C. Y. CHINTAMANI: A GREAT EDITOR

 

C. L. R. SASTRI

 

H. M. Tomlinson (who, alas, is no more) wrote about Joseph Conrad’s death:

 

“Once we were so assured of the opulence and spiritual vitality of mankind that the loss of a notable figure did not seem to leave us any the poorer. But today, when it happens, you feel a distinct diminution of our light. That has been dimmed of late years by lusty barbarions, and we look now to the few manifestly superior minds in our midst to keep our faith in humanity sustained. The certainty that Joseph Conrad was somewhere in Kent was an assurance and a solace in years that have not been easily borne.”

 

If “Chintamani” were substituted for “Conrad” in this illuminating passage, it could easily have been imagined to have been written about the loss sustained by India in the death of by far her greatest editor and one of her greatest politicians: for Chintamani was both, and I am not sure that he was not a greater politician than he was a journalist, towering as he undoubtedly was in the latter capacity. In a subject country (as India was during the entire span of his memorable life) it is imperative for a journalist to be a politician also if he wishes to attain the meridian of his splendour. It was part of Chintamani’s essential genius that he would seem to have sensed this at a very early point in his professional career.

 

He was born on April 21, 1880, in Vizianagaram in one of the most typical Andhra families: one of the most typical as well as one of the most orthodox. He died in Allahabad (which he made his second home as long ago as the turn of the century) on July 1, 1941. During these 61 years of an extremely active. life he was both a journalist and a politician for full four decades. That gifted writer, Mr. Ivor Brown, once confessed that a fool had brought him to Latin but that a wise man had brought him to Virgil. Chintamani, however, had no need of any such deus ex machina for having been brought (foolishly or otherwise) to his chosen subjects of study he himself, it may be said without any exaggeration, brought himself to them out of the abundance of love that he bore them. He was his own inspirer.

 

There was, of course, a price to pay for these extra-curricular flirtations; but it satisfied him supremely that what he lost on the swings of education he gained on the roundabouts of journalism and politics. In his case, as in that of so many others not less wedded to their own particular fads and fancies, the end justified the means–the wind, as usual, blowing where it listeth.

 

Self-made

 

It is well to remember, now that his name has become a household word among the intelligentsia, that, in no sense of the phrase, had life been always a bed of roses for Chintamani, he had his crosses to bear–more than his fair share of them, in fact–but he bore them gamely and,

 

“Still nursing the unconquerable hope,

Still clutching the inviolable shade”,

 

gave the lie direct to those who stubbornly maintain that man is a helpless victim of circumstances. If, however, I suggest that there were three lucky breaks in his life it is with no intention of belittling his efforts to pull himself up by his own bootstraps. The first was when, by a singular stroke of good fortune, that doyen among Indian journalists, G. Subramanya Iyer, came to Vizianagaram from far-off Madras. Chintamani, never lacking in  a lively appreciation of the goodness of his star, “cottoned on” in the colloquial phrase, to the great man from the South and persuaded him to accommodate him on the editorial staff of his paper, the Madras Standard which later was to become the famous Hindu. His colleagues, it is interesting to remember, were K. Natarajan of the Indian Social Reformer (Bombay) and C. Karunakara Menon of the Indian Patriot (Madras).

 

Those, of course, were “the giant days before the flood.” People were better in the mass, there was usually give-and-take, and superior minds did not distain to commune with inferior ones, on the contrary, they were only too willing to share the things of the intellect with whosoever was anxious thus to be benefitted. As William Hazlitt said of the period immediately following the French Revolution,

 

“Somehow that period was not a time when nothing was given for nothing. The mind opened and a softness might be perceived coming over the heart of individuals beneath ‘the scales that fence our self-interest’.”

 

The training that the trio mentioned above received from Subramanya Iyer stood them in good stead then as well as thereafter: for it is only fair to refer back their glorious later success to the uncommonly splendid coaching of their common master.

 

One is tempted to remark that the clay is almost nothing: the potter’s hand is everything.

 

The Leader

 

The second lucky break for Chintamani was when he was invited by the late Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha to take over from him the editorship of the Kayastha Samachar, an English semi-weekly of Allahabad. The thirdand most importantwas when Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya started the Leaderan English daily–in the same place and offered him the first refusal of its editorship. That was in 1909 and it was, without doubt, his anna mirabilis. From that moment on he never looked back.

 

From 1909 right up to 1941–with an interregnum of three years from 1920 to 1923 when he was elevated to a ministership in U. P uynder the Montford reformsChintamani was the editor of the Leader. During the period of his stewardship the Leader held a position in the North what the Hindu has always held in the South: it was a name to conjure with. What the Leader wrote “went”, as the Americans say. And when one mentioned the Leader, one mentioned Chintamani, of course. The Leader was in the thick of the political fight always.

 

            I still remember (with pride) the part it played in the Mahatma’s passive resistance struggle in South Africa, for weeks on end Chintamani’s editorials would be only on that historic struggle, emitting (patriotic) fire in every sentence and even in every syllable. He was a journalist with a mission, with a messianic urge, the larger mission of India’s political destiny and (within that framework) of the political destiny of his own party, the Indian Liberal Federation, as it was called when the old Moderates (as they were then) finally broke away from the (Extremist-controlled) Congress in 1917.

 

            His guru was Gokhale, and Gokhale was one of his closest friends also: Gokhale was to Chintamani what Gandhi was to Congressmen. That was why he held fast by constitutionalism even at the height of the civil disobedience movement. Naturally he was the target of some of the bitterest, as well as of some of the vilest, of Congress fulminations.

 

Not a “Moderate”

 

            Curiously enough, he was not a “Moderate” in any sense of the term: in the name of “Moderatism”–that creed on which he thrown like a cedar of Lebanon–he wrote the fiercest articles possible. No Congressman ever broke a lance in the cause of his cherished political principles as he did in the cause of his. Just as he was the Leader he was the Liberal party as well: his name was conterminous with both. After his death the one continued to exist, no doubt, but only as a shadow of itself in its palmier day the latter is no more.

 

            He had a very low opinion of the Mahatma as a politician but, as an individual, he held him in the highest veneration. But the Congress, as a political organisation, was anathema to him, and what irritated him most in it was its sickeningly equivocal attitude to Muslim intransigence–especially to its “neither-for-nor-against” attitude to the infamous “Communal Award.” It was fortunate for the Congress that he died well before partition and the post-partition debacles: there would have been too many wigs on the green. His mantle has not fallen on anyone since his demise: the mould was broken when he was born.

 

As a Conversationalist

 

            As a conversationalist he had no peer, and to hear him hold forth in English was a liberal education in itself. While attempting to combat the very widespread notion that Dr. Johnson was more a conversationalist than an author, Robert Lynd asserted valiantly:

 

            “The truth is that Dr. Johnson built his fame with his writings, and put a tower on his fame with his conversation.”

 

            The same can be said of Chintamani.

 

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