If, Press is the fourth pillar of Indian Democracy, then these Newspaper Hawkers are an integral and indispensable part of this “fourth” pillar.

Written by Uday Mittal