I spent the first couple of days just observing the day to day activities of City Journal.
Some parts of the building were off limits to all of us. The building had to be vacated soon, most of it wasn’t safe for people as per the City Development Council.
“We would have moved but I don’t have any money..” Prasad was quite frank about his not-so-great financial condition. I wondered how he was going to pay my salary.
It amazed me that only two people had kept the paper running for so long.
The main problem with City Journal, as far as I could see, was the lack of content. City journal carried no news. It was just an announcement of birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and deaths. Who would ever want to buy that?? I wondered who the so called hundreds were, to whom Prasad had referred to.
Suraj was still being hostile to me, though he wasn’t downright rude. I guess he felt I was trying to take over his domain. He was a fairly young guy, fresh out of college, most probably with plans of turning City Journal around. He hadn’t done so bad actually. Ever since he had joined, sales had increased. Either he had a lot of friends who wanted to support him or he was a smooth talker because there was NOTHING in the paper that could be sold without exceptional sales skill.
After being a mute spectator for a week, I suggested we talk to the local police to try and get some news along with the regular announcements. Prasad was aghast. “No! City Journal was never meant for news.. It’s the little things, which big news papers forget about; that’s our forte. I don’t want to make money out of publicizing people’s misfortunes! ”
Needless to say, I didn’t understand his decision but I would have to respect it.
“Well.. we don’t have to just report it..”
“What do you mean by that?” Prasad was intrigued, so was Suraj.
“We can pick up any event or news and see how its going to affect people in the city and publish that. Or, instead of just publishing facts, we can publish people’s reaction to a particular event. Basically we just make our Journal a little human instead of a piece of paper that people will read for news.”
Prasad looked at me thoughtfully. I jumped in to drive in my point, “You know it’s a great idea Prasad. I mean, we keep Journal the way you want it to be, but.. At the same time, we are adding something our readers will like..”
“I think we should do that..” Suraj chimed in. I turned towards him, wondering what had made him support my idea, but I was grateful for it anyway.
Prasad looked at our eager faces and slowly a smile spread across his face too. “Lets do it!!”
And so we did. For the next couple of days, we searched high and low for news that we could run in our Journal. I got completely hooked to the Journal. Here, I was somebody, not like back in the city, where no one would listen to me. My opinion mattered here and I felt important.
Pia was also improving on a steady pace. Her nightmares had reduced, the notes had become non-existent, but for some reason, Shantanu was still not convinced. It didn’t matter. Pia seemed happy to meet him and hang out with him. Their sessions were no longer restricted to his office and Shantanu took Pia for movies and the carnival. It was odd but heart-warming to see both of them together. Shantanu was no longer just Pia’s therapist, he was a part of the family.
I tagged along for one of Pia’s sessions to the park. Shantanu and I sat on the bench and watched Pia play around like proud parents.
When I told Shantanu that I was looking for a story for the City Journal he suggested I meet a client of his who was dying but still faced every day with a smile. I felt a little callous about using her for the Journal, but Shantanu convinced me that she would want to get her story out there..
And what a story it was. I was with her for three hours and her story had touched me. Her courage, her bravery, her never ending optimism. Here was a remarkable woman, and no one knew about her. That night, I wrote as I had never written before. I poured my heart and soul into it and presented it to Prasad and Suraj the next day. We ran her story as our front page article.
The next day, Suraj covered some lady’s story who was at the receiving end of domestic violence. Slowly but steadily, we were churning out good content. It wasn’t long before our readership picked up. People started writing in, they wanted us to cover their stories.
Our readership crossed a two thousand mark a month after I joined City Journal. And it was time for a celebration!