35-years on the job, Mastung’s blind paperboy isn’t planning a retirement anytime soon. The 70-year old paperboy is struggling to make ends meet as people ditch paper for digital.
According to Arab News, born with a visual impairment and now blind, Muhammad Essa sets out from his village of Qari Saur in Balochistan every single day to sell newspapers in Mastung city, a 2.5-mile-long route.
While the readership of old-fashioned paper is going down, Essa has never had the privilege of reading a paper himself.
“Who will buy the paper from me when everybody is on social media and on their phones?” Essa told Arab News.
Life was always a struggle for the senior citizen, even as far back as 1985 when he switched from begging in the streets to selling newspapers. Now the blind paperboy struggles to sell 22 papers a day. Barely enough money to head home to.
“I started my job as a newspaper hawker back in 1985 when then President Zia ul Haq announced beggars would be imprisoned in Pakistan, … A friend suggested I start delivering newspapers in Mastung city rather than sitting around waiting for others to help me, so I started selling daily tabloids, … There was a time when I used to earn more than Rs1,500 a day ($9.51) but now, even if I succeed in selling all my 22 newspapers, I’d earn Rs240 ($1.52),”
There was a time he raised a family on his income and now he struggles to survive.
“I am the eldest of four siblings and I have educated my younger brothers and sisters, even my son, but today I can’t even feed myself because the number of newspaper buyers has decreased at an alarming level,”
The COVID-19 pandemic and struggling economy didn’t help his case either. At the time it was the elders of Mastung that extended support for the man drowning below the poverty line.
“I was completely empty-handed during the peak of COVID-19 in the country back in the summer of 2020 when I had nothing to do, … Then, the local elders of district Mastung helped me survive the crisis.”
Despite all the variables being a downer, Essa’s spirits are staying high. He’s adamant to continue working as long as he can.
“Still, as long as there’s a single newspaper reader left in Mastung city, I will make my daily walk to deliver the paper.”