Satire writing is an art. Sudhakar Raje perfected that art. How difficult it is to write a satirical piece every week, I asked him once. “Oh, it is easy, but writing for Organiser is what is making it difficult “, he said. The satire was not lost on me. The Organiser was considered a serious paper. It hardly had ‘spicy’ stories in the ordinary sense of the term. The English weekly started in the wake of the tragic Partition was primarily meant to extend the socio-cultural thought process of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) to the English readership.
Naturally, the columns were filled with politics, philosophy and articles evoking a deep sense of nationalistic fervour. It was with great difficulty that the weekly accommodated Lal Krishna Advani’s columns on films. So, to find space for a satire column needed great courage and determination, Raje said.
But once he started writing, there was no looking back. Not only the (RSS and Bharatiya Jan Sangh [BJS] cadre but even outside this readership Sudhakar Raje’s columns found acceptance.
Another reason why writing for Organiser was difficult according to Raje was that satire was always topical. Being a weekly, Organiser was prepared, printed and published one week in advance. A week is a long period even then, when 24×7 television was yet to arrive. Mobile and Internet were part of science fiction. One important aspect of satire writing was timeliness. The reader should be able to relate the write up with a current topic.
But it was creditable that Raje would come up with a timely topic, at times two or three short pieces. He once explained the secret. It is simple, he said. Whatever good or bad happens, the response of the adversaries of RSS/Jan Sangh hardly changed. They have to criticise and make as anti-national a statement as possible. His favourite target was the Leftists, who incidentally never failed him. He was bang-on and always right in what he would expect them to say. “Sometimes I wonder if they read my column and draft their press releases”, he quipped with an impish smile.
It was my turn to try a wry satire. “May be payment for your pieces is another difficulty as far as Organiser is concerned”, I suggested. The Organiser was struggling in the initial stages, and writers were mostly ideologically committed people who would not expect any pecuniary benefit. But Raje came from a middle-class Maharashtrian family with not much in savings. He recounted an interesting anecdote. After the Emergency and fall of Janata Party government, V. P. Bhatia became the editor in 1982. One day Raje was discussing the paper and its future and casually mentioned his expectations. V.P.Bhatia readily agreed to look into it and also promised that he would try and increase the amount, from sixty rupees per month to at least eighty!
This was the extent of dedication and sacrifice for the cause that Raje exhibited. When I became the editor, the financial situation turned slightly better.
Meetings with Raje became more regular, and every meeting was a learning experience. Initially, I used to ask him to correct some of my writings. He did it for a few articles but then suggested that I should develop my own style of writing.
As for style sheet of Organiser, Raje and M.V. Kamath contributed immensely. Raje’s articles and his character “ignoramus” became very popular. There was, however one hitch in his articles, his handwriting. There was only one person in the office, our computer operator Pramod Kaushik, who could read his handwriting. Once I sent the copy of his article back to him marking certain words which could not be deciphered. Pat came the reply, “why don’t you ask Pramod”? Since then, his writings never went back to him!!
Unlike M.V.Kamath, Raje could never manage to type his articles. Kamath used to say that typing gave him time to think. Raje’s retort was, “the more I think the less I write”. Yet, Raje wrote very serious and informative articles on Hindu philosophy and the need for Hindu assertion. After he stopped writing for the Organiser, he edited an English magazine from Mumbai, his home town, focusing on Hindu resurgence. In keeping with his sober demeanour he never advocated Hindu aggression but clearly supported the creation of ‘political space for Hindus’.
For a long time, the author of “Satiricus” was not known to the outside world. I once asked him if we could publish the column under his name. With a surprised look, he said, “No. Satiricus should live long after Raje is gone”. Probably his wish was that some other writer should step in. But no, Sudhakar ji, you have no replacement. We meet you every time we read your columns.