It came over a TV ticker, the news that froze me with dread: CPIM leader Sitaram Yechury's son, Ashish Yechury, had died of Covid in the early hours of Thursday. I knew, of course, that Ashish, my kind, generous, cheerful friend and unassumingly intelligent colleague with a wicked sense of humour, was in hospital, battling the virus for over two weeks. But I didn’t want to believe that he was gone. Gone he was, however, and it took a while for the realisation to sink in.
Ashish had been at Newslaundry only a few months. And since we’ve mainly been working remotely since the pandemic began last year, most of my colleagues didn’t even get to meet him, except on Zoom calls. Yet, he won everybody’s affection and admiration. He was just that kind of a person.
I’d known him for a couple of years, though, ever since he had moved to Pune for work. We stayed in the same neighbourhood and would often meet. We’d have a drink, talk politics, journalism, and generally chew the fat. In all that time and after, he was a generous friend and a magnanimous colleague. He couldn’t have not been if he tried. He was the embodiment of a humble person.
Last year, after the Sakal Media Group filed an FIR, recently quashed by the Bombay High Court, against me for reporting on layoffs at its news publications and the Pune police were seeking to confiscate my laptop and cellphone, Ashish offered to safeguard the devices at his place, no questions asked.
Ashish was the son of one of the country’s top political leaders, but you would never know it speaking with him or working with him. He was his own man, mindful of his privilege and guarded against misusing it. He’d worked at leading media organisations such as the Times of India, Network 18, and Pune Mirror before arriving at Newslaundry, rising up the ranks over the years and earning a deserved reputation as a fine copy editor.
Before he moved to Delhi last month, we talked about planning a trip to Kerala once the pandemic settled down. We joked that he would be a mini celebrity in the Left Front-governed state if only people picked up on his last name.
Today, when I broke the news of his demise to some of our common friends and acquaintances, they had a similar response, "Bahut mast banda tha, yaar.”
Oh, Ashish, how I wish I had told you more often, “Mast banda hai tu, Ashish.” Amazing chap you are!
Alas, my friend, I won’t get to take that Kerala trip with you. But I’ll see you on the other side. Farewell.