A Colossus Among Journalists

A loving tribute by a denizen of the Citadel of Learning

On the achievement of sticking to the avowed values of journalism, others may abide our question; but Chintamani is free. Among the many that brought fame to our country in general and to Andhra and Vizianagaram (known for the last century and a half as the Citadel of Learning) in particular. (Sir) C. Y. Chintamani was a unique figure in the Fourth Estate. He was justly acclaimed as the Pope of Indian Journalism by no less a personality than our Right Honourable Srinivasa Sastry, the golden tongued orator. A model of an exemplary journalist he is remembered even today for the values he cherished most: Truth, Fair play and Fearlessness. A highly “independent' man, he never stooped though conquer Year Day,

Chirravuri Yajneswara Chintamani was born on the Telugu New Day, April 10 in 1880. His parents were among the migrants from the drought-stricken Kanuru Agraharam near Tanuku to Viziangaram in search of fresh fields and pastures new. Chintamani passed the Matriculation of Madras University in the first division. But he failed in the F. A. owing to his poor health. Even as a lad he was more interested in public affairs than in textbooks. Vizianagaram (of Maharajah Ananda Gajapati - Andhra Bhoja and Prince Charming) provided the fertile soil for the blossoming of this veteran journalist.

A student of the Maharajah's College (where Gurazada Appa Rao also taught), a very young man in his teens, Chintamani was contributing to the English weekly called The Telugu Harp published from the Fort City. The young man's ambition it was that he should become a lawyer. But there was quite another place for in the scheme of things. At eighteen, only an undergraduate, he became the editor of the Visakhapatnam based Vizag Spectator. Later, when an opportunity presented itself, he bought the paper and shifted it to his hometown. In a short while he transformed it into The Indian Herald. Vizianagarm proved to be too small to contain the spirit and ambition of the young journalist who was apparently made for higher things. But running a newspaper (even those days) was not easy. Chintamani was forced to close down. The failure soon proved a stepping stone for his talent. He was spotted by Sachchidananda Sinha of Allahabad. In 1903 Chintamani joined him in The Indian People. Allahabad in those days was the hub of Nationalist activity. The Pioneer of those days was believed to have no nationalist sympathies and a daily paper was considered an immediate necessity.

Chintamani was invited to be the editor of The Leader, which was launched on October 24, 1909. The times were stormy under the alien rule: nationalism was raging as a wild fire. The Leader had to weather many a storm. Chintamani worked very hard and never swerved from the path of rectitude. He had a twenty-hour schedule every day and he never complained. One he told a colleague “I was not merely the editor. I was foreman, proof-reader, sub-editor, editor and Manager, all rolled into one”

By dint of hard work and honesty Chintamani could take his paper to a position where it had come to attract the attention of the higher-ups in the hierarchy of power, the British administration. On one occasion Chintamani had the boldness to aver that Motilal Nehru as Chairman of the paper’s Board of Directors could remove him from office but he could not tell him what or what not to write in the daily. For an editor the most precious thing is his independence, only next comes his life.

Chitamani wrote telling edits. Readers waited avidly for the morning paper first to see what Chintamani wrote about things and happenings than for the news. One instance would be enough to illustrate the illustrious editor’s acumen. We are told that his edit on Chitwood Committee's report on the Re-organization of Defence had prompted senior university professors to observe that it would be better for the country if The Leader's edit rather than the report was made the basis of reform. Chintamani's edit in the death of William II of Germany remains a classic of brevity: “The ex-Kaiser is dead. De mortuis nil nisi bonum!" (Of the dead speak nothing but good.)

As an editor in deciding policy, Chintamani brooked no interference in the principle of editorial sovereignty. It was always the management that had to give in for Chintamani would never bend, never budge an inch. Once he had a tiff with none other than the founder of the paper, Madan Mohan Malaviya himself. Chintamani had strong convictions and held them dear to his heart and expressed them without fear. Some of the opinions he held went against the policy of the management on certain issues. While expressing them he sent in his resignation too. Malaviya, the genius that he was, could easily see that the paper could survive without him as the Chairman of the Board of Directors but not without Chintamani as is its editor. An idealist he promptly surrendered his own directorship for he cared more for a cause and the paper.

Chintamani was singularly lucky in that for him in his days the primary considerations were never circulation and profits. If anyone on the board interfered with what he thought or wrote, he would suggest they could find another editor to obey their whims. A very hard worker himself, he was a tough task master and extracted unflinching devotion from his colleagues whom he guided and helped in every possible way. He held that the best school of journalism is the office of a daily newspaper We can guess how he would have reacted to today's sensationalism in reporting or to the much-hyped investigative journalism. The later was not easy to practice in those days for the press was not always gag free.

Chintamani had a stupendous memory and the Raj helmsmen dreaded his pen in spite of their own laws, which even the saintly Gandhi found draconian. He had daemonic energy though his health was not all that good. Thanks to his transparent and unparalleled honesty, men in the Raj machinery took whatever he wrote as nothing but truth. Any adverse comments he made against any officer in his writing was taken note and promptly acted upon.

Ravindranath Verma. a veteran journalist he came to be. called Sir C.Y.Chintamani the master and the grand patriarch. A colossus among journalists, Chintamani stands head and shoulders above even stalwarts. His service to his motherland is the service of a right-minded citizen the people around him. Now at this distance of time he strikes us as a veritable crusader. Truth was his weapon and honesty his chain armour. He was a virulent critic. When it came to fighting against hypocrisy and falsehood, he would never rest till he drove home his point. A man of fragile health, afflicted by half a dozen nuisance ailments, he once said that it was his work that sustained him. Said his son Viswanath. when approached for information to write a piece on his father he wrote: “Vizianagaram was his first love and he would remember the place several times a day while eating, drinking or even playing cards.”

Chintamani came up the hardest way: roughing it. The knighthood the Raj conferred on him was too small an honour to the sterling qualities of his head and heart. Strangely (good old days) far away from Andhra he rose to very high positions: he was people’s elected representative with no money bags, no gimmickry and no executive powers to promise peace and plenty all around. He was at the Round Table too. He authored books with rare insights but he loved to be a journalist most. Even on the day of his death (July 1, 1941), in the morning The Leader carried his two edits. An Insult and A contrast. In the latter he lambasted Lord Linlithgow: here is how it was:

Has Lord Linlithgow or anyone else high up in the Central Government had time to read Reuter’s message from Singapore dated June 28 reporting the effort of the Government of the Netherlands East Indies to construct ships for service in the war? The Government of the tiny little colony of Holland has planned to construct at an early date no fewer than 400 torpedo-boats, powered with American aircraft engines and capable of a speed of more than 50 knots per hour. We are informed that these torpedo-boats are already being constructed in shipyards in the Netherlands East Indies. Huge India is utterly incapable of400th of this effort and the Government of India sits there up at Simla, mightily self-satisfied and unabashed and unashamed at its failure, not only complete but wilful to equip this country with the means by which to construct ordinary ships or motor boats.

That was Chintamani.

Courageous man! Thou should'st be writing at this hour, NOW!


More by :  Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.

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