Vaju Kotak and Chitralekha
Vaju Lakhamshi Kotak was born on 30 January 1915 in Bhavnagar, a town in Gujarat. On the sixth day of his birth, when Chitralekha, believed to be the Goddess of Destiny, engraved the fate line on his tiny palms, little did his parents know that in future their son was to found a weekly, bearing the same name Chitralekha that was to change the face of Gujarati journalism.
Today Chitralekha is 67 Years old. This sexagenarian Gujarati news-cum-features weekly has now become a must-read for every Gujarati household. So much so that it may be said without any exaggeration that it has occupied the place and importance of a near and dear one in every Gujarati family across the world.
At a time when most Indian languages-and consequently most regional publications-are losing out edge over English, which is nudging, if not replacing, our regional languages, Chitralekha has succeeded in retaining its pride of place it carved out for itself in the past 60 years, all thanks to the extraordinary vision and hard work of one man whose name is Vaju Kotak, the founder of Chitralekha.
A legendary journalist and bestselling author and above all a rare visionary par excellence, Vaju Kotak founded Chitralekha Gujarati on 22 April 1950. It was his single-track dedication, coupled with love and warmth received from millions of our Gujarati readers that has made Chitralekha what it is today. It may be added here that Chitralekha currently reaches nearly 2,40,000 homes and therefore its readership and of course its popularity is not difficult to gauge...!!
On every Friday, the Gujaratis have a tryst with Chitraleha. For the past 60 years, this largest selling magazine in Mumbai & Gujarat has been keeping this community-arguably the most affluent-well informed on all fronts like news, events, literature and culture every Friday.
We all know that scaling unprecedented heights may often prove achievable, what is harder is to sustain that height and position consistently. Chitralekha has been sitting pretty at the pinnacle for the past six decades.
Having passions for films, Vaju Kotak successfully tried his hand at film writing, screenplays and dialogue writing, film reviews and even editing a film magazine. However, an indescribable sense of restlessness never deserted him as perhaps he was destined to do something much bigger.
And then he ignited a revolution called CHITRALEKHA in 1950 and suddenly felt he found his calling. He realized this was what he was destined to continue doing for the rest of his life. A rare visionary, who was also a journalist and author (he has 19 titles including 9 novels to his credit), started the magazine not to just eke out a living. His sole guiding force was his passion for his mother tongue Gujarati. He wanted to ‘spark something’, as they say. And quietly Chitralekha Gujarati was born. Predictably, the publication faced a lot of hardships in its eventful existence but kept surmounting all hurdles as time went by, thanks to the perseverance and devotion of Vaju Kotak.
It is relevant to mention here that a road in Mumbai has been named after Vaju Kotak, the founder of Chitralekha (Vaju Kotak Marg) in Fort where Chitralekha’s registered office is located. Not only that, civic authorities of Rajkot and Bhavnagar have also named a road after Late Vaju Kotak. In Rajkot, we have an intersection named as ‘Chitralekha Circle’.
Vaju Kotak was clearly an institute unto himself. Under his leadership Chitralekha created numerous records, be it in the field of journalism, serialized novel writing, regular Humour Column (running uninterrupted for the past 39 years) and so on and so forth. There are so many fairytale-like incidents associated with CHITRALEKHA that it will take pages and pages to narrate them.
There is another though least acknowledged aspect to regional journalism. Regional publications like Chitralekha play a larger role in dissemination of news and information to even the remotest and even inaccessible parts of the country, thereby serving a larger social cause. It also proves instrumental in empowering people in semi-urban and rural areas where it is needed the most, helping create employment opportunities there.
In view of the above, it becomes easy to appreciate that this strong willed genius, who breathed his last on 29 November 1959, had during his brief life span succeeded in creating a magazine that eventually went on to become an intrinsic part in the life of a whole community. Chitralekha Gujarati has long ago leapt beyond the narrow confines of the word ‘product’. It is an institution in the right sense of the word. Today this institution has achieved one more unique milestone. It has just completed 60 years.
In this era of electronic media and the Internet, Chitralekha is getting better and sleeker and this phenomenon has baffled many a trade pundit. And again, let us say that credit for this amazing success goes to Vaju Kotak.