Rajesh Mitra roamed the desolate streets of North Kolkata on the night of the 31st. He saw the trucks rumble by and the occasional car speed by, its occupants eager to hit the next party. Rajesh had received numerous invitations to some of the most exclusive parties but he’d declined. He needed to be alone that day. He took a long drag on his cigarette, a habit he’d never been able to get rid of since his youth. At forty-two Mr. Mitra was the owner of ‘Bangla Shomoy’, a state circulated paper. Besides that, he owned interests in numerous dailies and media channels, news and radio stations. He was one of the most powerful media barons in the state and was well on his way to owning a national newspaper, “India News”. It was this deal that had Rajesh walking the streets that night and it was this single deal that had brought his world crashing down around him.
Rajesh enjoyed the nicotine fix on that cold night as he used his cold and calculating mind to figure out an escape plan, anything to get him out of the mess. He hadn’t always been Rajesh Mitra – the media baron, in his days of youth he’d simply been Raju – the delivery boy. He’d however fought against his poverty, graduated with degrees in journalism and joined Bangla Shomoy as an assistant editor. He had risen through the ranks rapidly and had soon befriended the owner and earned a place on the board. After a few months of very dirty boardroom politics, he’d assumed control of the paper. Rajesh was thirty at that time. Since then there’d been no looking back. He had spent the next twelve years developing his empire. Then greed had got the better of him and he’d made a deal with the devil. Now it seemed as if it was time to pay.
He walked along the familiar delivery routes. It had been ages since he’d been in that part of the city, but the streets were etched in his mind and he made his way along the long familiar delivery routes, savouring the chilly night air. He was ensconced in a world of his own, impenetrable thoughts and the contended puffing on his almost finished cigarette.
He made his way up to a building. It used to be his last paper stop and also his home. His parents had been caretakers of that massive family house in Shyambazar. He remembered his childhood when he’d go up on the roof and fly kites in the evening, that rush he’d get when he managed to cut off another guy’s kite. He lumbered up to the roof, the end of his cigarette glowing dimly in the all-absorbing darkness. He opened the door of the roof - it was unlocked as always. The house was now a heritage sight, but it was in an extremely dilapidated condition. He walked right upto the edge and felt the cold air rushing through his hair, ruffling it. He flicked away his cigarette.
He’d always heard that at moments like these, a person’s life flashed before their eyes. However, all he could think of was her. He’d lost her or rather he’d never had her in the first place because of his lust for power and his driving ambition. His phone rang shattering the silence and tranquillity of the night. Mr. Malhotra, his banker had called him. He let him know that his account was overdrawn by seventy five lakhs and they’d be filing legal charges the next day. Rajesh smiled and replied, ‘I know.’ He disconnected the call. He let go of himself. He’d heard somewhere that falling was just like flying except with a more permanent destination. With a wry smile, Rajesh Mitra toppled off the roof. As his bloodied body lay on the street, consciousness started to desert him and he knew it wouldn’t be long before the curtains went down on his life. He heard a clock chime twelve at a nearby house. 2015 had arrived. The last thing Rajesh remembered was her eyes. Then he faded away into a state of unfettered unconsciousness.
The next day, the proprietor of India News, Amir Mendoza closed the deal for a record amount of thirty crores, half of what late Rajesh had offered. Bangla Shomoy ran the headlines “Media Baron loses hope before new year”. A delivery boy circuiting the route, found the body. The city continued moving on as if nothing had changed.
Sketch By: Kislaya Sinha