I left Pia with Shantanu and went to meet the newspaper editor. It was a long overdue effort from my side to get on with my life. Now that Pia seemed relatively okay, I didn’t need to be there for her all the time.
The editor of “City Journal”, Prasad Nair was a kind old man. He had seemed surprised to receive my call again. I guess he had thought that the earlier call was a prank. I had apologized profusely about not turning up citing personal reasons. He had been very understanding over the phone and had asked me to visit him anytime it was convenient for me.
I stopped outside an ancient looking building. It was big but run down. Clearly the “City Journal” had seen better days. To tell you the truth, it looked deserted to me. For a second, I was convinced that I had missed a turn and ended up in the wrong place.
“Are you here to meet Prasad??” a male voice called out from the second floor of the building. I looked up, I couldn’t see anyone.
“Yes, is this City Journal’s office?? I didn’t see a board around here..” I asked facing the part of the building from where, I believed, the caller had shouted from.
I could hear some laughter and then the voice said “Don’t bother looking for boards, come on up. Prasad is waiting for you..”
I wasn’t too sure whether the person inside was Prasad. I walked inside, suspicious of all sounds around me but apart from the floor creaking, I heard nothing.
“Hellooooooo??” I called out. I was getting freaked out in that place. I felt like I was in a horror movie. I didn’t want to work here!! I couldn’t imagine why Prasad Nair was still working from here. The wooden flooring and roof looked like it was going to fall down any moment.
“Here.. We are here..” The voice directed. I followed the voice carefully, watching my every step.
A tall man stood in front of me. He didn’t seem too happy to see me.
“This way..” He said abruptly and led me inside a room.
Now this room looked lived in, unlike the rest of the abandoned building. Prasad Nair was sitting was sitting at the far end of the room. He looked old and weathered. He should have retired a long time ago, I thought to myself. I put on my best smile and approached him.
“Mr. Nair? I’m Khushi.. I..”
“You’re hired..” I stopped mid sentence and stared at him.. He smiled at my confusion.
“Look around Khushi.. I have only one employee.” He pointed at the surly man, “And you can see we are doing terribly. Even then if you want to work here, you are hired.. Just for that.”
If he had noticed the surprise on my face, he said nothing about it.
“Just like that?” I asked. I looked around; I needed something to do with my time. And I could leave anytime I wanted.
“Okay.. I’ll take it..”
Prasad stared at me in disbelief. So did the rude man. “You’ll take it???” he asked incredulously.
“Yes..” I didn’t have to explain to him why I was taking the job, “But I do want to know, what happened to City Journal?? I can tell that once upon a time, it did really well..”
“You are damn right it did!” Prasad was indignant that I had asked such a question, “It had a readership of over twenty thousand and considering we publish only city news, it was a remarkable number!”
“And then??” I asked.
“And then, I took over.. ” The sadness in Prasad’s voice was apparent. “I made all the wrong decisions, fired the right people. The readership has dwindled to a few hundreds, but as long as I live, I’ll never let City Journal die..”
His passion touched me and I reached out and touched his shoulder, “Don’t worry Prasad, I’ll try my best to help you turn this around.. ”
He took my hand in his and looked into my eyes. He reminded me of my grandfather.
After a long time he said, “I believe you will..”
I was nothing but a lowly journalist. I knew nothing about running a newspaper, leave alone trying to make one successful but nevertheless, I was going to give it my best shot.