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A Confluence of Multiple Talents - By Harkisan Mehta

A look at the past five decades will reveal that Gujaratis got fearless editors like Amrutlal Sheth and Samaldas Gandhi in the field of journalism, accomplished story tellers like Kanaiyalal Munshi and Ramanlal Vasantlal Desai in the field of novels and in the field of humour literature erudite humour writers like Ramanlal Nilkanth and Jyotindra Dave.

However, if anyone was blessed with a unique blend of all the three skills, it was Vaju Kotak. It was unique, indeed. There are fearless scribes and powerful writers but for a writer to have a gift of spontaneity of humour and satire is very rare and this exceptional amalgamation talents could be seen in Vaju Kotak's creations.

Post 1940, the plethora of reading matter served by dailies and their Sunday supplements becomes instrumental in triggering the decline of social and literary gujarati magazines and even film glossies could not escape the onslaught and began to lose much of its glitter. During this transitional period, the entry of Vajubhai should be regarded as a happy omen.

Coming from the film world, he entered the world of journalism through film magazine but interestingly, started as a serial novelist. Since then his writing kept hitting the bull's eye and as a consequence was born a Gujarati weekly Chitralekha that stood out for its variety and richness of editorial matter. In the history of Gujarati journalism, the path that Vajubhai trailed inspired many to follow suit but none succeeded sans his mighty pen.

Courage should be the mantra of every journalist-editor. In 1950, the founding of Chitralekha by Vajubhai coincided with the gradual waning of euphoria generated in the Post-Independence India. Gandhian politicians were getting exposed. In the first decade, Vajbhai exposed them ruthlessly. And his indignation at these politicians was reflected in the edit pieces he wrote for the magazine. However, what set apart his writing was the use of satire and humor that came easy to him. In his humour column Shaherma Farata Farata (While Strolling in the City), he voiced the pain and angst of the middle class that faced all kinds of hardships.

Similarly, in his lighthearted column Dhondu Pondu-he conveyed the everyday family tidbits through the bantering of house servants.

Not only in Gujarati, but in the entire media world, there would hardly be any editor who could run his magazine only on the strength of his pen and made it so popular. In order to cultivate the taste of readers, he ensured that all articles were written with simplicity that was so unique to his style. Be it on the founder of Red Cross, or on rampant quackery in Ayurved, he could write on any subject cogently and logically and mesmerize the readers.

In the field of serialized novels, he stood out among all his contemporaries. Based on the stories written earlier for films, most of his novels appealed to his readers for their dramatic element and effective dialogues. As humour is usually strewn all over his works, his novels could have his readers in splits. And of course, what impressed was the use of pithy dialogues that became quotable quotes. In the genre of inspirational and motivational writing, it would be no exaggeration to say that Vajubhai has already scaled the summit of success with his Prabhatna Pushpo.

One might wonder that for all his literary qualities, why poetry was one genre he never touched. The only plausible explanation is that Vajubhai's Prabhatna Pushpo itself is a suitable demonstration of his poetic skill. This excellent example of prose-poetry that started some 5 decades back is still relevant today and this speaks volumes about the writer's vision and farsightedness.

Born in 1915 in Rajkot, we would have the opportunity to celebrate his Amrut Mahotsav had he been alive today. But he left us too early, even before he could complete 50. Yet, he is very much alive through his abundant and quality creations.

This piece is a small tribute to the legendary writer and editor.