Bhavan's Journal 75,
Mainstream 50, celebrate
TWO journals in recent times have celebrated, one its fiftieth ‘birthday’ and another its 75th. On September, 1, 1962 Nikhil Chakravartty started Manistream and despite all fears to the contrary it has survived and continues in its own magnificent way to serve the intelligentsia. Nikhil was a dear friend, a few years senior to me and a Leftist by inclination. He belonged to that generation of Indian students who went abroad – mostly to Britain – for higher studies, got intellectually fascinated by Leftist thinkers of the thirties and returned home fully convinced that socialism was the answer to India’s poverty.
One of them I knew well was Mohan Kumaramangalam and the other was Nikhil. Neither ever pressed their views on me – they were too sophisticated for that – but to spend an hour or more with them in stimulating conversation in a coffee shop was pleasure unlimited. I missed them a lot when I served for over two decades as a foreign correspondent but whenever I met them – I met Nikhil oftener than I met Mohan – it was as if time had stood still.
Manistream had a vision: The very first issue described it as “faith in the people of India” and its aim was to “provide a common platform for all of them to exchange views on the many thorny and pressing problems confronting the nation, so that the right solution may emerge”
Mainstream owed no allegiance to any political party: Its loyalty was “wholly and unreservedly to India and socialism”. Dogmatic it never was – it could never have been Nikhil’s style – which is why is has always been acceptable to its readers, one of whom, Justice VR Krishna Iyer recently described it as his “dearest weekly” and one can very well imagine why.
When Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency on the country, Nikhil decided to close down Mainstream rather than be cowed down by her. Judging by what he wrote and what he published, one would never have guessed Nikhil’s Communist sympathies but a time came when even he began to lose his faith in the CPI-CPM brands of communism and it frequently showed up in his writings. To me, Nikhil will always remain one of journalism’s all-time greats, not only because of his scholarship, his deep understanding of changing times but his humility and his willingness to accept that times change and so do values.
His passing away was a great loss to journalism. But his son Sumit has held high his father’s flag and all credit to him. The 2012 Annual out in December 2012 is a treasure house considering the reproduction of articles by such outstanding men as K Kamraj, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Ram Manohar Lohia, SA Dange, PV Joshi, EMS Namboodiripad, not to mention Hiren Mukherjee, Mohan Kumaramangalam and even LK Advani. Which other journal could possibly boast of publishing such writers? The 2012 annual issue is worth its weight in gold, presenting as it has the views of some of the country’s most notable thinkers, in the context of their times.
Bhavan’s Journal is fifty years old and it is the official organ of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, founded 75 years ago by one of the leading thinkers and philosophers of his time, Kanhaiyalal M Munshi. When the Bhavan itself came into existence one would never have imagined that in three quarters of a century it would set up over 110 kendras all over India and even abroad and double as many educational institutions from schools and colleges, some engaged in the study of music, dance and yoga, besides Sanskrit, all to “promote traditional Indian values in a milieu dominated by politics and corporate culture”. The vision was clear: To promote traditional Indian values.
In a way I was in touch with the Bhavan, not only because I had often met Kulapati Munshi but was in close touch with two of his most remarkable staffers, S Ramakrishnan and Joseph John. Ramamrishnan – I am not sure he ever graduated – did more in the world of management than today’s so-called MBAs. In his own way he was a management wizard. For all that he was humble to the last. I am amazed at the way he ran the Bhavan and its many outlets. The Kulapati fully trusted him. Munshi was by profession an eminent advocate and was among those who made a solid contribution to the drafting of the Indian Constitution, and was also available to me for interviews. But equally he was also known as a prolific writer in Gujarati, Hindi and English with a record of over 100 books. Additionally he was a keen educationist and his dream has been substantially fulfilled after his pasing away by his successors.
Totally different from Mainstream it has helped in educating two generations of Indians in fostering values for which the nation cannot possibly be sufficiently grateful. His magnum opus is a 7-volume series titled Krishnavatara, the like of which has never been equaled in any language in recounting the story of Krishna, bar, of course Bhagavata Purana. But even as one speaks of Mainstream and Bhavan’s Journal attention automatically is drawn to Organiser now running in its 65th year which, for a journal of its kind, must be something of a record. It calls itself as “the oldest and most authentic weekly of India” with its own aims and objectives.
It is difficult to imagine three journals more different from each other than these three and yet, coming to think of it, the relevance of all three cannot be under-estimated. All three are products of an Indian renaissance that started with the dawn of Independence and a desire for many to build a new India far different from the colonial mess the British had left behind.
To this must be added another name: Economic & Political Weekly now in its 62nd year which was launched and shephered by a daring economist, Sachin Chaudhuri. Sachin, unfortunately passed away even as the journal was making its mark (1949-1965) and was to succeeded by Krishna Raj who took EPW to greater heights. It had originally come out as Economic Weekly way back in 1949, but under Raj’s guidance it was to earn the highest reputation for its encouragement of research in the social sciences. Each of the four, Mainstream, Bhavan’s Journal, Organiser and EPW has its own devoted customers; they remain the four pillars of Indian intellectual society in all its variety, upholding values with courage and conviction. And isn’t that something to be proud of? They present a picture of thoughtful India, a picture of an ever-changing India, with all its conflicts and conflagrations but simultaneously of a lasting India in all its glory. And what an enchanting picture that is!