The Pioneer, one of India's oldest English daily newspapers, has a glorious history with which three extremely famous persons have been associated. They were Rudyard Kipling, Harivansh Rai Bachchan and Winston Churchill!
Of them, Harivansh Rai Bachchan and Kipling, renowned writers and poets, passed away on January 18 — Kipling in 1936 and Bachchan in 2003. Both of them had worked as reporters for The Pioneer. They belonged to two different eras. And this says a lot for the stability and evolution of The Pioneer down the decades.
It is always a proud moment for the newspaper when it pays tributes to its star correspondents. It is also interesting to note that there are some strange connections between the lives of Kipling and Bachchan. Kipling passed away in 1936, the year after Madhushala, Bachchan’s magnum opus, was published. This was also the year when Bachchan's first wife, the young Shyama, passed away (1936).
January 18, 2014 is the eleventh death anniversary of this legendary Hindi poet. His father, Pratap Narayan, worked at The Pioneer Press for more than thirty years and later, the young Harivansh Rai was a correspondent for The Pioneer and toured many districts of Uttar Pradesh to write reports. Kipling, a correspondent for The Pioneer at Allahabad, was one of the two Nobel laureates who worked for The Pioneer, the other being Winston Churchill. Describing his work in The Pioneer, Kipling wrote, “I made my own experiments in the weight, colours, perfumes and attributes of words either as read aloud so that they may hold the ear or, scattered over the page, draw the eye.”
As a tip to reporters, Kipling says, “Take well ground Indian ink as much as suffices and a camel hairbrush proportionate to the intersperses of your lines. In an auspicious hour, read your final draft and consider faithfully every paragraph, sentence and word, blacking out where requisite. let it lie by to drain as long as possible. At the end of that time, re-read and you should find that it will bear a second shortening. Finally, read it aloud alone and at leisure. May be a shade more brushwork will then indicate or impose itself. If not, praise Allah, and let it go and when thou hast done, repent not.”
He wrote to a friend in 1896, “I love the fun and riot of writing. And there are times when it is just a comfort and delight to let out with the pen and ink as long -as it doesn't do anyone any moral harm.” When he left India in March, 1890, he obtained a commission from The Pioneer to write a series of letters from America. These letters were published were vigorous, uninhibited and said a lot about America which Americans did not like.
Kipling received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1907. And it was in 1907 that Harivansh Rai Bachchan was born on November 27. Another important similarity between the lives of the two poets was their summer visit to the popular hill station of Mussoorie in the Himalayas while they were in their twenties. However, Kipling visited Mussoorie much before the creator of the immortal Madhushala was born. The old bridle path from Rajpur in the Doon valley upto Mussoorie was once popularly known as the Kipling Road. In Kim, Kipling's famous work, Kim and the lama are described as crossing over “the Siwaliks and the half-Tropical Doon,” leaving Mussoorie behind them.
Bachchan visited Mussoorie in 1937, a year after Kipling's death. He was 29 years old and his first wife, Shyama, had succumbed to tuberculosis in the winter before this summer of 1937. Bachchan went up to Mussoorie with Brij Mohan, his friend from Dehradun, to pay a visit to the well-known Professor Amar Nath Jha who had bought lynwood Cottage (near Charleville where Kipling had stayed) where he spent his summers. He had taught Bachchan when he was an undergraduate and was annoyed with him for leaving the university after the first year of MA (English). “Now that I was thinking of enrolling at university again, I thought I should seek his blessing, especially as he was now head of the English department,” writes Bachchan in his autobiography.
Both these poet-correspondents will always be remembered by the worlds of journalism and literature. And always admired. The Pioneer is indeed proud to have had such stalwarts of literature and journalism on its rolls. It pays them rich tributes on their death anniversary.