Suresh Nandmehar's tiny shoe repair shop at a footpath here is
crowded every evening. As you approach it, you can hear words like
social empowerment, caste atrocities and political opportunism.
That's because Suresh is no ordinary cobbler - he is the founder,
editor and publisher of a monthly newspaper. Baal Ki Khaal, a
four-page tabloid, was born out of a struggle against official
"In 1997, we sat on a 27-day long 'dharna' as we were being removed
from the footpath, but the government was not giving us any other
alternate site. Even after the agitation, government did not listen
to us," Suresh told IANS.
Numerous stalls at the posh Professor's Colony here were shifted out
of the main road.
"However, the irony was the role of the local media which did not
given us coverage. At that time, I wished we had a newspaper that
could make our voices heard," he recalls.
Suresh, 48, is no stranger to struggle. Belonging to a socially
marginalised Scheduled Caste community, he had to drop out of Class
10 due to his family's poor financial condition.
"Because of lack of qualifications, I could not join a newspaper
organisation like I wanted. But for over four years, I learnt about
the profession from local reporters and others," he said.
"Finally in October 2003, my newspaper's first edition was
published. Now, it is eight years and not a single issue has been
delayed," a proud Suresh said.
He has four children, two sons and two daughters - all studying in
high schools and colleges.
"I have faced a lot of hardships. We never celebrated festivals and
we do not have enough money for it. Sometimes, I could not pay the
school fees of my children, but I did not let the paper's publishing
be halted as I have a commitment to my readers," he said.
The editor cobbler spends the entire day scouting for news, and sits
in his shop in the evening from 5 p.m. till about midnight.
His hard work is bearing fruit.
Baal Ki Khaal has 7,300 subscribers, while 10,000 copies are
published every month. It costs Suresh Rs.8,000 to keep his paper
running. Each copy sells for Rs.2. It also generates a modest sum
The most interesting part is the content. The paper has no place for
murder, crime or sensationalist stories. The main focus is on Dalit
issues and their social empowerment. Suresh also writes the editor's
column, where he touches upon these issues.
He is also helped by city-based writer Tikaram Ganotte and five
others, who contribute to the paper for free.
"My brother-in-law sits in the shop till the evening. But I do not
let my children to do this work," he said.
Soni Kumar, 30, who works as an executive at a private firm, is one
of the paper's many readers.
"I read it every month and really find it amazing how a cobbler
comes up with such writing. What is praiseworthy is that he is
trying hard to educate and empower society," Kumar said.
Suresh proudly says his paper reaches everyone, from the common man
Madhya Pradesh government's Joint Director of Public Relations
Department Dhruv Shukla told IANS: "Three years ago, I had come
across this man. After knowing his background and his efforts, I had
suggested to him to speak for Dalits so that it leaves an impact on
A content Suresh said, "I think I have not compromised with the
motive with which I had begun this paper. And I am satisfied that it
could spread awareness among my people."