After demonetization, the lockdown was the biggest hit and the Covid-19 crash followed by nationwide lockdown has taken our lives and livelihood on toll. Afternoon Voice experienced a major setback. Keeping our financial wheels turning during the lockdown period was tough due to less revenue and uncertainty in other businesses that supported our publication. Our Major support system is Vaidehee Aesthetics and that was almost shut. When there was not a single rupee income, paying the staff and business rents was a huge liability. I sold almost all that I had to breathe in this catastrophe and survive for better times.
Newspaper stalls were shut, our staff was not allowed to commute; meanwhile, there were various other losses. Some staff members suffered COVID, some of the staff members lost their family members and we lost our trusted watchman who succumbed to COVID. We would not have surrendered to COVID but definitely, the lockdown crises showed us tough days.
Unfortunately, the impact on small businesses like us was way more brutal as we had no cash reserves and had a smaller margin for managing sudden slumps. This is a crisis like no other as there is substantial uncertainty about its impact on our lives and livelihoods. Fortunately, we were not caged because the media was allowed to travel by private cars or bikes and I had my bike. The other staff stayed far away from the office and local trains and buses were not allowing private-sector employees to travel.
A decade ago, we started this newspaper and aspired to take it to peaks of success by mortgaging my house but after a decade, we once again started from scratch mortgaging my property. I and my colleagues did all that was never thought of; we did banner designing for COVID-19 safety promotions, pamphlet designing, letter drafting and handled social media for some actors and politicians. Even without any hesitation, I have translated books written by some regional writers from one language to another with the absence of fair credits. Buying and supplying groceries to various nearby societies. I and my colleague Akshay became part-time journalists and full-time skilled workers. For us, the struggle was ten times more than the routine and full of long work hours.
But frankly, we did not hesitate to slog, because we knew this too shall pass. No one supported us in our hard times and neither did we approach anyone for help. Once the lockdown relaxed, it gave us some breather but there were other challenges waiting for us; paying Income tax to sale tax and shifting the business to an affordable place. By some means, we found one cheaper place near Kandivali station but it was horrible for the newspaper office to function as that location was meant for courier businesses or floral shops.
Somehow, we parked our workstation there and went in search of another affordable but better place. We procured one place just beside another business. Making of this office has another interesting story to tell, but finally, we are at a reasonably good place. Slowly, Vaidehee Aesthetics also bounced back strongly, we got some additional work of publicity and paid write-ups. Still to run the show smoothly, in-between I joined “Free Press Journal” Mumbai’s oldest English daily to support my staff and business. That income really helped me to feed my team and address their minimum needs.
Lockdown and Covid brought many people’s livelihoods to a standstill. It was difficult to see our newspaper vendors suffering due to the lockdown. So, I tried my best to also support not only my staff but them too charity so they and their families survive through this difficult time. This year has taught me all about survival and sustainable arrangements. Meanwhile many wished for the closures of Afternoon Voice during that very difficult timeline, but we gave a strong fight and were very committed to standing again.