C. Y. CHINTAMANI: A GREAT EDITOR
C. L. R. SASTRI
H. M. Tomlinson (who, alas, is no more) wrote about Joseph Conrad’s death:
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
“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
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
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.
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”,
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
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.
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
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 reforms–Chintamani 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
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.