Veteran journalist Raj Kishore passed away on 4 June 2018 at the age of 72. He had recently lost his 42 years old son Vivek, also a journalist, merely one and a half months ago. Vivek met a sudden death on 21 April due to a massive brain stroke and was cremated at Nigam Bodh Ghat electric crematorium the same day.
Raj Kishore, as usual, was calm at the crematorium and even discussed with me the possibility of bringing out a Hindi magazine on the pattern of Mainstream Weekly. I came to know from other colleagues that he had similar discussions with them as well. Despite the numbing loss, he resumed his writings the very next day. I could feel that he was in some sort of a self-denial mode. The mental shock of the death of his young son ultimately took its toll sooner than one might expect. Raj Kishore suffered an attack of pneumonia just a few days later. He was first admitted to Kailash Hospital at Noida on 15 May. Next day, with the help of Dr. Anup Saraya, he was shifted to the AIIMS and admitted in the ICU for 22 days till he bid farewell to this world.
Raj Kishore started his career as a journalist from Ravivar in Calcutta under the editorship of Surendra Pratap Singh. He was admired by the readers for his innovative ideas, deep human and social concerns, philosophical insights, playful language and a novel style. The aspiring youth who sought to pursue their career in journalism, learnt a lot from his writings. He left Ravivar for a short period to start his own magazine Parivartan and again joined Ravivar.
He was brought to Delhi by Rajendra Mathur in 1990 and was assigned with the responsibility of editorial page in Nav Bharat Times. I met him for the first time as he took a rented accommodation in Anand Vihar. He inspired me too for writing in newspapers. After a service of 7 years he was ousted from Nav Bharat Times by the new management of the Times Group because he out rightly refused to accept the decision of converting Nav Bharat Times into a ‘Hinglish’ newspaper.
Raj Kishore, a staunch Lohiaite, was groomed in the values of the freedom movement and the post independence era of nation-building. He was firm in his ideological and ethical convictions. Therefore, he never got a job in any of the media houses till his death. In fact, he became the first victim of the neo-liberal political economy adopted by the media houses in the beginning of nineties.
Raj Kishore, 1997 onwards, did freelancing for the survival of his family. He started his own Hindi monthly journal Dusara Shanivar in 1997 but could not sustain it due to financial constrains. Apart from writing articles/comments/features for newspapers and magazines, he wrote and edited several books. Aaj Ke Prashan series edited by him became very popular, particularly among young readers. The series was focused on contemporary contentious issues related to dalit, women, subaltern, minorities discourses, impact of neo-liberal policies and the secular-communal question. He developed and encouraged several new writers through this series.
He edited the ‘Panchayati Raj Update’ in Hindi and English for more than a decade for Institute of Social Sciences. He made study tours to certain European countries during this period. He was at the Mahatama Gandhi Antarrashtriy Hindi Vishwvidyalay (MGAHV) as writer-in-residence. He stayed there from 2011 to 2014 and edited Hindi Samay, an online site of the university. It is one of his important gifts to Hindi literature apart from his invaluable contribution to Hindi journalism.
As the remuneration in Hindi writing is negligible, he had to burn the midnight oil to make both ends meet. That affected him badly due to continuous pressure of work. However, there was no choice before him but to work hard for sheer survival. He started editing Ravivar Digest, a small Hindi monthly in 2015. True to his uncompromising self, he left the job a few months ago because the owner declined to publish an article selected by him in which a critique of ‘Deen Dayal Upadhyaya’s Ekatm Manavwad’ was made.
A few days before the death of his son, Raj Kishore, in search of some new assignment, asked me to talk to Dr. AK Arun, editor of ‘Yuva Samvad’, just to check whether he would be inclined or interested to associate him with the magazine. Even before we could make any move on this, everything ended rather abruptly. The philosopher journalist left the family – wife, daughter, daughter in law, two little grand children – and all of us totally unprepared!
For a life as brilliant and committed as Raj Kishore’s his passing is definitely an irreparable loss to his family but the larger vacuum it has left in the world of journalism is tangible, even if it doesn’t seem apparent. The damage is most to Hindi journalism as it has lost a figure that stood up staunchly to pressures of corporate commerce, cynicism and new age madness of neo-liberalism.
Author teaches Hindi at Delhi University and is president of Socialist Party (India)