By Vishnu Makhijani
New Delhi, April 5 (IANS) In the evening of his life, as his friends keep frequently reminding him of the legacy he leaves behind of brave and impartial journalism, 90-year-old K.N. Malik is humbled as he begins to realise that he “might have done something worthwhile” with his life.
“In the evening of my life, my friends in Delhi keep reminding me frequently of the legacy I leave behind of brave and impartial journalism. Whenever I go back to India, I meet all sorts of people and they remind me of the stories I wrote and how they grew up with them,” Malik writes from the heart in “An Autobiography” (Fingerprint), that traces his journey from the small town of Sheikhpura (now in Pakistan), through the horrors of partition to the rough-and-tumble political world of New Delhi and finally to London, where he is now settled and has found a second calling for himself as a commentator and author.
“They still remember that period of our history that was marked by sheer fearlessness and boldness to uncover the truth and when so many uprooted Indians were still trying to feel the ground under their feet and find their own identity in the new India,” Malik writes.
Noting that India was very poor at that time and it often faced food shortages, the least the people expected from their leadership “was integrity and sincerity in governance. I feel humbled to say that for many, my stories seemed to embody the sentiments and spirit of the time. I was beginning to realise, and it humbled me that I might have done something worthwhile in my life”, Malik states.
Life is, indeed, a journey and his has been an interesting one, from putting partition behind , to completing his studies and joining The Times of India in 1956 and in 1982 being “kicked upstairs” (for rattling the political leadership) as its European correspondent, a position he retired from in 1989 when he turned 60.
Thereafter, he was a research associate at Oxford’s Queen Elizabeth House (1989-91), and a senior research fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London (1991-96). He was also offered 75,000 pounds grant by the Ford Foundation for organising a conference.
He co-edited, with Peter Robb of SOAS, “India and Britain: Recent Past and Present Challenges”. He is also the author of “India and the United Kingdom: Change and Continuity in the 1980s”.
Besides giving extensive commentaries on television and radio in the UK, he has contributed numerous articles to newspapers and magazines.
“I have been imprisoned on false charges and detained without trial (in the wake of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination when anyone connected with the RSS was rounded up). I have been banished from my country at the behest of my government (for annoying a whole string of ministers). I have had my voiced silenced unjustly. I have had my words twisted and my motivations questioned. I’ve had marauders descend upon my family home (in Sheikhpura) with the sole intention of killing everybody inside. I have been a refugee. I have had my last possession stolen (while fleeing Pakistan on the buffer of a railway engine),” Malik writes.
At the same time, he has also been close friends with more than one Prime Minister. His friends have given him inexhaustible love, affection, and trust all his life.
“I have been involved in some of the biggest stories in the history of Indian journalism. I have found love and started a family. I have been a part of my country’s war effort (in 1962 as a fund raiser). I have travelled the world many times over, with friends spread around the globe. I have been graced with awards and even an honorary doctorate.
“Life is wonderful. Life is for living. I have enjoyed to the utmost when I have faced its sunny side. When times were difficult, I faced adversity, and this gave me the resilience to overcome it. At such times, my family and friends were my strong anchors. When I was faced with ambiguity and doubt, my principles and my life lessons became my mariner’s compass to navigate through life. Life presented itself in different hues. When I do not like a shade, I tried my best to change it, but when I could not do so, I accepted it gracefully. Life is varied. My own life has been no exception,” Malik explains.
His odyssey is best summed up in his own words.
“I recall one day when my elder brother Ram, my cousin Jagmohan, and my younger brother Shiv were chatting over a cup of coffee in the lounge of the IIC. Somehow, we slipped into a nostalgia about the past which we had shared.
“Ram, Shiv and I had belonged once to a well-to-do advocate’s family before we lost everything. I had arrived in Delhi on the bumper of a train engine with just what I was wearing. Ram went on to become governor of the Reserve Bank of India. His wife Anna and he were recipients of the Padma Bhushan Award. Shiv led prestigious government organisations like PEC and MMTC. Jagmohan became Governor of Jammu and Kashmir.
“‘Look at us,’ I said. ‘What have we lost? Whatever we lost, we have regained! God has been very kind to us. We must have done some good karmas’,” Malik writes.
Which explains why “An Autobiography” is a must-read across the spectrum. It will surely inspire you, particularly in these hard times we are living in.
(Vishnu Makhijani can be reached at email@example.com)