Retirement? Nah, some of them are too young for that! Their unwavering winning spirit keeps them going strong, reminding us that age should never limit our dreams.

As the statement resonates – let’s meet Rathnakumar Chokkalingam, fondly known as Mr. Kumar, embarks on his daily routine as a newspaper vendor at 4 AM. Despite the convenience of digital media, Mr. Kumar and 389 others face challenges in their livelihood, grappling with rising operating costs fueled by soaring fuel and certificate of entitlement prices.

Having witnessed the evolution of print sales over his 42-year career, Mr. Kumar nostalgically recalls a time when he could afford to hire part-timers and distribute 1,800 newspaper copies a day with a van in the 1990s. However, the decline in subscriptions and circulation, coupled with escalating costs, has reshaped the landscape for newspaper vendors.

The 64-years-old gem emphasises that being a newspaper vendor goes beyond delivering papers; it involves building friendships with customers. His positive relationships enable him to store stock at a hotel and an office building, a practice he has honed over the years.

Choosing this trade for its quick cash flow, Mr. Kumar values the personal connections he has forged. Despite earning between $200 and $700 per month on average (RM 800 – RM 1400), the familial tradition of newspaper distribution keeps him committed.

On why he chose to be a newspaper vendor, Mr Kumar says: “It was one of those trades where you could see cash in your pocket very quickly.

“Unlike other jobs where you’d have to wait till the end of the month for a cheque, we vendors collected delivery fees straight from customers on a weekly basis.”

Beginning as a 12-year-old helping his father, Mr. Kumar eventually took over his uncle's route in 1981. Today, he delivers newspapers to various locations, from offices to residences, schools, and places of worship.

In the early hours, Mr. Kumar diligently completes his deliveries, collecting fees from residents, especially seniors who rely on print media. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he felt a heightened sense of responsibility as a messenger and link to the outside world for those stuck at home.

Despite covering around 22km each morning, Mr. Kumar, over coffee and toast, expresses love for his job.

“It’s tiring – not as easy as people think,” he remarks.

He humorously recounts choosing work over attending to his wife in labor, underscoring his unwavering dedication to his role as a newspaper vendor.

Source / Image Credit : Strait Times